‘Spencer’ Director Explains Why He Picked Kristen Stewart As Princess Diana
By his own admission, the filmmaker Pablo Larrain “became a sort of expert” on Princess Diana during the making of his new film, Spencer. And yet, he still can’t quite put his finger on this most enigmatic and beloved member of the British Royal Family.
“Believe me, after this whole process, after making the movie, I can tell you I’m not sure who she was. And it is interesting. And weird at the same time. I think it’s because of Diana’s sheer amount of mystery.
Taking place over three days in December 1991, as Diana spends Christmas at Sandringham House with her husband Prince Charles and the rest of the Royal Family, Spencer does her best to sink into her psyche. As the opening credits say, this is a “fable of a true tragedy” – placing it on the opposite extreme of the royal viewing spectrum of the Netflix show. The crown, which has so successfully staged today’s Windsors.
Chilean filmmaker Larrain is already in good shape in this area. His 2016 film Jackie – starring Oscar nominated actress Natalie Portman – put the audience directly into Jackie Kennedy’s point of view right after the assassination of her husband, President John F Kennedy.
“What interested me was being able to get into someone’s mind… it’s fascinating to me because there is so much information around them. They both have such unique and fascinating lives. But the truth is, we know very little about them.
In Spencer, he casts Kristen Stewart – in what must surely be one of the foolproof first Oscar performances of the year – as Diana. One of the many reasons he chose her was that the dusk star can be just as impenetrable and unreadable.
“I think Kristen has this… on camera.” I can play and be in a space that you can’t really determine. And so I thought it was a good call, just to see if she would be interested. I spoke to him on the phone. Then we met. And she was up for it.
While he denies that he also chose Stewart because she also experienced life in the Flash Glow, they are clearly soul mates. “There are a lot of things in Kristen’s internal world that have helped us exist from Diana’s point of view,” he says.
” Good that she [Diana] was born privilege and she was close to the royal family from the first moments of her life, she was very ordinary, an ordinary person in a very unusual context. And that’s an interesting friction.
Written by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders), the film comes at a time when Diana, the year she would have turned 60, is never more popular. The fifth season of The crown begins this month, with Elizabeth Debicki playing the Princess of Wales in the lead up to her tragic death in 1997, when she and her Egyptian-born partner, Dodi Fayed, were killed in a car crash in Paris.
Diane: the musical is also currently on stage. And in the works is Diane, an archival documentary by Oscar-nominated director Ed Perkins.
“There is more to come, I’m sure, and everyone will have a different point of view,” says Larrain. “But I was convinced that we were doing something that seemed different from the others… our story was set in the early 90s and it was not the entire span of his life. It’s not what I would consider a biopic, I don’t think it’s a biopic. It’s a hold on his life. And it’s a very special moment when she decides to leave the family to find her own identity.
Certainly, Spencer makes courageous choices, showing Diana at her most vulnerable – paranoid, lonely, bulimic, and even self-injurious. Those more difficult moments were always in the script, says Larrain.
“What we really wanted to look at was the cost of this. Why? Why was she there? Why was it so difficult for her? And the movie, I think, gives hints and approaches to this crisis, and it’s just about someone finally realizing that she was just in the wrong place.
It also keeps the royal family at bay – Queen Elizabeth II (Stella Gonet) only has a few lines, Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) only has a few scenes. Instead, the key relationships in the film are with the staff, whether it’s her favorite dresser (Sally Hawkins), the chef (Sean Harris), or even the Queen Mother’s squire (Timothy Spall), who has been asked to watch her over the holiday season.
The TV equivalent can be Downton abbey, which dramatizes the aristocrats and those who run their household. Diana, the director says, was “well known” for befriending those who served the Royals. “She interacts with people who make her feel better and feel good, and people who could possibly be [her] friends. It is a deliberate choice to be with people who were willing to make you feel good and confident.
Larrain also points out that the film evolved over time. “Sometimes you discover the movie as you do it.”
In this case, as he watched young Jack Nielen and Freddie Spry, who play Diana’s sons William and Harry, on set. “I found out that we were making a movie about motherhood. I saw myself in them.
In his eyes, Diana becomes aware during the film. “I think she understands that an essential part of her identity is being the mother of these boys.”
The Royal Family is notorious for not commenting on any portrayal of her in public, so Larrain has no idea if he will ever hear comments about her work. “I don’t know,” he said. “I respect both William and Harry. They had a lot [to cope with] and the only thing I would like to avoid is giving them another problem. I don’t think they deserve it. This is not what we are aiming for [for]. “
Larrain can at least be assured that he painted a credible and daring portrayal of the People’s Princess.
Spencer is in theaters across the United Arab Emirates from Thursday
Update: November 7, 2021, 12:16 p.m.