“JONAH SET”

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


Nickname for the huge interior of the Liparus supertanker designed by Ken Adam and built on the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios for The Spy Who Loved Me. Since the plot involved a supertanker that swallows nuclear submarines, it was appropriate to name the set after the biblical figure who was swallowed by a whale.

To build such a massive set, complete with a huge water tank to accommodate the nuclear submarines, Adam had initially thought he would need to look outside Pinewood. He considered using a World War II dirigible hangar, and even found a suitable one elsewhere in England. But the expense of converting it into a soundstage was equal to that of constructing an entirely new stage at Pinewood. And the cost of transporting crews back and forth between the studio and the hangar would be prohibitive. Adam reasoned that the only way to do things right was to follows the example of the You Only Live Twice volcano set and build the supertanker right on the lot.

Eon Productions thus entered the real estate business, investing in the 007 Stage, the biggest soundstage in the world at that time. Said Adam, “The stage was built to accommodate nuclear submarines that were five-eighths the size of real submarines. A real nuclear submarine is about 425 feet long. To accommodate that size of vessel would have required a set in excess of 600 feet. I couldn’t go that long because the relationship of the men to the ships would have been awkward.” [1]

Adam constructed a model of the proposed set that was viewed with awe by the director and screenwriters. The script called for a huge battle to take place within the tanker when Bond (Roger Moore) releases the three captive submarine crews, who then attempt to take over the ship before enemy submarines can fire nuclear missiles on Moscow and New York City. The battle would rage over the entire dock area, along the catwalks, up staircases, and along the corridors, where the prisoners break out of the brig and gather weapons in the tanker’s arsenal. When the special effects team was finished, the interior of the Liparus would be set ablaze with dozens of fires and explosions.

In one of the early scripts, the supertanker is controlled from a bridge area located on the surface of the tanker. Bond and his men battle to the surface and then attack the bridge along the deck of the ship. When Adam formulated the design for his interior set, however, it was decided to move the control room inside the tanker, where it would be attacked from the dock area.

“Much of the credit for the accuracy of the set and the swiftness in which it was constructed goes to the Pinewood construction crews, who were now used to the type of way-out set designs featured in a James Bond film,” said Adam around the time of the film’s release. “Over the years, they have organized themselves to cope with those sort of situations. I don’t quite know what would happen if we tried to build such a set in another country. For one thing, the cost factor would be higher in Hollywood. The 007 Stage eventually cost about a half million dollars. For the biggest stage in the world, that isn’t much. And it was built in four months.” [2]

Upon completion, the 007 Stage measured 374 feet long, 160 feet wide, and 53 feet high. It included an interior tank into which Adam placed his nuclear submarine mock-ups. Like his You Only Live Twice volcano set, the supertanker interior was hyperrealistic and featured a working monorail, miles of steel girder work, and a final control room that strongly resembled Blofeld’s communications center in the earlier film. Submarines had replaced the Intruder space rocket, but here again was movie design at its most impressive.


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

[2] Ibid.