She’s been seduced by the living dead and come back from the dead to slay an evil queen, but can Kristen Stewart take on a movie that by all accounts should be a dead duck?
Until this week, the odds were always against Spencer being a success. The last film about the Princess of Wales, 2013’s Diana, was famously labelled “car crash cinema” by critics, as poor Naomi Watts failed to overcome the “cardboard dialogue” and later admitted: “If you have to go down with that sinking ship, so be it.”
Kristen also faced criticism that an American actor had been chosen to play a very English princess, her only qualification being she had previously done so in a sword-yielding version of Snow White, where her upper-class accent was a lot more successful than Chris Hemsworth’s Scottish lilt.
However, this week we got a first glimpse of the Twilight actor as Diana, doing her trademark tilty-head and, by George, I think she’s got it. She might Doolittle it after all.
The Pablo Larrain-directed movie is set in Sandringham over one Christmas in the early 90s, when Diana resolved to follow her own path and give up the idea of being queen.
“We decided to get into a story about identity, and around how a woman decides, somehow, not to be the queen,” said Pablo, who also made the biopic, Jackie, for which Natalie Portman won a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
“She’s a woman who, in the journey of the movie, decides and realises that she wants to be the woman she was before she met Charles,” he said.
Luckily for Kristen, the curse of playing Diana on-screen has just been lifted by Emma Corrin in season four of The Crown. The formerly unknown actor, 25, was so convincing as a young Diana, even with a silly script, she managed to do what Naomi couldn’t and Kristin Scott Thomas’ younger sister, Serena, also botched in 1993 TV movie Diana: Her True Story.
No doubt Elizabeth Debicki, who is taking over as the princess in the next season of The Crown, is both thankful and worried that she unexpectedly has big stilettos to fill.
While you can only make a role your own, it doesn’t help if the person who did it before you aced it. Just ask Olivia Colman who, despite winning an Oscar, managed to turn the Queen from Claire Foy’s beloved, if stuffy, monarch, to a horrible old bat. Nice one, Liv.
What Elizabeth and Kristen have to hope is their scripts are less soap and more substance, and that Diana is – finally, please, we’re begging you – written as a complex woman, not a doe-eyed dunce.
Spencer is penned by Steven Knight, whose credits include Peaky Blinders and the cracking A Christmas Carol with Guy Pearce. Let’s pray Steven can play a sneaky blinder and not let the ghosts of Christmas past spook him.
It will, of course, be highly symbolic of another generation’s struggle to stay in the royal family over Christmas and comparisons will be impossible to ignore of Harry and Meghan’s festive freak-out in 2019.
My advice for Steven — and The Crown creator Peter Morgan — is put down the sledgehammers, gentlemen, and tread lightly. Diana was the Queen of Hearts, after all, so here’s hoping filmmakers can stop breaking ours.