Last week, Hollywood’s buzz machine was going into overdrive when news hit the press of an upcoming, highly-anticipated Princess Diana biopic. There’s been considerable interest in such a project for years as Princess Diana remains one of the most alluring and enigmatic figures in pop culture, even after her untimely death at the age of 36, in 1997.
Every young actress in Tinseltown dreamed of landing this role as the Director attached to the project was the award-winning filmmaker Pablo Larrain, who masterfully, along with the brilliant Natalie Portman, brought Jackie to life and with Oscar-winning success.
Despite the list of hopefuls dreaming of snagging the role, Larrain already had his mind set on the actress he wanted to play Diana in his adaptation, entitled Spencer. That actress is Twighlight and Charlie’s Angels star, Kristen Stewart. In what may be her most prominent leading role since the Twilight franchise, Stewart is officially set to star as former royal, Diana Spencer, which will begin shooting in early 2021.
Admittedly, when I first read that Stewart would be playing Diana, I winced. It seemed like an odd choice initially. I wondered with all the remarkable British actresses in the world how and why Larrain placed such a laser focus on casting Stewart, an American. Stewart would have to nail Diana’s specific vocal tonality, regional dialect, and accent at the very least, or else the film would be dead on arrival.
However, it is called acting, after all. We know in the reciprocal that Brits and Aussies in Hollywood, such as Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman, and Cate Blanchett, have masterfully taken on even the most identifiable American accents. So, similarly Stewart must have convinced Larrain that capturing Diana’s accent was no issue for her.
Now, it seems the world is also on-board with this new Diana Bio as the project’s production company FilmNation secured major worldwide distribution deals at the recent Canne Film Festival’s virtual market – even though the film has not even started production yet.
According to an exclusive at Deadline.com, Spencer was one of the biggest successes of the festival, “Pablo Larrain’s Princess Diana movie Spencer, which is set to star Kristen Stewart as the former royal, was a hot seller for FilmNation out of the Cannes virtual market.
The New York-based firm all but sold out on the project, closing deals for the UK, France, Italy and Benelux (STX Entertainment), Germany and Switzerland (DCM), Australia/NZ (Roadshow), Latin America, Spain and Portugal (Sun), South Korea (Green Narae) and Japan (Tohokushina).”
And those are just a few of the countries where the film struck distribution gold.
It’s important to note that if you’re expecting a film that focuses on Diana’s tragic death, then this isn’t the movie for you. According to Deadline, Larrain’s Spencer will take placethroughout one of her final Christmas holidays with the House of Windsor in their famous Sandringham estate.
The film will center around the pivotal moments in Diana’s life when she decided to leave the royal family and reclaim her independence. The Chilean-born Larrain told Deadline,
“We all grew up, at least I did in my generation, reading and understanding what a fairy tale is,” Larraín told Deadline. “Usually, the prince comes and finds the princess, invites her to become his wife and eventually she becomes queen. That is the fairy tale. When someone decides not to be the queen, and says, I’d rather go and be myself, it’s a big, big decision, a fairy tale upside down. I’ve always been very surprised by that and thought it must have been very hard to do. That is the heart of the movie.
As for why he cast Stewart in this coveted Hollywood role, Larrain shared his adoration for the actress and trust in her unique abilities. Incidentally Stewart also like Diana is extremely private and shields herself from the spotlight despite her major success as an actress,
“Kristen is one of the great actors around today,” Larraín said. “To do this well, you need something very important in film, which is mystery. Kristen can be many things, and she can be very mysterious and very fragile and ultimately very strong as well, which is what we need. The combination of those elements made me think of her.”
I interviewed Stewart, and her castmates for the Charlie’s Angels remake press junket just a few months ago. I must agree with Larrain that there is seemingly a constant dichotomy occurring at all times within Stewart. She is a bit like a fragile porcelain doll at times, grappling through emotional angsts while at the same time coming off as a girl who might seriously kick your ass when she’s had enough of your BS.
I will admit that I have changed my perspective, and I look forward to Stewart in this role. If you’ve seen Jackie, with its stellar script, direction, and performance from its leading star, it’s evident Larrain knows what he’s doing, and how to assemble a stellar team to bring magic to the screen.
Read more about the upcoming Spencer starring Kristen Stewart at Deadline.