Kirsten Stewart will play Princess Diana in Spencer, a Pablo Larrain-directed drama that covers the Christmas in which the royal decided she was going to leave Prince Charles. The divorce, and subsequent revelations about infidelity on the part of both Diana and Charles, became headline news around the world, and the former princess became the target of tabloid attention until her tragic death in 1997.
Larrain has previous experience directing films about tragic real-life figures, with his movie Jackie netting Natalie Portman an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. The Chilean also directed Neruda about the poet. Stewart, too, is no stranger to biopics, having portrayed Jean Seberg in 2019’s Seberg. While the actor is best known for the Twilight series, she’s spent the second half of her career working on smaller independent films and has established a reputation as a gifted actor.
Deadline announced the pair would collaborate on the Princess Diana movie Spencer, a true-life drama that takes place over the three-day Christmas period in which Diana decided to leave Prince Charles. The movie is set at Sandringham, the estate in Norfolk, where the Royal family traditionally celebrates Christmas. It will not cover her death, or the last two years of her life, which was the subject of the poorly received Naomi Watts vehicle, Diana. The script is written by Steven Knight, who created the British gangster series Peaky Blinders, and wrote David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises.
Larrain says he sees the story of Princess Diana as the opposite of a fairytale, telling Deadline, “When someone decides not to be the queen … it’s a big decision, a fairy tale upside down.” He goes on to heap praise on Stewart, saying that her sense of mystery is one of the main reasons her cast her: “Kristen can be many things, and she can be very mysterious and very fragile and ultimately very strong as well.” Larrain also explained the film is called Spencer which was Diana’s maiden name before she met Charles. Larrain says that echoes the film’s theme, which is about Diana “finding herself.”
The announcement of Stewart’s casting is something of a surprise. She isn’t the type of actor to chase Oscar-worthy roles, which this will likely be seen as, and she’s not the first name you think of when you imagine someone portraying a member of the royal family. But that could be precisely why Larrain cast her. Diana was always seen as an outsider in the royal family, and Stewart should be able to convey that sense of being someone on the outside looking in.
It’s an astute career move for Stewart, too. She’s long been seen as a fine actor, but working with Larrain could well see her putting in a performance that finally catapults her to Oscar-worthy status. The director proved with Portman that he could coax a sensitive, emotional performance out of his actors, and it will be exciting to see if he can do the same with Stewart. Spencer is expected to start shooting in 2021.
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