Graham Hawkes, British marine engineer and founder of DeepFlight, made the submarine that appeared in For Your Eyes Only. Here he talks about designing underwater craft, selling subs to Richard Branson, and nearly killing Roger Moore’s stunt double
Nothing’s more relaxing than subaquatic life. I’ve taken probably 100 people underwater, from kids to kings, even my mother-in-law. What’s surprising is everybody, without exception, goes into a quiet, relaxed state.
My idea of a holiday is sitting under a tree, with a piece of paper and a pencil. I don’t view that as work – it’s the best thing ever.
Function wins over design. Things need to look beautiful but also need to function. My recent DeepFlight Dragon submersible is supposed to look like an F1 car. But I didn’t have that in mind until the very final touches.
I don’t have a formal office. Some years ago, I spent so much time answering questions that I found an old house in Norfolk and set up there. I need quiet time to be creative.
I’m not very easy to get hold of – but that’s deliberate.
I used to wish I was around during the Edwardian era. The 1890s to 1910 was the birth of aviation, when people like the Wright Brothers [inventors of the aeroplane] built a machine with their own hands, then climbed inside to see if it worked. Not many people still do that.
I’m driven by fear. I’m worried somebody will come up with something within my field and I’ll say, ‘I wish I’d thought of that!’ It hasn’t happened yet but it motivates me to work hard.
I moved to California in the 1980s. I had a Cockney accent then. In England, that killed me because of class – they’d peg me as somebody you wouldn’t give money to. But here, my accent was ‘cute’.
I’ve sold submarines to [Sir] Richard Branson and [Red Bull founder] Dietrich Mateschitz. Most people would ask, ‘Who’s done this before?’ But [entrepreneurs] aren’t afraid of being the first to do something – they’re not afraid of being out there on their own.
When somebody tells me they have a new idea, I never listen. The reason is because I’ve worked so hard in this business, that I’ve probably had a thousand different ideas rejected. So when somebody claims they have an idea for a new submersible, I go through my discarded sketchboard from 10 years ago and go, ‘Oh no, not again!’
I nearly killed James Bond. When my Mantis sub was used in For Your Eyes Only (1981), producer Cubby Broccoli wrote me into the script as a bad guy. They wanted to me to charge at James Bond’s mini-sub at an angle. I told them, as an engineer, it wouldn’t work. But I did what I was told. I ended up destroying the set, nearly killing the Roger Moore-deputising stuntman. It took two weeks to rebuild. I haven’t been invited back, surprisingly.
I’d like to encounter a giant squid. I suspect they aren’t as rare as we think… We’re pretty stupid – we make too much noise underwater. It’s like doing jungle treks with marching bands – they’d only find slugs and bugs, rather than lions.
More on Graham Hawkes and DeepFlight
Watch the submarines in action at deepflight.com/videos