MI6 looks at Sir Ken Adam's book in detail with a double feature examining his work and memories from Diamonds Are Forever...
Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design - Diamonds Are Forever (2)
14th May 2006
Following on from the chapter on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sir Ken Adam reflects on his work on Connery's last official James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever". MI6 brings you an extract from the acclaimed production designer's book by Sir Christopher Fraying, "Ken Adam The Art of Production Design".
Diamonds Are Forever Continued...
The thing that's so strange about those hotels is
that there are no clocks. The owners want people to gamble
twenty-four hours day and so you lose all sense o f time.
It's a twenty-four hour city: unnerving.
The climate was very good. It's a desert climate, and somehow
we didn't feel tired. Cubby, who was a big gambler, decided
he would play baccarat every evening. He said I was his
lucky mascot and I had to sit next to him and play. For
some reason he called me `the U-boat commander'. I limited
my gambling; if I lost five or six hundred dollars then
that's it, I was out. But Cubby used to give me a thousand
dollars to keep on playing. He made me play for the whole
night. I was actually present one night when he must have
won between two hundred and three hundred thousand dollars.
Of course, the security was enormous. But a few days later
Cubby lost more than that. These sums were just incomprehensible
to somebody from England. Then I found out that the owners
of the hotel had given instructions to the pit bosses that
none of the film crew should lose more than a relatively
small amount of money, because everybody was gambling.
Big Brother was watching you ...
Big Brother, yes. I could tell you hair-raising stories
about that. Another friend of Cubby, a famous lawyer, helped
me get to Palm Springs because I was looking for a location
for Bond's fight with the two women. I had breakfast at
the bistro with this gentleman who rang up someone in Chicago
and said, `I've got this young production designer from
England who's working on a Bond film and he wants to see
some fantastic pads in Palms Springs.' So the next day a
black limousine collected me from the airport. I didn't
see Frank Sinatra's house but I did find a fantastic-looking
house made of reinforced concrete.
Above: Back cover
Book Data Stream
Paperback 320 pages
Publisher: Faber and Faber
It was very futuristic and I thought, `I couldn't have designed
it better myself.' But the owner was a bit difficult. He said,
`Who gave you the authority to film and photograph here?' I said,
`Mr Broccoli. It's for a Bond film.' He wanted to know how much
money was involved but I said, `I don't know, I'm just a designer.'
Within twenty minutes of getting back we had the permission. It's
a famous building called the Arthur Elrod house. It looks incredible
in the film.
Wheels within wheels. And quite frightening.
A moment I remember very well is when one of the girls,
who goes by the name of Plenty O'Toole, gets thrown out
o f the window. She shouts, `I've got friends in this town,'
and then falls about eighty storeys into a swimming pool.
That's an extraordinary stunt. Nowadays, in films like Lethal
Weapon, they make a point of stunt people jumping out of
windows to see how far they can fall. There's a famous continuity
error in Diamonds Are Forever. I hate to mention this, but
the car on its side ...
Oh, it comes up the other way!
In one shot it's balancing on its right-hand wheels,
and in the next shot it's on its left. Which is odd because
presumably you weighted the car on one side, but for some
reason it flips. Unless it was printed the wrong way round?
It may have been that. Or perhaps it was a cutting-room
error. It was quite amazing what those French drivers did.
Was it the Remy Julienne team who did The Italian Job?
Maybe. They were the best, you know. We shot part of that sequence
in downtown Las Vegas and another part in between the stages at
Universal studios. Then we shot the oilrig off Santa Barbara.
And all the other interiors back at
Pinewood. By the way, when you mention `the syndicates',
you really mean `the Teamsters', don't you. Ken? You just
don't want to say the word!
How did you get the elevator shot, in the end?
We shot the main elevator sequence on location and then
I built the elevator as a set at Pinewood. So we see Sean
climbing up in there, firing that gadget, and then swinging
across to the penthouse. It wasn't easy because I had Las
Vegas in back projection. An amusing thing that Cubby always
remembered was that Howard Hughes held many of his most
important business conferences on his loo, so I designed
the toilet that Sean comes across before he enters the penthouse.
Yes. I think the Willard Whyte penthouse was a good set.
It's a classic Ken Adam design. But it was based on
the idea o f Howard Hughes, the idea of a recluse's apartment.
Yes, and I knew he had a penthouse. And since he was an
inventor, adventurer and brilliant engineer, I built the
model in the glass floor and incorporated every conceivable
gadget and comfort. But much of it ended up on the cutting-room
Fortunately the waterbed was spared.
Yes! In Sean's Vegas hotel suite.
Book cover art
I remember seeing that and I just couldn't believe my eyes.
Waterbed were just about heard of, but a huge waterbed with fishes
I think it was Cubby's idea.
How on earth did you engineer that?
The fish are trapped inside this space with people lying
on top of them.
We had the waterbed sent over from the United States but
there was no way I could get tropical fish inside it, so
I designed a series of circular perspex tanks around the
bed. We had Sean Connery and Jill St John fornicating on
the bed with the fish swimming in the foreground. The first
problem was that the waterbed leaked onto my very expensive
new carpet, so that leak had to be stopped. And then either
the security man or the prop man at Pinewood switched off
the heating unit for all these aquariums at night, and when
we arrived the next morning most of the fish were dead.
So we had to put the fish on ice because we couldn't get
replacements; it was impossible. We then had, for the shot,
frozen dead fish!
There were deceased fish floating in the tanks?
Not all of them.
But it seemed incredibly affluent, this waterbed with the
fish, in a kitsch way. I wondered how the fish could breathe but
presumably you had oxygen-producing pumps inside the aquariums.
That was a classic over the-top Bond concept?
Loved the waterbed idea but I never liked designing those kitschy
Las Vegas sets. The Willard Whyte penthouse was loosely based
on Howard Hughes, but it was less realistic, more operatic..
The book continues by looking at Sir Ken Adam's wider works including
his recent work for EA…
Ken Adam: The Art of Production
Design - Extract Part (1)
Adam: The Art of Production Design - Preview
40th Anniversary Pictures
40th Anniversary Event Report
No Production Notes
Only Live Twice Production Notes
Are Forever Production Notes
And Let Die Production Notes
Spy Who Loved Me Production Notes
Many thanks to Faber & Faber, Sir Christopher
Frayling and Sir Ken Adam.