So the Queen, George Lucas and I walk into a castle…

Friday April 5th 2013


Yesterday afternoon I got the 16:32 train from Vauxhall to Windsor & Eton Riverside in order to attend ‘a Reception to be given at Windsor Castle by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh for the British Film Industry’. I’d been bafflingly invited a couple of weeks earlier and had spent most of the intervening time wondering which of my friends had got their hands on a gold bevelling machine.

Along with three hundred others I filed into the castle around six o’clock, shortly after depositing my phone in the cloakroom to ensure that I resisted the urge to grab a few selfies with the lady from the coins. It’d be gauche to list any of the famous names in attendance, but if Peter Bradshaw isn’t above such improprieties then neither am I, so here goes: George Lucas, Kenneth Branagh, Terry Gilliam, Christopher Nolan, Tom Hooper, Christopher Lee and Marius himself, Lord Eddie of Redmayne. I felt faintly concerned for the fate of the BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award should Windsor Castle suddenly be struck by a very localised viral outbreak, and figured that Danny Boyle’s absence might be thus explained. In the same way that the six or seven guys who know how Coca Cola is made can’t fly the same planes, it seemed wise to keep a few British treasures out of the vicinity of SL4.

Soon I found myself in a queue that was moving with some pace towards a door at the far end of the great hall. Reaching the threshold I saw that Britain’s foremost postage stamp model, Elizabeth II, intended to greet each guest in turn. A spark of anxiety shot through me as I tried to recall that scene in The Queen where Michael Sheen learns how to pronounce ‘ma’am’. As my final shred of Republican integrity admitted defeat, I advanced towards the small room.

Needless to say, it was over before it began, and afterwards all I could think about was the disparity in the handshake’s meaning for her and me. It seems highly likely that she’s met more human beings than any other person currently alive, which means statistically you’re more likely to meet her than you are to meet anybody else. I couldn’t help but sympathise. I have trouble remembering the names of relatives, let alone random film producers I may have encountered on a single occasion in 1972.

Our collective brush with the most famous person in the world did help to democratise the remainder of the party, where it mattered little if you were an idiot twentysomething movie blogger or a century-old cinematographer who once upon a time shot Raiders of the Lost Ark (shouts to my main man Dougie Slocombe, it was lovely to meet you). Nonetheless, George Lucas was attracting quite a crowd, which I guess it what happens when you suddenly come into $4bn. At one point I slipped through the twenty-strong crowd surrounding him on my way to the bathroom, eliciting a flustered ‘Do you mind? I’m next with George’ from a middle-aged man in horn-rimmed spectacles.

Ultimately it was a brief soiree, and at 8pm we all set a course back to our cars / chauffeur-driven limousines / poorly regulated trains. Safely aboard the 20:23 back to London, I browsed Twitter in search of namedroppy tweets from my fellow partygoers, but was instead confronted by the news of Roger Ebert’s death. I quickly felt a whole lot less important.

Edit: it’s been pointed out to me that the ending of this piece is a bit of a downer, so here’s a picture of the Queen’s head on a BAFTA: