FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY

Entry Source: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin


A US Army base protecting the gold depository of the United States, where, in 1964, $15 billion in gold bullion was stored. It is named after General Henry Knox, America’s first secretary of war.

In Goldfinger, the plan of the title character (Gert Fröbe) is to detonate a small but “particularly dirty” atomic bomb—supplied by the Red Chinese—in the repository, thereby effectively eliminating access to the entire US gold reserve for fifty-eight years. The resulting economic chaos in the West will please the Chinese, and the value of Goldfinger’s smuggled gold hoard will increase tenfold.

Although director Guy Hamilton’s film crew was allowed to film on the base, where his cameras caught the actions of hundreds of US soldiers as they fall “unconscious,” the crew was forbidden to film inside or near the actual gold repository. With the building and its vaults a key setting in the film, production designer Ken Adam was asked to recreate the full-size exterior of the repository on the backlot at England’s Pinewood Studios. It was built complete with a huge concrete driveway and iron fencing. Its enormous, multistory interior was constructed inside a soundstage, where Adam stacked gold four stories high.

Explained Adam, “The very nature of a gold repository is very dull. You can’t stack gold very high because of weight problems and questions of transportation. The ingots need to be stored in small chambers situated along narrow tunnels. And there’s simply no drama in a series of little rooms. In my case, I stacked gold bars forty feet high under a gigantic roof. I had a whole crew of men polishing the metalwork so that it would shine when we turned the lights on. And it was the perfect place to stage the final battle between Bond (Sean Connery) and Oddjob (Harold Sakata). It was like a golden arena, and Bond was able to use gold bars as weapons.”[1]

Film editor Peter Hunt, who marveled at Adam’s creations, remembered the day the two of them were told they couldn’t visit the interior of the real Fort Knox repository. “I told this nice American liaison from the Treasury Department that it was ridiculous not to let us take a look at the vault area,” said Hunt. “After all, what were they afraid of, anyway? And he told me, ‘Don’t you understand? You all think there is a lot of gold in there, but in actuality there is nothing in there at all. We can’t let you know that.’ Whether he was telling the truth or not, both Ken and I thought that would have been a great ending for the film: Goldfinger breaks into the world’s largest bank and finds nothing.”[2]


[1] Ken Adam, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, London, June 17, 1977.

[2] Peter Hunt, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, London, June 21, 1977.