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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 5 February 1921Berlin, Germany
Birth NameKlaus Hugo Adam

Mini Bio (1)

Ken Adam was born on February 5, 1921 in Berlin, Germany as Klaus Hugo Adam. He is known for his work on Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Goldfinger (1964) and Dr. No (1962). He has been married to Maria Letitzia since August 16, 1952.

Spouse (1)

Maria Letitzia (16 August 1952 - present)

Trade Mark (1)

He often uses timeless production design, and future-look combined with old culture design.

Trivia (12)

In 1999 a special exhibition of his production design sketches was held in London.
His family left Germany in 1934 to avoid the Nazis, moving to England. When war came, he joined Britain's Royal Air Force and became their only German fighter pilot.
He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) before being awarded the the Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 2003 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to film production design and British-German relations.
Member of jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980
Member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1999
He flew Hawker Typhoon ground attack aircraft with 609 squadron of the RAF in the battle of Normandy. Many of his targets were SS troops.
He was trained as an RAF pilot by future film star Michael Rennie.
Born in Berlin in 1921, and growing up in a prosperous Jewish family, the Adam family fled the Nazis in 1934, settled in London, where Ken Adam studied architecture and volunteered to fly for the Royal Air Force during World War II. He was only one of only three German-born pilots permitted in the RAF.
After the war, Adam started working as a film assistant art director. He was hired to assist veteran production designer William Cameron Menzies ("Gone With The Wind") on the Oscar-winning 1956 film "Mike Todd's Around The World in 80 Days," which launched his career. In an interview at the 2015 Berlin Film Festival "Goldfinger" screening, Adam spoke about the start of his career. "Menzies was an experienced, brilliant designer, and I was a relative newcomer. Unfortunately, he was already drinking a lot at that time. But he inspired me and told me to forget my inhibitions and let myself go." Adam had a chance to follow that advice when he was hired to design the first Bond movie, "Dr. No," in 1962. Adam had worked for the Bond producer, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, on "The Trials of Oscar Wilde," and Broccoli approached Adam to help bring Ian Fleming's novel to the screen. Of course no one anticipated the movie would launch a franchise that is still going strong and the budget for "Dr. No" was small.
"Goldfinger" gave Ken Adam a chance to think bigger, and he indulged his taste for impudent fantasy. The "Goldfinger" movie introduced 007's Aston Martin with all kinds of hidden gadgets and weaponry. "The ejector seat was an idea that came from my days as a pilot," Adam said. Another of the film "Goldfinger" choice scenes finds Sean Connery as Bond spread-eagled on a table as a laser beam slices through the table and moves relentlessly toward his crotch. The villain of the movie, the greedy Goldfinger, was portrayed by celebrated German actor Gert Fröbe. ("Do you expect me to talk?" Bond pleads. "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die," Goldfinger famously replies.) Laser technology was in its infancy in 1964, so the beam was just a prop designed by Ken Adam. The table was actually being sawed from underneath. "Sean was absolutely terrified," Adam said with a laugh. The movie's most memorable set was the interior of Fort Knox, the site of Goldfinger's daring attempt to destabilize the West. Adam traveled to Ft. Knox in Kentucky but was never allowed to get anywhere near the gold depository. "We drove around the outside, and every two minutes, a loud speaker would boom, "You are now approaching Ft. Knox." Adam then decided to fly over it, but they had machine guns mounted on the roof so you couldn't get too close.
The same year that "Goldfinger" captivated audiences, Ken Adam created another memorable set, the gigantic war room in Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove." Adam and Kubrick clicked during the making of the film. Adam drove Kubrick to the set every day. "He insisted that I didn't exceed 30 miles an hour," Adam said. "But if you are with a director almost every day for five months, driving an hour and a half each day, you get to know each other pretty well. He was fascinated by my flying stories, because he had learned to fly but then had a mishap and he never flew again, not even as a passenger. So I had to keep him entertained with my stories until I ran out of stories, and then I had to invent some. Stanley may have been difficult, but he was a great talent, and some of my best work was working for him on 'Dr. Strangelove.'" Kubrick also asked Adam to work on "2001: A Space Odyssey," but Kubrick already had a team of technical and scientific advisors on board, and Adam decided, "There was no room for my imagination." However, Kubrick contacted Adam again when he was preparing "Barry Lyndon," and Adam signed on though it turned out to be a less happy collaboration than their work on "Strangelove." Kubrick's obsession with realism inhibited Adam. "I found it madness to shoot the picture all on real location interiors," Adam said. "First of all, it cost much more. The moment you write a letter to the Marquess of X saying you want permission to use his castle, he is going to charge a lot of money. And we were shooting in Ireland, which was not the safest location at that time. It's a very beautiful film, but I almost lost my mind doing it." Adam did win an Oscar for his production design.
Another 18th Century period film - "The Madness of King George" - was filmed on location, but a lot was filmed on studio sets. Ken Adam was able to build the entire palace interior, which is a great advantage, because you can move from one room to another far more freely. Ken Adam's happiest experiences were always productions which he could transcend reality in his designs. That is why he enjoyed films like "The Seven Per-Cent Solution" and "Pennies From Heaven," both of which he designed for director Herbert Ross. And Adam ended up doing seven of the Bond movies from the 1960s and '70s, through "Moon-raker" in 1979. Asked to name his favorite of those assignments, he cites "You Only Live Twice," where he designed a spectacular villain's lair inside a volcano. Adam recalls, "One critic asked, 'How did you ever get inside the volcano?' I didn't get inside the volcano! I think that is the function of a film production designer, to create something which the audience has never seen.".

Personal Quotes (4)

[Discussing his ambitious volcano set for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967): "The challenge appealed to me also, the shape of the volcano. I knew if it didn't work I'd never work in movies again. [Producer] Cubby Broccoli asked me how much it would cost. I quoted him a million dollars, which at that time was a huge amount of money. He said if I could do it for a million, then do it. That's when I really began to worry."
I guess one has to be a little crazy. (About designing the famous Vulcano-set for "You Only live twice")
[on Stanley Kubrick] Most days during production [of Dr. Strangelove] I drove him to the studio... I recommend this as a way to get to know your director.
[on designing the first James Bond film]: I felt I needed to work in England pretty soon, lest I be forgotten.I said yes to "Dr. No", and thought I was prostituting myself.

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