Designing 007 @ The Barbican, an exhibition of fifty years of James Bond clothes, sets and gadgets from all of the films is currently running in London. It’s a terrific show, featuring everything from Odd Job’s lethal hat to Ursula Andresss’s white bikini. There’s Ian Fleming’s gold typewriter, in a room filled with golden objects that include Scaramanga’s golden gun and – yes – a life-sized replica of Shirley Eaton covered in gold. In the technology room there’s the Little Nellie autogyro, the underwater car, exploding briefcases, watches with radios and garrotting cords hidden in them, and some endearingly bulky early computers tucked away inside things.
In the casino set there are diamonds (lots of them), and just about all of the key dresses from the Bond girls. Madge’s croc-skin fencing outfit shares a room with Jaws’s steel teeth and lots of tuxedos, although I love Connery’s grey three-piece suit. Mercifully, there aren’t too many of Roger Moore’s horrible patch-pocket safari suits.
There’s a room just for various ice-set action sequences (‘It’s very hard to make people look glamorous in sub-zero temperatures’, says wardrobe designer Lindy Hemmings), the Aston Martin DB5 and an awful lot of things with guns hidden inside them, plus a great many of Ken Adams’ extraordinary trompe l’oeil set designs, with recorded interviews from him and many others.
What makes the exhibition work so well is the huge number of HD big-screen clips that set everything in context. The show has been assembled with great care, my only complaint being that it is in three separate parts throughout the nightmare-maze that is the Barbican building. It was able to be created because over the years Eon, who make the Bond films, kept everything in an archive. I worked on several Bond films and remember visiting this hidden treasure trove tucked in the basement of a Piccadilly building.
I would like to have seen some on-set footage – I remember standing in the giant ‘Goldeneye’ sound stage and being pelted with bullet cartridges during a chase sequence, and watching effects master Derek Meddings blow up a plane – but perhaps this would have spoiled the illusion.