Ken Adam, Designer of James Bond Supervillain Lairs, Dies at 95
Five-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner Ken Adam, a production designer best known for his work on the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s and on “Dr. Strangelove,” died Thursday in London, according to the BBC. He was 95.
Adam created the sprawling, futuristic lairs of the supervillains who populated the Bond films starting with Dr. No’s secret island complex in the first 007 film in 1962. He worked on all the Bond films that starred Sean Connery through 1972’s “Diamonds Are Forever,” as well as on “The Spy Who Loved Me” (for which he received an Oscar nomination) and “Moonraker,” both starring Roger Moore.
For Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” he designed the famous war room. He was offered the production designer gig on Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” but turned it down.
Adam worked on other thrillers, including “The Ipcress File” and sequel “Funeral in Berlin,” but he also designed the eccentric automobile of the title for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and he worked with Kubrick again on “Barry Lyndon,” for which he earned his first Oscar.
His diverse range of credits also included the 1969 version of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” 1985’s “Agnes of God,” 1993’s “Addams Family Values” (drawing another Oscar nom) and 1994 historical drama “The Madness of King George,” for which he won his second Academy Award.
Klaus Hugo Adam was born in Berlin and moved with his Jewish family to England in 1934. He attended University College London and Bartlett School of Architecture.
During WWII he first worked designing bomb shelters, then applied to become a pilot in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. He was one of only two Germans to serve in the RAF during the war.
He first worked in the film business as a draftsman for 1948’s “This Was a Woman.” Adam earned his first production designer credit on the 1956 British thriller “Soho Incident” (aka “Spin a Dark Web”) and earned his first Oscar nomination on the 1956 epic “Around the World in 80 Days.” He worked uncredited on “Ben-Hur.”
Though already in his 70s, Adam continued to work regularly throughout the 1990s, designing the remake of comedy “The Out-of-Towners” in 1999. His last credit was on a videogame: 2004’s Bond title “GoldenEye: Rogue Agent.”
Adam was a member of the jury at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival and the 1999 Berlin Film Festival.
In 1999 the Victoria and Albert Museum in London hosted the exhibition “Ken Adam — Designing the Cold War.”
Adam won the Art Directors Guild’s lifetime achievement award in 2002. In 2013 he and the James Bond franchise’s other three key production designers received the Cinematic Imagery Award at the Art Directors Guild Excellence in Production Design ceremony.
He is survived by his wife, Maria Letizia, whom he married in 1952.
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