We’re feeling Olympian in the UK at the moment, with London 2012 having started on Friday 27 July. The opening ceremony, directed by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, was hailed as a great success, with the £27 million spectacle watched by millions around the world. As a celebration of what Britain is, from our history to our culture, the show, broadcast live from London Olympic Stadium in the Olympic Park, included a green and pleasant land that was transformed into a landscape of towering industrial chimneys, and dancing NHS nurses and characters from Britain’s rich tradition of children’s’ literature: J.K. Rowling even made an appearance as a storyteller. The music of The Beatles featured prominently, with Arctic Monkeys covering ‘Come Together’ (they also performed their debut single ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’) and Sir Paul McCartney closing the show with the na-na-na singalong anthem ‘Hey Jude’, for which he was paid £1.
Comedic highlights of the evening included references to iconic British cinema institutions which are recognised worldwide. Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean sat in with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, for a performance of Vangelis’ pulsating instrumental theme from the Best Picture Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire (1981), with Bean desperately trying to sustain a single syncopated synthesizer note throughout the entire piece and then dropping off and dreaming that he was running along West Sands, St Andrews with the athletes, in the film’s most famous scene.
Friday 27 July was also a big day for James Bond fans. As part of the spectacular opening ceremony, a specially commissioned BBC film Happy and Glorious had James Bond (Daniel Craig) arriving at Buckingham Palace by taxi and collecting the Queen. They travel across London by helicopter (to the strains of Eric Coates’ ‘The Dambusters March’), before apparently skydiving into the Olympic Stadium on Union Jack parachutes, like the opening sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me (to Monty Norman’s ‘James Bond Theme’). The Queen and Prince Phillip then made their entrances to the stadium and look their places, to watch the rest of the ceremony, including the parade of the international athletes. It was a wonderfully orchestrated gag and the highlight of the proceedings. The Queen’s jump was actually performed by stuntman Gary Churchill, dressed as the Queen.
Earlier on Friday, the official James Bond site http://www.007.com had broken the world exclusive news that Taschen are to publish an official EON approved book to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the James Bond films in November, to follow the release of the new Bond film, Skyfall.
007: The James Bond Archives, a 600 page book in hardback format with over 1100 images, was edited by Taschen’s film editor Paul Duncan and has taken over two years to research and produce. There’s an interview with Paul on the 007 site, where he explains the exclusive access he has had to the EON archives and the wealth of material he has sifted through to make this the definitive story of the series. The full interview can be seen here:
The book covers all the official James Bond films, from Dr No to Skyfall, and also the unofficial films Casino Royale (1967) and the 1983 remake of Thunderball, Never Say Never Again. I’m particularly pleased to announce its publication, as part of the team of writers who created this exciting project I have authored four chapters of the book.
It is available for pre-order from Taschen and the first printing also includes an original strip of film from Dr No.
Read more at: http://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/film/all/00399/facts.the_james_bond_archives.htm
I also covered the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), my favourite of the 007 series, in depth in my 2006 I.B. Tauris Filmgoers’ Guide Crime Wave: The Filmgoers’ Guide to the Great Crime Movies which is still available from Amazon.