Immaculately polished tables that unfold to reveal the details of the villain’s nefarious plot, futuristic lairs built into still-active volcanoes, the shadowy circular table around which the fate of the world is haphazardly decided in Dr. Strangelove – when you conjure up images of classic ’60s-cool sets and production design, chances are good you’re thinking of the work of Sir Ken Adam. He died at his home on Thursday after a short hospital stay for unspecified reasons. He was 95.
Born in 1921 in Berlin, Adam’s Jewish family fled Germany for England as the Nazis rose to power. Adam studied architecture, and served in the British Royal Air Force during World War II. After the war, Adam used his degree in a somewhat atypical way, getting into movie production and set design. Over his career, Adam worked on a staggering array of British-produced classics, including Dr. Strangelove, Barry Lyndon, and every James Bond movie up to 1979’s Moonraker. Along the way, he won two Oscars and was knighted.
Adam’s friend and biographer Christopher Frayling spoke about his talent.
“He was a brilliant visualizer 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 that was more real than real itself.”
Former Bond Roger Moore also paid his respects on Twitter:
Sir Ken Adam - a friend, a visionary and the man who defined the look of the James Bond films.— Sir Roger Moore (Legacy) (@sirrogermoore) March 10, 2016
What are some of your favorite sets from the classic ’60s and ’70s Bond movies (or any of the other movies Adam worked on)? I’ve always been partial to Goldfinger and its polished wood, “a swingers party could break out at any time” look. The Bond-bisecting laser scene, the projector that comes out of the table, Fort Knox, it’s all great and elevates what’s actually sort of a so-so early Bond in terms of storyline to classic status. The world will be a little less cool without you, Sir Adam.