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Capturing the Queen

From our August 2018 magazine:

The 1998 film “The Parent Trap,” starring Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, and Natasha Richardson, opens on the wedding day of Nick (Quaid) and Elizabeth (Richardson) Parker. Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” smoothly sets the tone for this elegant, romantic scene, fictionally taking place aboard the Queen Elizabeth II ship in 1986. In actuality, the sequence was shot aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

Selecting the Queen Mary for this opening montage held special significance for the movie’s location manager, John Panzarella.

“The Queen Mary is the only place I stepped foot where my grandfather, my mother’s father, stepped foot, so it meant a lot to me to film there,” Panzarella said. “He crossed the Atlantic Ocean when the Queen Mary was a troopship and there was one very famous crossing when the Queen Mary was literally knocked over on its side by a rogue wave. He was on that crossing.”

Decades after his grandfather boarded the ship during the World War II years, Panzarella would begin shooting movies at the Queen Mary, beginning with the 1996 film “Primal Fear,” starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. A few years later, the Nancy Meyers-directed film “The Parent Trap” was filmed.

“When we went to the Queen Mary on the location scout, it was [Meyers’] first feature directing—she was suitably impressed when we showed her the Queen Mary,” Panzarella said.

Scenes shot aboard the Queen Mary show a shipman wearing white gloves while gracefully guiding the ship’s brass steering wheel. In another shot, Nick and Elizabeth enter the ornate ballroom for the reception where champagne and caviar are exquisitely passed around the tables. Finally, they watch fireworks from the deck to cap off a romantic evening.

“Where else do you go to see deco splendor like that than at the Queen Mary? I don’t know,” Panzarella said. “It’s a privilege to be able to shoot on an incredible, historic ocean liner like that,” added Panzarella, who remembers meeting Quaid, Richardson and most notably, Lohan.

“The promise of that little girl—she amazed the crew every day,” Panzarella remembered.

While working on the Queen Mary for several days during “The Parent Trap,” Panzarella stayed overnight aboard the ship and provides a fun memory about his experience.

“When I asked for a room, they gave me the King’s Suite—it was like 2,000 square feet and it was room after room; it was crazy,” he said.

A few years after working on the film, Panzarella even took his mother to the Queen Mary to celebrate.

“We toured the ship together and it was really a wonderful day,” he said.

To learn about more movies filmed at the iconic Queen Mary, including "Pearl Harbor" and "Aviator," click here.


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