_
_
_
_

Ken Adam: the man who created the visual style of James Bond

He fled Nazism, served in the Royal Air Force and left an indelible mark in Hollywood with his work as a designer on the 007 franchise and films like ‘Dr. Strangelove’

Ken Adam
Ken Adam.Boris Hars-Tschachotin; (The Ken Adams Archive; ed. Taschen)
Armando Quesada Webb

“The cinema is there to heighten the imagination; I have always tried to make sure it does so.” So said German-British production designer Ken Adam, who passed away in 2016. You can see through his work how he put this maxim into practice: his designs were ambitious and inventive, always taking advantage of wide spaces and plays on perspective. He is remembered primarily for his work on the early James Bond films. Adam was, according to MGM, responsible for “creating the visual style” of the franchise, because in addition to the sets he also designed many of the secret agent’s gadgets, such as the ejector seat in 007′s iconic Aston Martin.

Adam’s contribution to cinema, however, is far from limited to James Bond. This is displayed in The Ken Adam Archive, a collector’s book (which goes on sale in April) edited by Taschen together with the German Cinematheque, to which Adam donated a selection of more than 5,000 of his works, both published and unpublished, in 2012. Among Adam’s thousands of sketches, one stands out, of a certain “war room,” which would become one of Stanley Kubrick’s most famous film sets in Dr. Strangelove. According to Rainer Rother, artistic director of the German Cinematheque, Adam’s philosophy was that of a “larger than life” design, and in his drawings one can “appreciate the details and steps of his meticulous creative process.”

His life, although discreet, was as monumental as his work. As a young man he fled the Nazi regime with his family and, after settling in the UK, served in the Royal Air Force during the war. He got his first job in film working as an art assistant and the rest is history: more than 70 movies and two Oscars place him at the very top of a profession that took a long time to earn its deserved prestige. Others came before Ken Adam, but he lifted them up.

A sketch of the volcano scene from the James Bond film 'You Only Live Twice.'
A sketch of the volcano scene from the James Bond film 'You Only Live Twice.'Deutsche Kinemathek – Ken Adam Archiv (The Ken Adams Archive; ed. Taschen)
On the set of 'You only live twice.'
On the set of 'You only live twice.' Chris Ware (Getty Images)
Sketch of the war room from the film 'Dr. Strangelove' by Stanley Kubrick.
Sketch of the war room from the film 'Dr. Strangelove' by Stanley Kubrick.Deutsche Kinemathek – Ken Adam Archiv (The Ken Adams Archive; ed. Taschen)
A still from 'Dr. Strangelove.'
A still from 'Dr. Strangelove.'Columbia Pictures (Getty Images)
Sketch of a scene from 'The Spy Who Loved Me.'
Sketch of a scene from 'The Spy Who Loved Me.'1977 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. and Danjaq LLC (The Ken Adams Archive; ed. Taschen)
Scale model of a scene from 'The Spy Who Loved Me.'
Scale model of a scene from 'The Spy Who Loved Me.'© Matthias Karch (Studio OZA-Berlin / The Ken Adams Archive; ed. Taschen)
A sketch of the car from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.'
A sketch of the car from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.'Deutsche Kinemathek – Ken Adam Archiv (The Ken Adams Archive; ed. Taschen)
A still from the film 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.'
A still from the film 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.'Alamy

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
_
_