Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

James Bond on Her Majesty's Secret Service

By Bob Greene, CNN Contributor
September 7, 2012 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Queen Elizabeth II appears on screen accompanied by actor Daniel Craig during the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Queen Elizabeth II appears on screen accompanied by actor Daniel Craig during the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bob Greene: One of the most memorable Olympic moments wasn't in a sporting event
  • He says the video of Queen Elizabeth and James Bond actor Daniel Craig was striking
  • This year celebrates the queen's 60th anniversary on the throne and Bond's 50 years in films

Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a best-selling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story" and the novel "All Summer Long." He appears on "CNN Newsroom" Sundays during the 5 p.m. ET hour.

(CNN) -- During the Olympic Games in London, which will end with Sunday's closing ceremony, there have been many memorable moments:

The triumph of Michael Phelps.

The dazzling talent of Gabby Douglas.

The countless displays of lustrous skills honed by the world's finest young athletes over years of arduous practice.

But one of the most lasting memories may be the one provided by an 86-year-old woman who was not exactly an obscure footnote to history when the Games began.

Queen Elizabeth II, in her now-famous James Bond scene, was a highlight, if not the highlight, of the opening ceremony. Her deadpan grace was something that many an accomplished actor would envy.

With four words, delivered to an enormous global audience, she, with an implied smiling wink, humanized herself and embodied winning warmth. The filmed scene will always be a hallmark of the 2012 Olympics (the stunt double jumping out of the helicopter -- who would have imagined that she would have approved it?).

These vastly entertaining television Olympics really began with those four words from her:

"Good evening, Mr. Bond."

As the queen turned from her writing desk to greet James Bond, played by the current Bond actor Daniel Craig, her calm tone of voice reminded me of the lovely scene in the movie "The Queen," in which Helen Mirren, playing Queen Elizabeth, says to Michael Sheen, the actor playing Tony Blair:

Queen Elizabeth opens London Games
Michael Phelps wins his 21st medal
Douglas wins women's all-around gold
The push for tug-of-war at the Games

"Yes, well, you are my 10th prime minister, Mr. Blair. My first, of course, was Winston Churchill."

London 2012 legacy: Trust the British to get it right

In greeting Daniel Craig in the Olympics scene, the real queen, in that utterly polite but manifestly unimpressed voice, could just as well have been saying:

"Yes, well, you are my seventh James Bond, Mr. Craig. My first, of course, was Sean Connery."

(For those of you who are already thinking that there have been only six feature-film Bonds -- Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Craig -- you are leaving out David Niven, who played Bond in a less-than-officially-authorized "Casino Royale" in 1967. And there have been other Bonds in various radio and television productions.)

Queen Elizabeth has been around for them all. In fact, she was already wearing the crown when, in 1953, Ian Fleming published his first Bond novel, "Casino Royale." The films that were inspired by Fleming's books have been a strong, hugely popular and endlessly lucrative franchise, but there is a case to be made that the novels are even better. Just reading the opening words of "Casino Royale" is a lesson in beautiful scene-setting, the flawless introduction of a brand-new character:

"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling -- a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension -- becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.

"James Bond suddenly knew that he was tired. He always knew when his body or his mind had had enough and he always acted on that knowledge. This helped him to avoid staleness and the sensual bluntness that breeds mistakes. ..."

Opinion: London Olympics have redefined how Britain sees itself

The novels still read thrillingly today (here's a tip: the best of them is "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"), but there is no question that when the movies came along, they overshadowed Fleming's ink-on-paper volumes. This Diamond Jubilee year commemorating Queen Elizabeth's 60-year reign is also the 50th anniversary of the Bond films, starting with "Dr. No," and the series is receiving renewed attention.

In the 1980s I spent a day with Connery -- he was filming "The Untouchables" with Robert De Niro and Kevin Costner -- as he left the set to go to several appointments with doctors. It turned out that for all his daring exploits in the Bond movies, he was deathly afraid of needles (as a child he had seen from eye-level and inches away a girl from his class in Scotland getting inoculated during a diphtheria outbreak, and "the fear of needles has been with me ever since.")

Of Fleming's Bond novels, Connery said: "To tell you the truth, I never read them all." Of the ones he did read, he said, "I was never all that crazy about the books." But the author himself? "I liked Fleming," Connery said. "He was erudite -- and a real snob. Being a genuine snob can be quite healthy. At least you know who you're dealing with.

"We got along rather well, surprisingly. We had both been in the Royal Navy -- although he was a commander and I was an able-bodied seaman."

By the time Daniel Craig was born in 1968, Connery had already starred in five Bond films. Connery told me that he approved of the idea of new generations of actors playing Bond as the years went by -- "The guy should be young. Or at least under 50" -- and so it was Craig, as the contemporary Bond, who co-starred with the queen in the Olympics film.

To look at Craig's face after the queen turns and sees him -- "Good evening, Mr. Bond" -- is to see Craig the man, not just Craig the actor. He knows just how indelible a moment this is in his own life.

He's doing a scene with Queen Elizabeth -- and she is the reveal, not him.

In the Bond movies, it's the Bond character who, sometimes literally, always symbolically, makes the turn, and reveals to the audience who he is: "Bond. James Bond." But in the Olympics film, the queen, as Craig clearly and delightedly understands, is the actor the audience's eyes are fastened upon.

Not bad, at 86. And, as enduring Olympic moments go, gold. Pure gold.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bob Greene.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT