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When Screen met the Queen

Screen’s chief critic and reviews editor Mark Adams ventured to Windsor Castle to meet the Queen and to see her presented with an honorary BAFTA award in recognition of her support for British film and television.

For such an apparently formal occasion the special reception for the British film industry hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle was a remarkably warm and friendly affair as some 300 film types – myself included – celebrated not only British film, but also the fact that the Queen was presented with an honorary BAFTA award in recognition of her support for British film and television.

The Queen, of course, played a special filmic part in the opening ceremony of the Olympics last year as she performed alongside Daniel Craig in a James Bond spoof (still thought by many to be the highlight of Danny Boyle’s event), but the presentation was more about appreciation of her support for the industry than this one-off cameo.

She was presented the award by Kenneth Branagh, and stood smiling as he gave a funny and warm-hearted speech, and suggested that thanks to her Olympics role she might have already been sent more scripts…adding – as a genial dig to the gathered crowd – that “not all of them are fully financed. But if you wish to become attached, producers believe this will attract significant interest.”

He avoided a Bond girl gag. That honour had gone to BAFTA chairman John Willis who had introduced the presentation ceremony as he paid tribute to the Queen’s support over the 50 years of her reign, describing her as “the most memorable Bond girl yet”.

As members of the British film industry braved the unseasonal April snow to make their way up the cobbled Windsor streets to the Castle, there was an oddly festive atmosphere to the proceedings. Never before have representatives of the UK film industry been so well dressed. In addition it was a refreshingly wide-ranging selection – from projectionists and producers through to sales agents and even critics.

There were actors and directors – the hefty list included George Lucas, Carey Mulligan, Christopher Nolan, Minnie Driver, Idris Elba, Leslie Phillips, Thandie Newton, Edgar Wright, Riz Ahmed and Helena Bonham Carter – as well as seasoned industry professionals young and old. In fact, the award for the oldest attendee must go to 100 year-old cinematography legend Douglas Slocombe.

With the formal presentation over, the Queen (along with other members of the Royal family including the Duke of York; the Countess of Wessex and Prince Michael of Kent) mingled with the crowd and engaged in conversation about the film business. I was chatting with legendary Observer film critic Philip French when we were asked if we would like to meet the Queen.

Protocol dictates that one doesn’t repeat an actual conversation with the Queen, but it was certainly easy-going, informal and most enjoyable. Philip, who has been reviewing films for as long as the Queen has been on the throne, even failed to take over the conversation…a rare thing for him.

With the event over, industryites made their weary way home from Windsor Castle – frankly I almost got lost wandering out and trying to find the right gate from which to exit – with a warm buzz of appreciation and good will.

Certainly this was one of the better British film events in recent years.

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