When Queen Elizabeth appeared to parachute into the Olympic Stadium this summer it was hailed as one of the greatest moments in British television history.
As part of the lavish London 2012 opening ceremony the Queen was shown jumping from a helicopter with James Bond actor Daniel Craig, but ever since there has been mystery surrounding how, exactly, she was persuaded to do it – until now.
Lifting the lid on her first movie role, Lord Sebastian Coe has revealed the audacious stunt had been kept a secret from the Queen’s own dumbstruck family who watched it unfold on July 27 this year.
Prince Charles “roared with laughter” and Princes Harry and William began yelling “Go Granny!” as she was shown flying across the London sky before appearing in the Royal box, he said.
In his autobiography, Running My Life and serialized in The Times, Lord Coe discusses how director Danny Boyle, LOCOG CEO Paul Deighton and even Prime Minister David Cameron had helped make it happen and admitted he was “speechless and nervous” about it.
“When we saw those shoes and peach colored dress disappearing into the night sky under a billowing parachute, we [he and Paul Deighton] looked at each other, both thinking <<Oh my God! What have we sanctioned here!>>,” he wrote.
During the ceremony Prince William and Prince Harry were sat behind Lord Coe, who was sat next to Prince Charles.
“Prince Charles looked at me and began laughing rather nervously, wondering where on earth this was going. And when the film cut to the shot of the Royal back, he had exactly the same reaction as everyone else, which was to assume that it was the lady who does the impersonations. But the moment she turned around and everyone realized <<My God! It really is the Queen!>> he began roaring with laughter. As for his sons, they were beside themselves.
“As she started her descent, two voices behind me [William and Harry] shouted in unison <<Go Granny!>>.”
Danny Boyle had the original idea and Lord Coe knew the Queen’s deputy private secretary Edward Young. David Cameron was then informed, who also thought it was a great idea, so brought it up with the Queen during their weekly audience at the Palace.
“I’ll never forget when Danny showed Paul [Deighton] and me the finished film. Even though we had been involved at every stage from storyboard to final script. the wit, fun and sheer audacity left us speechless.”
The recorded sequence opened at Buckingham Palace, where a tuxedo-wearing Daniel Craig as 007 was presented to the Queen by her personal footman as she was writing a letter and training her corgis Monty, Willow and Holly to roll over.
Greeting him with an “Evening, Mr. Bond”, the Queen, in a rose-pink dress, was seen striding briskly through the palace with the action hero before climbing into a helicopter emblazoned with the Union Flag.
The two were depicted as soaring over the streets of London and through Tower Bridge until they finally reached the Olympic Park.
As the film reached its climax, spectators inside the east London stadium heard an AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter, which finally appeared hovering above.
As the aircraft steadied in the movie sequence, Bond was seen opening the door and appearing to hesitate. While he dithered, the figure of the Queen pushed past him and dived out into the air followed by 007 – Union Jack parachutes streaming behind them. Meanwhile, from the real helicopter above the stadium, the same two figures appeared to plunge to earth.
And, with the familiar Bond theme tune sounding around the stadium, the spotlight shone on the Royal Box to reveal the Queen in exactly the same dress she wore in the film.
Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen entered to rapturous applause with Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee.
The Union Flag was then carried into the stadium and raised by representatives of the Royal Navy, Army and RAF.
Director Danny Boyle said: “The Queen made herself more accessible than ever before.”
Nic Brown, BBC Director of UK Drama Production, who produced the sequence, filmed in March, said it had required “a huge amount of planning and resources”.
He said he hoped the result was a film “full of warmth, joy, affection, wit, surprise and excitement and sunshine”.
Organizers said that having to secure permission to fly along the Thames through Tower Bridge – which had never been done before – was a challenge in itself.
The two parachutists who actually leapt from the helicopter last night were Gary Connery, a professional base jumper, and Mark Suttan, a former officer in the Royal Gurkha Rifles.