Creator of sets for Goldfinger and Dr Strangelove won Academy Awards for The Madness of King George and Barry Lyndon*
Thursday 10 March 2016
Tributes have been paid to Sir Ken Adam, the Oscar-winning production designer, who has died aged 95. Adam was best known for putting together the sets for a series of Bond films, as well as Dr Strangelove and others.
He won an Academy Award for his work on The Madness of King George and another for Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Adam was also one of the few Germans who flew for the RAF during the second world war.
His biographer Sir Christopher Frayling confirmed the news of his death to the Guardian on Thursday night.
He said Adam was “the one name that people not only recognised, but whose movies they collected”.
Frayling said: “He did more for production design than anyone else by the quality of his designs. They are normally the treated as backroom boys but there was an ‘Adam look’.
“About halfway through the Bond films, they were actually constructing the scripts around his sets. He is as much an author of those films as anybody. He thought his masterpiece was the war room in Dr Strangelove because it was serious. It was the sort of room where people would play poker with all of our lives. His real talent was reality with a twist.”
Frayling also told the BBC: “As a person, [Adam] was remarkable. Roger Moore once said about him that his life was a great deal more interesting than most of the films that he designed.
“He was a brilliant visualiser of worlds we will never be able to visit ourselves – the war room under the Pentagon in Dr Strangelove, the interior of Fort Knox in Goldfinger – all sorts of interiors which, as members of the public, we are never going to get to see, but he created an image of them that was more real than real itself.”
Others who worked with Adam paid tribute to him.
According to the BBC, Adam died on Thursday at his home in London after a short time in hospital.
He worked on more than 70 films in total, including seven Bond films. He also sketched the flying car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Speaking about his work on the Fort Knox scene in Goldfinger, he told the Guardian in 2005: “No one was allowed in Fort Knox but because [producer] Cubby Broccoli had some good connections and the Kennedys loved Ian Fleming’s books I was allowed to fly over it once.
“It was quite frightening – they had machine guns on the roof. I was also allowed to drive around the perimeter, but if you got out of the car there was a loudspeaker warning you to keep away.”
Adam said: “I came up with this cathedral-type design. I had a big job to persuade Cubby and the director, Guy Hamilton, at first. They said it looked like a fucking prison but that was the idea. Then when Goldfinger was released people were asking why a British film unit had been allowed to shoot inside Fort Knox when even the American president was not allowed in it.”
He was born Klaus Adam in 1921 in Berlin. He fled to England with his Jewish family before the war and later took on the dangerous task of serving with the British forces as a German-born Jew. He received his knighthood in 2003 for services to film production design and to UK-German relations.