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
ISBN: 0571220576

UK Order
USA Order

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.

An in-joke.
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 floor.

Fortunately the waterbed was spared.
Yes! In Sean's Vegas hotel suite.


Above: 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 in it?!
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…

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Many thanks to Faber & Faber, Sir Christopher Frayling and Sir Ken Adam.