Cruise v Titchmarsh: a right royal smackdown at the Queen’s platinum jubilee | Film


At this stage it’s honestly hard to know what the Queen thinks of her imminent platinum jubilee. On the one hand, the outpouring of patriotic pageantry will provide a perfect distraction from all the terrible things her family keeps doing. But on the other, she’s going to have to sit through an awful lot of faff.

This week, the centrepiece of this faff was announced. Set within the grounds of Windsor Castle, the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebration will take place in front of a live audience of 4,000, and reportedly cover 400 years of British history. Helen Mirren will play Queen Elizabeth I and deliver a speech from 1588. There will be a long section about the Gunpowder Plot. There will be a lot of horses; 500 of them, in fact. And Katherine Jenkins. And Ant and Dec. It sounds tortuous. The Queen has had to put up with this sort of thing for 70 years now. You can’t help but feel that she’d probably just prefer a quiet night in with the snooker.

As tedious as the whole thing sounds, one thing alone will save the day. That thing, slightly unbelievably, is Tom Cruise. The show will reportedly be formed of four acts. Mirren will host one, Damian Lewis, Adjoa Andoh and Alan Titchmarsh will host the others, but they are all set to be blasted out of the water by Cruise’s turn. Nobody knows why this is happening or how it came to be, but it doesn’t matter. You will watch the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebration, just because someone booked Tom Cruise for it.

The Queen with James Bond, shortly before she skydived into the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.
Her Majesty’s secret service … the Queen with James Bond, shortly before she skydived into the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Photograph: LOCOG/AFP/Getty Images

Realistically, nobody knows which Cruise will turn up. We may get the showboating action star, who will arrive on stage after leaping out of an exploding fighter jet before singlehandedly foiling the Gunpowder Plot by karate-kicking Guy Fawkes’s head clean off his shoulders. We may get overly reverent Cruise, who will be so humbled by his surroundings that he’ll lose focus and mangle the word “Leicestershire” beyond all recognition. If he wants to make friends, he’ll turn up with a T-shirt cannon loaded with coconut cake and blast slices straight into the mouths of his audience. If he wants to be memorable, he could Man v Food his way through a pile of identical curries. We simply just don’t know.

However, it would be wrong to assume that he can waltz into Windsor and run away with the whole show. If the Queen does turn up to watch the thing – and that’s still a big if, given her recent health concerns – then Cruise runs the risk of being second banana to Titchmarsh.

I mean it. If you’re the Queen, Titchmarsh is always going to be the real draw here. Think of all the shows the woman has been forced to endure in the last 20 years alone. Brian May played guitar on her roof and she couldn’t crack a smile. Atomic Kitten sang Dancing in the Street and she couldn’t have looked more bored. At this stage in her life, the woman has been subjected to the equivalent of 300 hours of elongated Paul McCartney Hey Jude singalongs, and the strain is definitely showing.

Perhaps the closest thing to Cruise that the Queen has ever encountered is the James Bond skit she performed at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, in which she pretended to jump out of a helicopter. Remember, this was Bond – a decades-old touchstone of British culture – and the woman scowled through the whole thing like she had a gun to her head. You sense that maybe, just maybe, she might not have seen Vanilla Sky.

The only time that the Queen has palpably expressed any enthusiasm for anything in public is that gif where she saw some cows, pointed at them and delightedly shouted the word “Cows!”. Titchmarsh is the personification of that cow gif. He’s all dirty fingernails and wax jackets. If the Queen can summon the energy to attend this event, it will be solely so she can see him, point at him and shout “Titchmarsh!”. Cruise might be one of the most famous men of all time, but even he can’t compete with star power like that.

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