LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth needed little persuading in making her film debut, appearing with the country’s most famous fictional spy James Bond during the London Olympic opening ceremony.
In a brief, tongue-in-cheek film broadcast to a packed Olympic stadium late on Friday - as well as a massive worldwide television audience - Bond actor Daniel Craig entered Buckingham Palace wearing his trademark tuxedo.
After a pause, Her Majesty turns from her writing desk and says simply: “Good evening, Mr. Bond.”
She uttered just four words, but they were seen as a highly personal touch from a monarch once seen as aloof.
“The queen was delighted to be asked, and be involved in something so exceptional,” a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman told Reuters on Saturday. “Very pleased to take part, and it was our Olympics and the queen was delighted to be part of it.”
Princess Diana’s death in 1997 was a low-point for the royal family, yet the huge crowds that greeted her during Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June were proof of how far the queen had recovered in the eyes of the public.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, who escorted the 86-year-old monarch around the Olympic Park during an official tour on Saturday, said that she was “thrilled” about the film and keen to know if people found her cameo role funny.
“My impression is that she loved it,” the staunch royalist told reporters. “Maybe, you know, there won’t be many film performances that she will give and whether she will get an Oscar, I don’t know,” he joked.
The pre-recorded clip also showed 007 escorting the queen to the stadium in a moment of levity rarely shared by the public, who can only read about her well-reported sense of humor.
The 86-year-old monarch was happy for two of her beloved corgis, Monty, 13, and Holly, nine, to play a role. The depiction of her derring-do arrival was a quirky moment in an eclectic ceremony on Friday.
The opening shot showed the Queen sitting at a writing table in Buckingham Palace, welcoming Bond, played by Daniel Craig.
The pair made their way to a waiting helicopter in the grounds of the central London palace, apparently leaving her doting corgis on the doorstep.
The helicopter zipped across the city and a man dressed as Bond skydived down towards the Olympic Park in east London, followed by a figure in a pale peach dress matching that worn by the queen in the film.
She then appeared for real in the main stadium before 60,000 spectators - and without a hair out of place - before taking her seat.
The film was the brainchild of the ceremony’s director Danny Boyle, but it was London organizing committee (LOCOG) chairman Seb Coe who first approached the palace in 2011.
When asked how much it took to persuade the queen to take part, a LOCOG spokeswoman said: “Not much.”
“I think she really liked the whole concept Danny had put together.”
Oscar-winning director Boyle shot the scenes in the palace’s quadrangle, the Grand Entrance, the East Gallery, the Audience Room and the West Terrace, in March and April this year.
“You don’t have to tell her something twice,” Boyle was quoted as saying by British media.
“She picks it up straight away, about cameras and angles.”
The queen was then given a viewing before its official showing.
“She was very happy to take part, she was happy to do what she did,” the Buckingham Palace spokeswoman added.
Her off-beat appearance was a hit with the British media.
“It’s been received really well, we always knew it would,” the palace spokeswoman added.
When asked if it might be the monarch’s last appearance in a film, she said: “Never say never, but I imagine so, it was a very special one-off.”
Other members of the Royal Family have had cameo appearances in long-running TV and radio soap operas.
Her stuntman Gary Connery said the part had been exciting, but he’d not been allowed to keep the dress.
“It’s all part of it, and you just go with the flow,” he told BBC television.
“Last night was the first time I’d actually had the make-up on.
“The process of making me the queen ... had been three to four months.”
It capped off a successful year for the queen who in June marked 60 years on the throne with a weekend extravaganza that saw millions of flag waving Britons take to the streets to show their affection and appreciation for a monarch more normally renowned for her stately dignity.
Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Alison Williams