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Surgeons replace actors in The Crown operation scene

Published 05/11/2016

Stephen Daldry wanted surgeons to be used in filming of the scene
Stephen Daldry wanted surgeons to be used in filming of the scene

Big-budget royal series The Crown saw a team of qualified surgeons used in a scene instead of actors, it has been revealed.

It is thought to be the first time real doctors have been used in a television production to add plausibility.

A leading surgical team from Guy's Hospital in London appears in Netflix's lavish new drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II in the first episode.

The transplant experts were asked to take part in a scene showing King George VI undergoing lung surgery after the production team decided it would appear more realistic if professionals were involved.

Keen to replicate the surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from the King's lung, conducted by Sir Clement Price Thomas in 1951 in Buckingham Palace, producers asked for the help of Mr Pankaj Chandak, a specialist registrar in transplant surgery at Guy's Hospital.

It was then decided by director Stephen Daldry that Mr Chandak, who offered his knowledge in recreating the historical moment, should be part of the scene along with members of his team at the hospital.

Mr Chandak also advised on how to create a prosthetic body and diseased lung to add to the credibility of the on-screen moment.

The doctor said that taking part in The Crown was, for his team, "an experience we will never forget".

He said: "Despite having the film crew around us, once we settled in it felt like a normal day in the operating theatre. The prosthetic body was incredibly life-like, complete with a beating heart, and there was meticulous attention to detail on set to recreate the surgical world from 1951."

Mr Chandak, who is also an honorary lecturer and research fellow at King's College London, later asked the production company to donate the "body" to the Gordon Museum of Pathology at King's College London as an educational prop.

He explained: "I would like to use it for future demonstrations and lectures to show how far we've come with surgery since the time King George VI was operated on.

"At Guy's Hospital we carry out minimally-invasive techniques through keyhole and robotic surgery, meaning that patients can leave hospital sooner and recover more quickly than they have previously been able to."

The scenes for the series, which cost a reported £100 million to create, were filmed in November last year.

Guy's Hospital consultant transplant surgeon Professor Nizam Mamode played the role of Sir Clement, and he was joined by Mr Francis Calder, Sister Kim Well and Sister Abigail Keen.

A spokesman for The Crown's production company Left Bank Pictures said: "Attention to detail was absolutely vital to the series as a whole, and the operation on George VI did actually take place in Buckingham Palace as shown.

"Director Stephen Daldry requested that we used real surgeons instead of actors to make sure that every detail was authentic and the surgical team were absolutely invaluable to making the scene as believable as possible. It was first in TV and we are incredibly grateful to the surgeons who agreed to take part in filming."

Claire Foy stars as Queen Elizabeth II in the series, along with Matt Smith as Prince Philip and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill.

The first 10 episodes were made available to stream on Netflix on November 4.

Press Association

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