THE Queen asked to appear in the London Olympics opening ceremony’s James Bond spoof film, according to Liverpool writer Frank Cottrell Boyce.
The event’s director Danny Boyle contacted Buckingham Palace for permission for making the film, which did not initially include the Queen playing herself.
To his astonishment, not only did the Palace endorse the idea, but added the bombshell that the Queen had requested to take part.
Frank, 52, who was scriptwriter in Danny Boyle’s creative team, said: “The idea originally came from our designer Mark Tildesley.
“Danny said this idea must have come from somewhere, a film like Austin Powers or Johnny English.
“It sat on his desk and when we eventually found nobody else had used it, Danny contacted the Palace. Our whole office was stunned when we got the reply saying the Queen not only gave permission but wanted to be in it.
“The timing of the film showing her leaving the Palace with Daniel Craig as James Bond, the helicopter’s arrival over the stadium, ‘her’ parachute jump and appearance in the Royal Box was all perfect.
“There were people around me in the stadium who were actually asking each other if it really was the Queen jumping out of the helicopter!
“It was thrilling to have been able to create a level of magic where people wanted to believe their eyes when their minds told them it couldn’t be true.”
Frank also managed to smuggle in a few personal touches like using the motto of St Helens, where he went to school: Ex Terra Lucem – (out of the ground comes light). He said watching the event with his wife Denny and two of his seven children was a “fantastic, but eerily calm” experience.
He said: “After 2½ years’ planning and rehearsing, I thought it’s now out of our control.
“My only anxiety started when I nipped out of the show half-way through to get some fish and chips for us and a colleague said to me ‘what if the Olympic cauldron doesn’t work?’ This was one of my favourite parts but it had been kept so secret that testing was limited.
“After the tips of its arms were lit they had to rise up to form the cauldron of flame.
“What if they jammed half way? It would be one of those Titanic moments when, no matter about all the great stuff, everyone would remember the London 2012 Olympics only as the one where the cauldron malfunctioned.
“It would have been just like an episode of the satirical Olympic TV show Twenty Twelve.” The team had a strong vision of what they wanted, which was to try and get away from the drilled, military-style showpiece openings traditionally associated with Olympic ceremonies.
Frank said: “If you're trying to celebrate a nation's identity, you have to take things that are familiar parts of the landscape and make them wonderful.
“One of my favourite parts was Danny's blistering opening as it unleashed the energy and genius of the industrial revolution with factories rising like fireworks.
“I also loved Suttirat Larlarb's beautiful dove bikes with their luminous wings.
“It was the opposite of bombast with the bikes’ wings of bamboo and paper which anyone could have made for a school play.
“The whole ceremony worked and it was a tribute to the great imagination and hard work of thousands of people. Even the medley of pop songs came from constantly asking people around the offices what their choice would be and then compiling a final list.
“I watched the event again on television the next day and it was a totally different experience to what I’d seen in the stadium, but both were just as enjoyable in different ways.
“It was such a shame it was just one night. I think we should take the opening ceremony on the road.
“Instead, we’ve all got to do the things we should have been doing and I’ve now got to write my next novel.”
VOICE of the ECHO: Page 10