Kristen Stewart is to play Princess Diana in new movie ‘Spencer’. Taking its title from her family name, it explores a pivotal moment in the iconic Royal’s life. Directed by Pablo Larraín (Neruda) and written by Peaky Blinders’ Steven Knight, the project will be shopped around at the upcoming – and virtual – Cannes Market. The Film Festival’s business end is happening in conjunction with an online version of Cannes 2020 later this month. Producers expect a lot of interest in the film.
The Christmas-set screenplay takes place over 3 days, dramatizing what Deadline describe as “a critical weekend in the early ‘90s, when Diana decided her marriage to Prince Charles wasn’t working, and that she needed to veer from a path that put her in line to one day be queen.”
Director and producer Larraín spoke to Deadline, calling Knight’s take a “fairy tale upside down”. He added: “Diana is such a powerful icon, where millions and millions of people, not just women, but many people around the world felt empathy toward her in her life.” The focus will be on the Princess’s personality as priorities shift. Her love for sons William and Harry is said to feature strongly. Diana’s controversial end will not be part of the story, with the action occurring over a concentrated period of time.
For Larraín, Kristen Stewart was the perfect choice for Princess Diana. “Kristen can be many things, and she can be very mysterious and very fragile an ultimately very strong as well, which is what we need… I think she’s going to do something stunning and intriguing at the same time. She is this force of nature.”
The casting choice is a surprise for some but not others. They point to the actress’s own uneasy relationship with the press by way of comparison with Diana. Stewart is certainly no slouch when it comes to real life figures. In 2018 she appeared in ‘Borden’, the Lizzie Borden thriller where she portrayed lover and maid Maggie Sullivan. The same year she made ‘JT LeRoy’, taking the role of artist Savannah Knoop. Recently she played star/activist Jean Seberg in political biopic Seberg.
It’s been an interesting few months for Stewart, who’s demonstrated her usual versatility in the likes of Charlie’s Angels and sci-fi horror flick Underwater. She has big but tricky boots to fill – Naomi Watts tried to bring the late Diana to life in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 2013 biopic. It was a critical and commercial flop.
As Larraín gears up for ‘Spencer’, Netflix is readying the fourth season of The Crown. Emma Corrin is Diana in the popular streaming saga, alongside Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles. FX series Feud featured the battle between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in its first season – Charles and Di were going to be center stage in a second until plans were scrapped. Co-creator Ryan Murphy (Hollywood) got as far as casting Rosamund Pike as the Princess and Matthew Goode as the Prince.
Larraín is no stranger to attention-grabbing dramatizations. 2016 saw him direct both Neruda, a drama about Nobel Prize-winning poet and politician Pablo Neruda, and Kennedy era biopic Jackie. Natalie Portman was nominated for an Academy Award as the title character.
Further casting is yet to be announced. The “hot package” is being handled by CAA Media Finance and FilmNation Entertainment. Endeavor Content have agreed to distribute in the US. Other key players on the production side include Juan de Dios, Jonas Dornbach, Janine Jackowski and Paul Webster.
‘Spencer’ is expected to get underway early next year. It isn’t the first time UK Royals have received the Hollywood treatment. However, while some of these projects wind up going awry, this one seems to have the talent and fresh approach needed to make Princess Diana into a fully-fledged movie character.