National Post (National Edition)
Designer put his stamp on Bond films
Peter Lamont, who has died aged 91, defined the look of the James Bond films over a quarter of a century as their production designer. He also won an Oscar as the designer of Titanic.
Lamont was set decorator and then art director on several Bond films under designer Ken Adam. He succeeded Adam as production designer with For Your Eyes Only (1981) and continued on almost every Bond picture up to Casino Royale (2006) — except Tomorrow Never Dies, which clashed with his Titanic work.
Lamont's specialty, said Bond archivist Meg Simmonds, was finding “simple ideas for something that everybody thought was going to be quite complicated, that ... were cost-effective.”
She cited the tank chase in GoldenEye (1995), for which — in six weeks and for less than $2 million — he re-created a stretch of St. Petersburg at Leavesden Studios. “Pierce Brosnan never went to Russia, and watching that sequence you would never guess that.”
His career lasted well into the era of CGI, but Lamont said it was usually possible to produce an effect cheaper than using computer imagery — if the filmmakers were imaginative enough.
He rarely matched the flamboyance of Adam, but he did not lack flair. His tenure as production designer began as Bond producers wanted smaller, more realistic sets — not least because Adam's space-age designs for his final film, Moonraker, were hugely expensive and rather coolly received.
Lamont also formed a fruitful partnership with Canadian director James Cameron as production designer on Aliens (1986), True Lies (1994) and Titanic (1997).
His achievement on this blockbuster was all the more remarkable since Cameron insisted the doomed liner be re-created absolutely faithfully down to the last detail, from the lifeboats to the cutlery and crockery. At the same time, the set had to be capable of withstanding tonnes of water.
After months of research, Lamont had a 236-metre Titanic replica built in Mexico. It was finished on only one side, and to duplicate the other side every set decoration and costume, down to the buttons on the jackets, was constructed in mirror image and then reversed on film.
“People thought we were crazy,” Lamont said, “but it all worked out for us.” He shared the Oscar for best art direction with his set decorator, Michael D. Ford. It was fourth time lucky for Lamont, previously nominated for his work on Fiddler on the Roof, The Spy Who Loved Me ( jointly with Adam) and Aliens.