“What I felt at that time [pre-Bond] – we’re talking about ’61 – was that I couldn’t remember seeing a film that reflected the age we were living in”
Although that was about to change. As was movie design, airport design, architetural design, car design, terminal designs and underwater killing machines design.
One of THE Bond movie pioneers and most influential and important production artists the movies has ever seen Sir Kenneth Hugo Adam has sadly passed away at… the age of 95. He won an Academy Award for The Madness of King George and was nominated countless times, though never got the Oscar for his Bond work. But that matters not when you witness the sheer scale of ambition, skill and glamour onscreen in the likes of You Only Live Twice, Goldfinger, Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me. Ken also was initial designer on Star Trek – The Motion Picture (then known as Star Trek – Planet of The Titans) as well as the final designer of great note on Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon and Dr Strangelove and of course The Ipcress File, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Agnes of God, King David, The Deceivers, The Freshman, Sleuth, Addams Family Values and The Trials of Oscar Wilde (produced by Albert R Broccoli).
“He is in the tradition of those theoretical visionaries…his control of light and space and drama – these great caverns…. that’s Ken. He’s the architect
(Ken Adam – The Spectre of Modernism, BBC Radio Four)
Ken Adam of course singlehandedly shaped the visual course of Bond from Dr. No onwards and whose legacy is all over every new 007 film, including 2015’s Spectre. Adam also defined what ‘modernity’ looked like, and not just on the silver screen. Take a look through any number of post war design projects and Ken Adam’s charcoaled fingerprints are all over them. His work is evident on the streets of Berlin, Japan, London and beyond.
I was fortunate enough to meet Mr Adam on a couple of occasions and the mind and talent was forever as sharp as those Sixties charcoal pencils. He recently attended the Spectre World Premiere and was also on hand in 2014 to team up with fellow Bond designers Peter Lamont and Dennis Gassner to help launch London’s Bond In Motion exhibition.
One of my Bond fan – and life privileges – was to be able to meet Sir Ken after a great talk he did at the Edinburgh Film Festival. He spoke at length (one of his other great talents – storytelling) about Bond, Kubrick and the effect that partnership had in his health at the time, work ethics, materials, World War Two and his vivacious wife Letitzia.
His vision, his sense of material, placement, texture and tone was immeasurable. Forever in a dialogue of minerals versus man-made finishes or Palm Springs’ lounge versus jagged death zones, Ken Adam is one of those few special creatives whose work imagining becomes the very reality he was ultimately never granted access to. Very real War rooms, open plan offices, Canary Wharf, Heathrow’s Terminal Five, finance centres and any office block that has had too much money spent on it all owe a massive creative debt to Kenneth Hugo Adam.
With 1962’s DR. NO, Ken Adam recalibrated Bond into a wholly visual and cinematic phenomenon before it even started. He helped steer the literary 007 into a celluloid movement that was as vital to movie design history as The Beatles were to popular music. Whereas the Fleming novels had a firm foot in a post-war 1950s, Ken Adam had an eye on beyond. One of the genius tics of his Bond work was how his sets, his gantries, his angled ceilings and mixed materials were a vital part of the visual exposition and transformation of the cinematic 007. Everything we need to know about Auric Goldfinger is not there in the dialogue, costume or plotting. It is there in a laser table – an edgy, cool visual device that saw Ken Adam allow everything about the Bond film template to fall into place forever more. His Bond work alone was futuristic without being sci-fi, opulent without being gauche and cool without ever ageing.
Rest in Peace Ken Adam.
A collection of Ken Adam documentaries, tributes and interviews :
Ken Adam – The Spectre of Modernity (BBC, 2014)
With a growing archive of at least 15,000 illustrations, famed Bond creative hub EON Productions has collated a celebratory [and of course timely] coffee table look at 53 years of 007 design. Written by EON’s Archive Director Meg Simmonds, Bond By Design – The Art of The James Bond Films is a lavish 320 page tome – as much about the unnoticed artisans of cinema as it is James Bond 007’s glorious design legacy.
Straddling the various artistic strands feeding into the onscreen Bond – costumes, sets, graphic design, props, cars and stunts – Bond By Design explores the 007 design palette chronologically from Dr. No through to SPECTRE. As Archive Director at EON Productions, Meg Simmonds not only contributes to countless 007 books, articles, DVDs, auctions and documentaries, she has also helped curate, launch and maintain a triumvirate of Bond exhibitions. Designing Bond (which has just finished a summer run in Madrid), Bond In Motion (now parked up for a successful run in London’s Covent Garden) and the lesser known Exquisitely Evil (at the International Spy Museum in Washington DC) are all must-see branches of this ongoing project to mark and celebrate Bond’s production, sociological and cultural history.
As the lushly reproduced storyboards, charcoal sketches and hand-drawn illustrations evolve into rich marker pen interiors and beautiful water-coloured vistas before making way for the new era’s digital schematics and pre-vis imagery, Bond By Design is as much a document of late 20th century movie entertainment design as it is 007 – an opulent tribute to the lost heroes of movie design. The painted ponderings of costume designer Julie Harris (Live and Let Die) are as rich and relevant as any Cecil Beaton drawing for My Fair Lady. Anthony Mendleson’s costume paintings for 1965’s Thunderball equal any Edith Head etching for those balletic frames and never-ending legs. Donfeld’s watercolour illustrations for Diamonds Are Forever’s Tiffany Case are as luxuriant and era-pinning as any Vogue Paris cover or Robert McGinnis Matt Helm poster from the same time. And check out Barbarella’s Jacques Fonteray and his Moonraker suits and “Breeder” gowns! It is telling too how the ‘house style’ for Quantum of Solace, Royale and Skyfall ‘s digitally produced designs still hark back to that pulp fiction style of paperback cover art.
Of course the creative endowments to Bond and cinema from the likes of designers Ken Adam, Peter Murton, Syd Cain and Peter Lamont go unchallenged. Yet Meg Simmonds and the EON archive go further with Bond By Design. The end result is a rich reserve of those sleek sketches, languid watercolours and the vital scope of ambition EON and Danjaq afford these designers. But, Bond By Design also underlines the furnishing, decorative and architectural savvy these designers had [and continue to have]. The detail and notes Peter Lamont assigns a fairly incidental set and his clear awareness of materials, light, manoeuvrability and tone is as striking as any triangular ceiling of Ken Adam’s. And this is before the internet, online libraries and catalogued furniture archives. It is not enough for these designers to know their production and construction restraints. As this book testifies, they have to be ahead of fashion, erudite with what they know about the history [and future] of interior design and what will let all the global audiences into the story. And that is before you factor in the final challenge that twenty-four Bond films and their design teams increasingly come up against – originality.
“My job is to give them sets to work in that will surprise and amaze an audience”
Of course these designers are all sketching for the good of Bond and cinema. But Bond By Design lays bare their own characters. Ken Adam’s thick, dark and angular images for The Spy Who Loved Me and Goldfinger perfectly highlight just how he was indeed “the man who drew the Cold War” (The Daily Telegraph, 2008). Bond By Design sees those filmic and real life influences of his – The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Alexander Korda, that Germanistic penchant for precision and cavernous industry and a post-war, Space-Age renaissance of new materials and substances. Likewise, Peter Lamont’s career as a set draughtsman cannot be missed when you witness the mathematical precision he puts into each set, walkway or even doorframe.
“Never a dull moment working on a James Bond film, I can tell you!”
The devil is naturally in the detail with this collection. It is as much about what we never see as what we do. So costume sketches contain reminders that stunt teams have to wear wet-suits under Lindy Hemming’s red dresses for Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd and notes hint at how Blofeld’s coat of arms from OHMSS must be technically wrong.
The what nearly happened clues are nearly as rich as what did make its way up onto the screen. Close scrutiny of the artists notes and thoughts betray that Solitaire might well have worn an afro wig in Harlem in Live and Let Die (with a possible early thought that Diana Ross was in the running for that film?), the scarlet hues and hanging bling of The Man With The Golden Gun’s Bottoms Up Club are now a VIP room norm, that Willard Whyte in Diamonds Are Forever may have had an unused office complex to end all office complexes, that Whyte was first called ‘Graves’, Tomorrow Never Dies’ antagonist was once called Harmsway and that OHMSS’s Syd Cain designed an abandoned dog fight for GoldenEye. Very little is creatively wasted in the Bond franchise.
“What the Bond films did, they stimulated my imagination. I felt the sky was the limit. I could do anything.”
It is the staggering specifics that go into these drawings – and ultimately on-screen – that makes Bond By Design such a valuable document for all film lovers, let alone Bond fans. The thought and notes jotted down for a simple flower-covered pillar in a party scene in A View to a Kill or the in-depth measurements Lamont makes for the flower elevations in OHMSS lay bare the commitment to quality first pioneered and bankrolled by the likes of Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and now well and truly continued with Barbara Broccoli and the man with the most producer credits on Bond, Michael G Wilson. This is the tireless effort going on behind, in-front and beside the scenes as hardened fans panic about gun-barrel logos infinitum on 007 forums. So much is actually designed for a Bond film beyond physical sets and theatrically-minded interiors. Gold bars, the front of Baron Samedi’s train, Bond’s MI6 logo, casino chips, Martini glasses, what ornaments a villain owns, is it to be a headscarf or a necklace a panicking tourist wears are all elements that viewers will never see and yet have to be factored in, designed, made and duplicated. This writer has always been a tad partial to a good villain’s logo. And those faux-corporate emblems are lovingly presented too including Zorin Industries’ try-out logos.
“I go with my instincts on every aspect of how I design films. It’s all emotional response to things”
Dennis Gassner, production designer on SPECTRE
SPECTRE is understandably not explored in too much depth this time round as a great many of its design and visual tricks are tied to its plot and story surprises. However, designer Dennis Gassner’s discussion of director Sam Mendes’s urge to explore “hot and cold” in the film makes utter sense for a Bond movie as does the use in Mexico City of those prime 007 colours – “red, black and white”.
As if it needs endorsing any more, this new champion of Bond production books also comes with a pair of glossy Ken Adam designs and a foreword contribution from Adam, Lamont and Gassner. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.
Bond By Design – The Art of the James Bond Films
by Meg Simmonds
Published 1st October 2015
With thanks to Dorling Kindersley and EON Productions.
The art, craftsmanship and genius of production designer Ken Adam cannot be overlooked. Of course his legacy and links with the Bond films goes without question, but so too does the grip and influence he has to this day on film and public architectural design (London’s Canary Wharf is allegedly modelled on the Ken Adam style).
Opening in December and continuing until May 2015, BIGGER THAN LIFE – KEN ADAM’S FILM DESIGN is a new exhibition housed at Berlin’s Deutsche Kinemathek. In 2012 Adam gave his entire artistic output to the Deutsche Kinemathek – including more than 4000 drawings, personal documents, sketches and designs for such titles as GOLDFINGER, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER plus his non-Bond work including BARRY LYNDON, THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE (for which Adam won the Oscar), ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES, DR STRANGELOVE and unused artwork for PLANET OF THE TITANS (which became STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE) and more.
“When you do a scribble and everything seems to work … that is the most exciting part“ – Ken Adam
A full catalogue accompanies the exhibition featuring essays by renowned authors on a diverse range of previously unexamined aspects of Adam’s career – such as the artistic roots of his Gesamtkunstwerk and his influence on art, design and architecture. The catalogue will be available to buy.
BIGGER THAN LIFE – KEN ADAM’S FILM DESIGN
Deutsche Kinemathek / Dec 2014 – April 2015
For more on the Deutsche Kinemathek, click here.
Museum für Film und
Potsdamer Str. 2
A Sunday in March, 1964
Auric Goldfinger’s Ford Country Squire station wagon motors its charge along Main Street on a Sunday afternoon, passing the Embassy Picturehouse and pulling up dutifully at the lights. Its Mustang poppy-red and faux wooden panelling is 1960s Ford personified and the car’s wide dimensions spill into neighbouring lanes of traffic.
But this is not America. And the car’s fictional owner Auric Goldfinger is not at the wheel. Nor is his fictional chauffeur, Oddjob. James Bond is not even sat captive on the back seat as he does in Goldfinger.
This is Esher, Surrey. The year is indeed 1964, but Jimmy O’Connell is driving, his wing man is my Uncle Gerald and my dad, John, is sat in the back. The locals frequenting the pubs of Esher – including Jimmy’s much-loved The Bear – are most intrigued by the left-hand drive and Yankie expanse of the Ford …. and how it handles “like a tart’s waterbed on wheels”. Not very James Bond.
(extract from Chapter 8, Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan)
“Like all institutions that must safeguard their survival, the Bond series adapts and adopts. Three films in and we already recognise where the villains, heroes and those in between are positioned. The film’s glossy calling-card of dousing Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) in gold paint is not just a proficient and nasty way of telling the audience all we need to know about Auric Goldfinger. It tells us what this film series now wants to be – bespoke action adventures, a little bit kinky, a little bit violent, often original, always stylish, yet forever aimed at mass audiences. The Bond films are now in the business of showing their intent rather than telling it.”
(extract from Chapter 8, Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan)
Following on from fiftieth anniversary screenings in Nottingham, Adelaide, Calgary, the Florida Film Festival, Edinburgh’s famed Cameo Cinema, at the Egyptian in Hollywood and Norway already in 2014, many other global cinema-spots are getting out the gold paint to mark the golden anniversary of the classic 007 blueprint, Goldfinger with their own special screenings.
PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT AND SOME OTHERS HAVE NOW PASSED.
Marking the first time a restored vintae Bond film has been screened in this style in Norway, organizers Morten Steingrimsen and Anders Frejdh are pleased to announce that the film’s production designer Ken Adam (countless iconic Bond films as well as Dr Strangelove, The Madness of King George, Barry Lyndon) and his biographer Sir Christopher Frayling (Ken Adam Designs The Movies). This is the first time Adam has come to Oslo in this context and organisers are justly excited. Joining Adam and Frayling will also be Norman Wanstall (Oscar winning sound designer on Goldfinger) and Margaret Nolan (Bond’s first girl, Dink and title sequence star) will also be in attendance. Adam, Wanstall and Nolan will participate in a Q&A following the screening. The British Ambassador in Norway, Ms. Jane Owen, will also be in attendance to open the festivities.
‘Forventer du at jeg skal snakke?’
‘Nei, Mr Bond, jeg forventer at du skal dø!’
The May 22nd screening and Q&A will be a closed and exclusive event for 292 invited guests. The film will be shown with a newly restored version and all manner of 007 accoutrements will fill the evening in apt style.
A public screening will follow on May 23th – with Norman Wanstall and Margaret Nolan also in attendance.
For more information, click here.
Oslo Kino, Oslo
May 22nd & 23rd August 2014
PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS PASSED.
Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens in Alabama is launching Flicks Amongst The Flowers with their first film taking viewers back to the decade the Gardens were founded for their screening of Goldfinger.
The free event will take place in the Formal Garden in front of the newly renovated Conservatory.
“Couples are encouraged to enjoy a unique, themed menu created by Kathy G. which includes “Gold Dust” Truffle Popcorn, Homemade Parmesean Potato Chips, the “Operation Grand Slam,” a unique take on the Cuban sandwich and a Smoked Portabella Panini. The evening’s drink menu will include beer, wine, champagne and martinis” (www.bbgardens.org)
Gates open at 6 p.m., and the film begins at 7:30 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to bring a blanket and find a spot on the lawn to enjoy the film.
For more details.
Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, Alabama.
May 16th 2014
7.30pm / Free
PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS PASSED.
And the American Film Institute (AFI) is getting itself in on the celebratory action with three nights of screenings also this May at its Silver Theatre in Maryland, US.
For more details.
American Film Institute @ Silver Theatre, Maryland, US
May 23rd, 26th & 29th 2014
8.30pm / £18 & £30
PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS PASSED.
London’s Courthouse Hotel is proud to present their Cinema Club’s own summer showing of Goldfinger in their unique venue.
For more details.
Courthouse Hotel, London
June 7th 2014
Evening / Cinema Club members only
PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS PASSED.
London’s Grosvenor Square (home of the real US Embassy) is the setting for The Nomad Cinema’s pop-up cinema screening of Goldfinger. Founded to give 100% to charities, The Nomad Cinema is a roaming cinema experience, setting up camp in the strangest of settings to bring cracking cinema to movie fans. Please note – this screening is silent with Wi-Fi headsets.
For more details.
The Nomad Cinema (Grosvenor Square)
Thursday 10th July 2014
8.00pm / £16.50 (all profits go to the Sustainability
Not to be outdone, the savvy and retro minded Cinespia is hosting a downtown Los Angeles open air screening of the film in perhaps one of the most unique locations Goldfinger has ever been shown at. The film is being screened outdoors on Fairbanks Lawn, a field inside the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (and a stone’s – or hat’s throw – from Paramount Studios). Bring blankets, pillows, picnic and drinks. Wine and beer is permitted, but no spirits please. DJs spin the decks as the sun sets and after the film too.
For more details.
Cinespia @ the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Santa Monica Blvd)
Saturday 12th July 2014
7.00pm doors / 9.00pm screening / $14
And hot on the golden heels of these Goldfinger events comes news from London that Luna Cinema in association with the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is screening the 1964 classic. To mark the 50th anniversary of Goldfinger, arguably the most iconic Bond film of them all, famed outdoors exhibitors Luna Cinema presents a special celebratory screening in the unique tree-lined setting of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre on Sunday 17th August 2014 at 8.30pm.
For more details.
Regent’s Open Air Theatre, London
Sunday 17th August 2014
8.30pm / £18 & £30
Illinois’s Classic Cinemas’ Paramount Theatre is holding a Bond weekend. Beginning with a newly restored version of Goldfinger in the evening of September 5th, the weekend is also screening The Man with the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me (both on Sunday 6th September 2014).
For more details.
Paramount Theatre, Kankakee, IL
Friday 5th September 2014
7.15pm / $5
Masterminded by the Swiss 007 club, James Bond Club Schweiz, their Goldfinger – Reloaded event forms a full day of all things golden. Beginning with a location bus tour (following the famed mountainous Furka Pass route of the Swiss-bound cars in the film’s first act – including the DB5), the day also involves a meet and greet with Oscar winning sound designer Norman Wanstall and Bond actress Tania Mallet (Goldinger‘s Tilly Masterson), plenty of photo opportunities, a three course dinner and more…
For more details.
6490 Andermatt, Furkapass/Schweiz
Saturday 13th September 2014
12.00pm / 190 Euros
From the James Bond Club Deutschland, comes a September screening of Goldfinger at the UFA Palast, Stuttgart. With Bond fan Danny Morgenstern, cars and a Vodka Bar on standby, the day’s events start at 3pm. For more details.
UFA Palast, Stuttgart
Saturday 27th September 2014
From 15.00pm / 8 Euros
“I’ve had some optional extras installed”
Aston Martin V8, The Living Daylights (1987)
From the opening shot of the opening Bond movie Dr. No (1962) where three “blind” assassins trundle on a mission of murder across traffic before cowering in a private members club car park, James Bond’s onscreen romance with automobiles was a given. Instantly part of the machismo, panache and kinetic pace of 007, these various fold-up planes, model trains and high-end automobiles are now Bond’s necessary co-stars, sidekicks and maybe even love interest. In 2012’s Skyfall, the fiery death of the Aston Martin DB5 was lent nearly as much impact as the onscreen death of Bond’s wife Tracy forty or so years before. It was certainly as shocking. Maybe. And an earlier reveal in a London lock-up got the biggest cheer in many a screening of Skyfall, including a right royal applause on premiere night.
“I hope my back end will stand up to this!”
Mercury Cougar XR7, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
So it now makes perfect sense for 007 creative house Eon Productions to celebrate Bond’s various vehicular speeding bullets with the London Film Museum’s newly launched exhibition, Bond In Motion. A collaboration between both parties (following a highly successful and extended run at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu through 2012 and 2013), Bond In Motion is the largest official collection of original 007 vehicles and a rich pageant to some of cinema’s most iconic cars. And planes. And motorbikes. And jet packs. And speedboats. And underwater tow-sleds. And that crocodile submersible thing.
“No, some men just don’t like to be taken for a ride”
Kindly invited by Eon Productions and the London Film Museum to a recent preview of Bond In Motion, the day quickly grew faster than an Aston Martin’s self-inflating tyre with surprise reunions, typical Bond glamour, some welcome bubbly and a possible nugget or two of news about October 2015’s Bond 24. Granted a quieter session of grace to fully take in the whole exhibition before the world’s press descended like Japanese ninjas, it was a welcome opportunity to chat to the gathering Bond alumni, particularly top Eon archivist and the ‘M’ of the various Bond exhibitions travelling through the globe, Meg Simmonds. Added to that production designer Peter Lamont, stunt driver and 007 fan Ben Collins (who currently doubles for Daniel Craig and took part in the frenetic Italian road chase in Quantum of Solace), Casino Royale‘s Caterina Murino (who does not have a fear of hammocks as I first queried but does admit they are awful for reading in), current Moneypenny and all-round car wrecker herself Naomie Harris, husband and wife stunt legends Vic Armstrong and Wendy Leech, 007 producer Gregg Wilson, special effects head Chris Corbould (who was able to answer another pressing query of mine – namely, ‘did we do our Christmas shopping last year at the same place?’ … we did), actress Maryam D’Abo (Kara, The Living Daylights), writers Robert Wade and Neil Purvis (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough) and soon to be three-time production designer Dennis Gassner (following on from Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall).
Amidst all the fantasy apparatus and Q-Branch hardware, this Bond author chose instead to not chat to Peter Lamont about his favourite Bond car or maybe even the prop that caused him the most design grief. No, this Bond film author chose instead to take the opportunity to chat about the Octopussy bed (all spray-painted polystyrene and destroyed not long after filming… criminal, I know). Cutting a far too youthful gait for someone in his eighty-fifth year, the now retired Lamont (Titanic, Aliens) was glad to have gone out on 2006’s Casino Royale, which he suggests is one of his best Bonds. That film’s presence is certainly marked in Bond In Motion by one of the Aston Martin DBS’s used for that film’s record-smashing multiple roll, and the curious magic-shattering add-ons necessary to make it happen.
The different phases of Bond production design – all perfectly underlined by Bond In Motion – have always held a fascination. Not just for me, but cinema audiences, design students, new directors and cineastes the world over. Ken Adam’s influence on design (and not just cinema) is immense. Globally renowned architects often cite him as an influence, his bombastic war rooms and HQs are no longer a retro fantasy (The Avengers Assemble and Inception certainly owes him a debt – or an apology), Apple’s flagship stores ape his style, and material contradictions and angular excesses are all over the likes of London’s Canary Wharf tube station.
To witness Mr Adam arrive – and equally cutting a far too youthful gait for his ninety-three years – to a warm welcome from Peter Lamont and current 007 designer Dennis Gassner was a moment to treasure. Clearly, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson couldn’t have been happier to mark such an exhibition with three generations of 007 designers in attendance and some of the most famous examples of all their work flanking proceedings.
And of course Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson were on hand to proudly talk up Bond In Motion for the press, the legacy of all these cars, their own favourites and what the likes of CUB 1 means to the Broccoli family and the history of Bond film production. Naturally the question of 007’s immediate future came up and the astute pair were traditionally coy. However, Wilson confirmed that Bond 24 – Daniel Craig’s fourth spin of the wheel – will feature a brand new Aston Martin. Writer John Logan is indeed hard at work on the script with Daniel Craig crucially inputting as before, the process of casting a villain will begin in earnest in the next few months, the production is based at Pinewood Studios and the film is based on an “original story”. Broccoli declared how this is “the fun bit” – where casting, story arcs, choosing the various creatives and heads of department, planning the stunts and feel of the film is debated and planned to get into enough shape for the commencement of principle photography in the Autumn.
Unfortunately, the gathered Eon ensemble will not be on hand when the doors properly open for the public. But rest assured, there are enough vehicular stars, shiny beauties and colourful flying co-stars on display to keep every Bond fan boy and girl, man and women completely happy. Oh, and the gift shop – don’t let me forget the gift shop! And the ‘get your own gunbarrel pose’ photo room (complete with tuxedos, oh yes).
Astutely situated in London’s Covent Garden (and a gearstick’s length from Bond director Sam Mendes’ current West End hit, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory), from the moment one steps off the street into the immersive and white gallery space of 45 Wellington Street, it is instantly apparent just how much thought and design care has gone into Bond In Motion. Multiple screens herald and celebrate 007’s car moments, Bond anthems are all around you and a 1/3 scale (but still sizeable) model of Skyfall’s Augusta Westland helicopter hangs very carefully on an equally sizeable hoist. Incidentally it was the same hoist that lowered each and every car into the exhibition space in what Bond In Motion’s very own Q – the London Film Museum’s Jonathan Sands – admits was a sweaty process as each car had its own weights, structural concerns and no doubt insurance premiums. And it is the very idea of logistics and planning that sees an upstairs gallery space dedicated to numerous storyboards and design thinking from Bond’s transport options over the last six decades. Including sketches and vehicle concepts by Bond production designers Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, Peter Murton and Syd Cain, the collection contains some top notch examples of 007 artistry from the Eon Archive – some of which has never been seen publically before, such as all that now remains of Thunderball’s SPECTRE yacht, the Disco Volante.
“That look like a boat stuck in the Sheriff’s car there, Eddie?”
Glastron V-162 Futura, Live and Let Die (1973)
With an optional tour guide cell-phone ably guiding those that opt for the pre-ordained flow, Bond In Motion takes off proper when one ventures downwards into an underground Aladdin’s cave of 007 delights. Filling a labyrinthine space that once housed a vast flower storage warehouse (serving the Covent Garden’s famed trade) this is now the London Film Museum’s chamber of 007 secrets, an apt underground garage housing the capital’s most expensive run-arounds. Flanked by Auric Goldfinger’s beautiful 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III (which Bond producer Michael G Wilson drove himself to the Skyfall premiere in October 2012) and the all-important Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II aka “CUB 1” from 1985’s A View To a Kill (which due to a familial link is one of the key players in my own Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan), this exhibition very quickly lays it cars on the table with a luxuriant bombast.
“Little Nellie got a hot reception. Four big shots made improper advances towards her, but she defended her honour with great success”
Wallis WA-116 Agile, You Only Live Twice (1967)
Of course the original factory-floor artistry of these Aston Martins, Lotus Esprits, BMWs, Cougars, Mustangs, Jaguars and Roll Royces speak for themselves. Most of the gathered vehicles here deserve their own pedestal whether they shared screen time with Sean, Roger and Daniel or not. Albert R Broccoli’s very own CUB 1 is a beautiful example of early 1960s car-tistry, regardless of her two Bond film appearances – a lush metallic zeppelin of curves, passenger head room and corners. Likewise, the various incarnations of Aston Martin’s famed relationship with Bond never ceases to amaze even the least car savvy of punters for their sleek aesthetic and low-lying finesse. Rest assured, Bond In Motion is not solely for Bond or film fans. This writer is no petrol head, but the way this exhibition presents itself, the way it allows itself and its visitors room to breathe and let these cars tell their own derring do tales is a key lure for the slightest of Bond geeks. Because this is Eon’s Bond and because their own filmmaking ethos dictates the real thing being real at all times where feasible, this collection is also a high-end reminder of the opulence and quality invested in each new film. There are no Smart cars or family friendly Skodas here. This is an A-grade ensemble of vehicles. The investment Eon pumps into its various filmic projects is no more apparent than in this exhibition.
“Ejector seat? You’re joking!”
Aston Martin DB5, Goldfinger (1964)
Of course a great many of these vehicles come with – as 1987’s Bond Timothy Dalton remarks – “a few optional extras“. An added joy is seeing just how the various special effects gurus and design heads over the decades have souped up cars that are so damn cool they didn’t need accessorising. Yet this is the world of James Bond and witnessing the fantasy of that up close is a major plus point of Bond In Motion. So of course the various added missile launchers, studded tyres, ski supports and revolving number plates mark these already special cars as being just that bit more special. Take your time to study the exhibits and props. The amount of detail put into a GoldenEye train, model helicopter or a nearly throwaway Brosnan surfboard is as important to this exhibition and understanding the effort spent on Bond as the smooth fender of an Aston Martin DBS or a Mustang’s red paint job.
“Ever heard of Evel Knievel?”
AMC Hornet, The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
All delicately lit with aptly positioned montage screens and film friezes adding individual Bond film context, each car is often showcased with visitor access as key. Whilst petting the exhibits will no doubt be frowned upon, this is not an exercise in keeping the public at bay. With a loose theme for the various zones – water, the DB5s (there is more than one), bikes, ski-doos and Skyfall Honda bikes, the destroyed DBSs (the Daniel Craig Astons are invariably Royale-y trashed) and all punctuated with props, miniatures, random helmets, jetpacks and cool piton guns – this exhibition has its own natural flow with a breathing space between these four and two wheeled beauties and plenty of photo opportunities for everyone’s 007 fantasies. Museum head Jonathan Sands has a self-declared fondness for the Roger Moore era (good man) and there is a fun array of 1970s Roger-mobiles. Likewise, there is a lot of Connery kit, particularly showcasing the design alchemy genius of one Ken Adam. Like the quirky cousin that must be in every family photo, You Only Live Twice’s famed gyrocopter Little Nellie is of course in there too – taking pride of place in a spacious wing with various two-wheeled motorbikes, Octopussy‘s tuk-tuk, For Your Eyes Only’s canary yellow Citreon 2CV and The World Is Not Enough’s Parahawks.
Ford Mustang Mach 1, Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Yes, maybe the Lotus Esprit could have been more showcased (or showboated) in the layout scheme of things, but actually its not-obvious placement creates a great “oh my – is that the Lotus?” realisations for any kid of any age to suddenly make an eager beeline for. One of the feng-shui successes of Bond In Motion is how sizing up one car offers a nearby peek of another classic from yesteryear. It’s like being at a school reunion where every conversation is interrupted by someone better to veer towards. More than one sweep through and starting at the end and working backwards is much recommended. And yes – check out the gift shop, nicely sited in one of the underground flower storage catacombs of the museum and inadvertently echoing the “new digs” MI6 end up in 2012’s Skyfall. The ladies can traipse around town with their buff boy Hollister bags, but the Bond fan boys are going to be fighting for a Bond In Motion boutique bag stocked full of mugs, DVDs, prints, clothing and pencils (who isn’t a sucker for a museum pencil?). It also houses a neat case of vintage Bond car memorabilia. And just like how the rather snazzy and kid friendly Scalectrix set available in a canteen room for all to play demonstrates, Bond In Motion straddles a careful line of history, geekery and contemporary.
And my favourite exhibit? Yes, the Astons are beyond lush and the mecha-flippered Lotus Esprit is always going to be the biggest Bond car toy made real. Diamonds Are Forever’s Mustang is – like Las Vegas itself – a bit weather-worn but still holding its sparkle and Blofeld’s Bath-O-Tub from the same film is possibly the campest exhibit in a subterranean world of machismo. But the one that kept catching this bullet catcher’s eye…? Diana Rigg’s Mercury Cougar XR7 from 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Complete with a vintage rack of White Wing skis, this car is simple in its own intent and that of the film it features. No bells. No whistles. Just Steve McQueen cool.
Like a 1970s double-taking Frenchman clasping a near-empty bottle of plonk as a Lotus Espirit motors from the surf, these cars make you pause. Strikingly laid out and physically choreographed by Jonathan Sands, Eon and their respective teams, the exhibition echoes Eon Production’s sister exhibition – Designing Bond – for its insistence on leaving space to let these metallic exhibits breathe. However, it might well overtake Designing Bond on a hairpin bend for the best current exhibition celebrating cinema’s favourite son and spy. Amidst the hardware, ammo and machismo of these cars and vehicles there is an unexpected grace to this collection. But as you shift down a gear for your final lap of the exhibits, there is a private and selfish joy in standing back and surveying the biggest Bond car toy box ever opened in one place. A highly roadworthy experience from lots of careful and not-so-careful owners, Bond In Motion passes its 007 fan MOT with flying (and driving and diving) colours.
“I love a drive in the country, don’t you?”
Citreon 2Cv, For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Bond In Motion opens on March 21st 2014.
Tickets are £14.50 for adults, £9.50 for children and a family ticket is £38. The Museum is currently recommending booking ahead (especially in these early weeks) but also states how people are equally welcome just to turn up and try their chances.
With thanks to Jonathan Sands, Meg Simmonds, Barbara Broccoli & Eon Productions, Sam Fane & Sal Porter at Freuds and the team at London Film Museum. And to Remmert Van Braam, Ben Williams, Adam Bollard & Morten Steingrimsen.
For a whole car boot full of more photos of the exhibition and launch – check out Catching Bullets Facebook page.