James Bond leaves film design shaken, not stirred

Art Directors Guild Awards 2013

We are told that preparing a good martini requires the skill of a master mixologist who can blend quality ingredients in exact proportions. The author Ian Fleming, who created the James Bond character, was himself a master mixologist. However, his ingredients consisted of a slate of adventure-driven characters born of his years of service in British intelligence.

Interestingly Fleming never intended Bond to be the debonair figure into which he evolved. In fact, in the early ’60s the New Yorker quoted Fleming as saying: “When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument … when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, (James Bond) is the dullest name I ever heard.”

As we know, Mr. Bond was destined to become anything but dull. While he remained true to Fleming’s caricature in his early appearances on television and radio, it wasn’t until he appeared in comics that the illustrator John McLusky visualized him as the good-looking masculine spy we know today. The move from comic strip to feature film took place in 1961 when Eon Productions under the aegis of Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli produced “Dr. No.”

The production designer on that franchise-starter was Ken Adam. Ken’s “affair” with 007 pics went on for 17 years and included “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” “You Only Live Twice,” “Diamonds Are Forever,” “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker.”

Ken helped ensure that Fleming’s “dull” Bond never made it to the screen by creating numerous narrative-driven environments that amplified the persona of the world’s most glamorous spy. In no small way, his “affair” with Bond surely contributed to his receiving the Order of the British Empire, a knighthood, and the Art Directors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

DeCuir’s credits include “Top Gun.”