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Olympics Opening Ceremonies: Danny Boyle goes heavy on music, film

July 27, 2012|By John Horn
  • Danny Boyle directed the eclectic Opening Ceremonies at the Summer Olympics in London.
Danny Boyle directed the eclectic Opening Ceremonies at the Summer Olympics… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

 Danny Boyle has eclectic tastes, from Shakespeare to Bollywood to zombies. While not every one of the director's favorites made its way into his inventive Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympics, his broad interests were on obvious display in Friday's global broadcast.

Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire,""Trainspotting,""127 Hours") brought humor to the ceremonies with multiple movie clips, including a parody of "Chariots of Fire" with Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean and footage of Daniel Craig's James Bond dropping into the proceedings via helicopter with the Queen of England. He also incorporated live music, energetic stagecraft and the remarkable costumes of longtime collaborator Suttirat Larlarb. His show managed to bring together athletics, a tribute to government-run healthcare and Mary Poppins in one event.

Unlike director Zhang Yimou's elaborate but ultimately spotlessly clean work to launch 2008's Games in Beijing, Boyle's show, like his movies, was gritty, filled with smoke and steel, and populated with people of all ages, looks and ethnicities. 

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His nothing-off-limits musical clips included classical music from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, plus songs from Queen, OMD, New Order, the Sex Pistols, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Prodigy, the Specials and Muse. Boyle offered an odd salute to Tim Berners-Lee (introduced as the creator of the Internet, with no apologies to Al Gore), plus the Industrial Revolution and women’s suffrage.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the show. On Twitter, Conservative Member of Parliament Adrian Burley (@AidanBurleyMP) called it "the most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen -- more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?"

Because he has deep experience on stage (Boyle has directed countless plays in London, including a recent adaptation of “Frankenstein”),  Boyle brought a number of theatrical flourishes into the Olympic Stadium, including a sequence in which trees were transformed into belching smokestacks and fake foundries "forged" the Olympic rings.

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But just so people didn’t forget this was about sports, the whole thing was kicked off by British cyclist Bradley Wiggins, the recently crowned Tour de France champion who will compete Saturday morning in the Olympic road race.

And for all of the Americans who mistakenly believe that Kenneth Branagh was playing Abraham Lincoln, he was supposed to be Sir Isambard Kingdom Brunel, an engineer who help build Britain's Great Western Railway.

As the ceremony was concluding, Boyle took to Twitter (@DannyBoyleFilm)  and said simply: "Proud to Be British."

The ceremonies left only one question unanswered: Can we now get Boyle to direct every Super Bowl halftime show until the end of time?

ALSO:

Will the queen light the London Olympics torch?

U.S. swimming hopes to go viral with 'Call Me Maybe' video

U.S. women's soccer team plans own satellite opening ceremony

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