Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

Bookish, nearly bald, gay assassin, teamed with Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) in Diamonds Are Forever and portrayed by musician Putter Smith. Working for Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray), Kidd and Wint are eliminating the members of an international diamond smuggling operation one by one—a well-engineered plot that eventually brings them up against James Bond (Sean Connery), who is posing as a smuggler.

In the film’s concluding scene aboard a luxury liner, Kidd, impersonating a waiter and about to attack Bond with flaming shish kebabs, is doused with wine and set afire. He then jumps overboard and drowns. In this last sequence, stuntman George Leech doubled Putter Smith. The sequence was done with the help of a very skillful special effects makeup department, which designed a mask made of fireproof rubber that was perfectly molded to the stuntman’s features and that, on the outside, was the image of the bespectacled Smith. The mask also featured two copper gauze eyepieces through which Leech could see, and a copper gauze plate over the mouth so that he could breathe. Protecting the rest of his body was an asbestos automobile racing suit.

“When I first tried out the mask,” said Leech, “I put on an asbestos apron and put the fiery gel in front of the mask. I brought the flame closer and closer until it caught on and enveloped my entire face. The mask was loose so that the moment I noticed something wrong I could throw it away. But it worked fine in the test. If something had gone wrong in the actual take, I couldn’t have gotten out of the suit. I’d have to wait for someone to put the flame out with a handy fire extinguisher.

“When it came time to do the actual stunt, the effects man put so much of this liquid gel on me that I was really abaze. He also threw in some aircraft dope, which is like gasoline. And I could smell that stuff, so I asked him what it was, and he said, ‘It’s only a little aircraft dope to give the flame some color.’ And I told him, ‘Get out of here with that stuff.’

“So here I was on fire, and I had to stagger around a little bit in front of the camera and then go over the edge of the boat set and supposedly jump onto a pad where a fireman stood by with an extinguisher. Before the scene, I told the fireman that as soon as I hit the pad, he was to put me out. So I hit the pad and I’m still lying there burning and nothing is happening. And I found this idiot waiting for the director to say ‘cut.’ Instead of having the extinguisher in his hand, he’s got it a distance away. So he comes over and looks up at the director and looks down at me and then walks nonchalantly over and picks up the extinguisher and puts me out. The goon!

“By then, my hands were burning, because some of the gel had leaked down through my gloves. It took ages for them to heal. Although the gloves were made out of the same fireproof materials as the mask, they had cracked under the extreme heat, and the liquid had simply trickled down onto my hands. The gloves turned out to be the Achilles’ heel of the entire outfit.

“Before the scene had started, the assistant director had told me, ‘First we’ll set fire to you, and then we’ll run the camera.’ And I had replied, ‘No, first you’ll run the camera, and when you’ve got the speed up, then you’ll set fire to me.’ Otherwise, they would have set the fire and I would have been waiting around while they got the right speed up. A guy would have appeared from nowhere and said, ‘Does anyone want a chicken sandwich?’ and all the while I’d be burning away. It’s not a joke. I’ve seen it happen many times.

“Years ago, when I first came into the business, I relied on the assistants and the director. But they sometimes don’t have all the answers, especially when it comes to stunt work. You end up having to watch out for yourself, because when your life’s at stake, you can’t rely on someone else to check the proper safety measures.”[1]

[1] George Leech, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, London, June 23, 1977.


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