Frank Cottrell Boyce, who co-wrote two of Queen Elizabeth II’s most iconic on-screen cameos – at the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony with Daniel Craig and this year’s Jubilee sketch with Paddington Bear – said the monarch had “brilliant” comic timing and could have been an actor.
“She’s absolutely glowing in that moment,” he said of her appearance alongside Paddington in the 2-minute long sketch, which commenced her Platinum Jubilee celebrations in July. “And you’ve got to remember that that’s real acting that’s going on there. Paddington isn’t really in the room. She’s acting with an eye-line and with someone pretending to be Paddington. That’s proper acting going on. But I also think it’s true happiness.”
Cottrell Boyce made the comments during an appearance on BBC breakfast news on Friday morning, following news of the Queen’s death on Thursday. As he paid tribute to her acting skills, BBC host Naga Munchetty mentioned that one of the Queen’s friends, Gyles Brandreth, thought she had always secretly harbored dreams of being an actor. “I think she had it in her, don’t you?” Munchetty said, to which Cottrell Boyce replied “Oh definitely.”
He also revealed that for the 2012 Olympics sketch, in which the Queen appeared to jump out of a helicopter alongside James Bond, she specifically requested to have a line from director Danny Boyle. “On the day that we were filming, she said to Danny Boyle, ‘I think I think I should have a line.’ So she bagged that line, there wasn’t a line in the script – she improv’d,” Cottrell Boyce recalled. In the broadcast version, Her Majesty says “Good evening, Mr Bond” as Craig appeared in her office to escort her to the ceremony.
Cottrell Boyce said when Mark Tildesley, the production designer for the opening ceremony, originally came up with the idea of having the Queen jump out of a helicopter into the Olympic stadium alongside Craig, nobody thought they would “pull it off.” But because “nobody had a better idea,” opening ceremony producer Tracey Seaward said she would go to Buckingham Palace to ask permission to use the Queen’s likeness and find out what she’d be wearing on the day so they could use a body double throughout the whole scene.
“[Tracey] said, ‘It’ll be really boring meeting. Nobody needs to come,’” Cottrell Boyce laughed. “And the Queen’s dresser, this remarkable woman, Angela Kelly, said, ‘Oh, why are you doing all this?’ And [Tracey] said, ‘So that we can make it look as though it’s the Queen.’ And Angela went, ‘Oh the Queen wants to do it.’ And Tracey came back and we all went ‘What?!’ So she put herself up for that. She was game – she wanted to be in that sketch.”
The writer said the Queen had more lines in the Paddington sketch than in the Bond one “partly because it was a lot cheaper to film her than it was to film Paddington,” the writer admitted. “But she had a lot more lines and didn’t she deliver them brilliantly and with evident enjoyment? And as I said, that wasn’t an easy task. Paddington is not really there. That’s technically an amazing performance, actually. It’s a brilliantly timed comic performance.”
Cottrell Boyce, who co-wrote the Jubilee sketch with “Paddington 3” scribes James Lamont and Jon Foster, also revealed that the idea for the Queen to co-star alongside the cuddly bear in a sketch for the Jubilee ceremony also came from Buckingham Palace. “And what an astute idea it was to have her act with Paddington, because Paddington embodies so many of the values that she stood for. Paddington is all about kindness, tolerance, being kind to strangers, politeness, these things that are about character. And those are values that she’s embodied throughout her life and that’s why we are feeling so sad today. And they’re not values that are uncontested at the moment. So it was not purely a cute thing to do. It was significant. And that’s why it’s resonated so much.”
The sketch quickly went viral across the world and sparked obvious delight from the monarch’s great-grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who were in the audience as it was projected onto a screen outside the palace just before the Jubilee concert kicked off.
The final scene of the sketch features the real Queen tapping out the rhythm of (the band) Queen’s “We Will Rock You” with a teaspoon onto a bone china cup before the real-life rockers, fronted by Adam Lambert, took the stage. It was a scene Cottrell Boyce initially worried wouldn’t work. “I put my hand up and say in those script meetings I was very adamant that we shouldn’t end with her tapping the cup,” he recalled. “I thought ‘She’ll never pull that off. It’s too much to ask.’ […] And she pulls it off brilliantly. Amazing.”