James Bond author Ian Fleming, always on the lookout for memorable titles for his best-selling Bond novels, hit upon something really imaginative for the title to his Swiss-based 007 adventure of 1963: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
It was an inspired play upon the famous words that appeared on any official civil service communication or manila-coloured letter in a brown envelope to the public at the time: ‘On Her Majesty’s Service’ (OHMS). It also captured James Bond’s sense of loyalty to Queen and country, an aspect of 007’s world that has sometimes been touched upon by movie makers.
Indeed, at one point in the 1969 big-screen version of Fleming’s novel, James Bond (played by George Lazenby) glances at a painting of the Queen on the wall of his office and raises his drink in apology for his seeming decision to resign. As the eyes of the world have once again feasted on British Royalty with the latest family wedding, the JBIFC takes the opportunity to look back briefly Bond’s ‘royal’ connections and, in particular, on director Danny Boyle’s first encounter with the world of 007, Happy and Glorious.
Reporting for Duty
As many Bond fans know, Happy and Glorious was a short 6-minute ‘Bond film’ directed by Danny Boyle for the special Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, and it starred Daniel Craig and none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The film was part of Boyle’s highly memorable and acclaimed Opening Ceremony, entitled The Isles of Wonder, which celebrated everything that was special and iconic about British history, life and culture.
Boyle’s mini-Bond film, which was made under conditions of ultra-secrecy, saw our favourite secret agent arriving in the (real-life) grounds of Buckingham Palace and being shown by a Royal butler to a private study, where – after standing in silence for a brief moment – 007 met and conversed with the Queen. This culminated in James Bond and the Queen taking a helicopter over the Olympic Stadium and them both jumping out and ‘parachuting’ into the Stadium. It was a brilliant piece of theatre (using stunt doubles, of course). It also genuinely took many spectators and TV viewers by complete surprise! And, to reinforce the Bond imagery, Boyle also ensured that members of the International Olympic Committee entered the Stadium accompanied by Monty Norman’s James Bond theme, arguably one of the most famous pieces of film music from the 20th century.
Interestingly, key parts of the music for the Olympic celebrations were also under the musical direction of veteran Bond composer David Arnold (he was musical director on the Closing Ceremonies for both the Olympics and the Paralympics), so one could easily imagine Arnold and Boyle working together at some point on Bond 25, if unconfirmed rumours are to be believed. Similarly, Boyle and Craig are said to have struck up a very good relationship during their time shooting the mini-Bond movie, so it will be probably be a nicely smooth rekindling of that atmosphere if Boyle does indeed direct Bond 25.
There were many reactions and comments of delight about Boyle’s Bond coup for the Olympics. James Bond’s boss, ‘M’, in the form of Dame Judi Dench, was one of those who was very pleased with her top agent. According to the ‘Mandrake’ column in the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2012, although Dame Judi was a very close friend of Daniel Craig and loved to gossip with him on set, he did not breathe so much as a whisper about how he would be appearing alongside the Queen in Boyle’s min-Bond movie. Dame Judi’s daughter revealed that her mother ‘had absolutely no idea that they were doing it. She thought it was brilliant and hilarious when she saw it’.
EON Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, when she gave a wide-ranging interview to the London Evening Standard newspaper in August, 2012, where she gave her thoughts on the making of Skyfall, reflected on the surprise that people had felt when Queen Elizabeth II made her Bond girl debut (so to speak). Broccoli said: ‘We saw the back of the Queen and everyone I’m sure thought, “It’s Helen Mirren”. And when she turned around it was like a volcanic eruption! How wonderful of her to have done it’.
Daniel Craig himself must have made a great impression on the Queen. In 2013, the British media reported that Daniel, along with his wife Rachel Weisz, were part of a small group of invited thespians who enjoyed a private dinner with the Queen and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle.
Did You Know?
In late August, 2012, it emerged that Boyle and his team did have a ‘Plan B’ had the real-life Queen declined to participate. Actress Helen Mirren would have been called on as an understudy if the Queen had been unable to take part. The director of ceremonies, Martin Green, told the British media that Mirren was fallback for the scenes with Craig’s 007: ‘We did talk about Helen, but didn’t have to go to any other plan’.