UPDATES with more information throughout.
Ken Adam, whose hi-tech Aston Martins for James Bond and retractable wings for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang helped make him one of the most celebrated product designers in cinema history and earned him two Academy Awards, has died. His death was confirmed by Sir Christopher Frayling, his biographer, who told the BBC: “As a person he was remarkable. Roger Moore once said about him that his life was a great deal more interesting than most of the films that he designed.” Adam was 95 and died at home in London after a brief hospital stay.
“He was a brilliant visualiser 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…that [were] more real than real itself.
The Bond family mourns the passing of our beloved friend Sir Ken Adam who was so responsible for the visual style of the James Bond films.
In addition to his work on seven Bond films and Bond author Sir Ian Fleming’s whimsical children’s tale about a flying auto, Adam was the production designer on such sui generis films as Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb; Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, for which he won his first Oscar, in 1976; and The Madness Of King George, for which he won his second, in 1995. He was knighted in 2003, a first for a production designer. His designs for Around The World In 80 Days, The Spy Who Loved Me and Addams Family Values also were Oscar nominated.
The Art Directors Guild, Local 800, gave Deadline a statement that reads: “The Art Directors Guild is saddened to learn of the death of one of the worlds great Production Designers, Sir Ken Adam, at the age of 95, but his influence on the design world and me will carry on.”
The Guild honored him in 2002 with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and again in 2013, with the Cinematic Imagery Award for his work on the James Bond films, beginning with the very first one, Dr. No and then continuing with Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever and The Spy Who Loved Me as well as Moonraker. That award also honored him for his work on many other iconic films of the era.
“Over the years I have worked with many of Ken’s collaborators and listened to their stories, and later had the pleasure of meeting him, telling my story, and thanking him for his immense influence on my career.” said Nelson Coates, President of the Guild. In fact, his designs were so influential that in 2003, Adam received a knighthood — the first for a film production designer.
Adam was born Klaus Adam in 1921 in Berlin to a Jewish family that ran a sports store before fleeing to England when he was a teenager. He studied architecture and served in the RAF before becoming a film production designer. He designed the sleek, super-chic look of most of the James Bond films, with their sinister villains’ retreats and sex-inducing romantic locales, up to Moonraker in 1979.