THIS is one of those stories that directors have been itching to get their teeth into for years — 14 years to be precise — because ever since the death of Princess Diana it’s been a foregone conclusion that at some point a film would have to be made about it. Diana’s story has all the Hollywood ingredients: glamour, tragedy and a healthy conspiracy theory. Like those photos taken by the paparazzi as she lay dying, it’s also one of those projects many people wish would never see the light of day.
Diana focuses on the two-year period leading up to her death, and in particular her relationship with heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan, and the constraints placed on them by a life lived constantly under the media spotlight.
The princess is played by Anglo-Australian Naomi Watts, who won critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination for her leading role in last year’s The Impossible, about the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and her beau is played by Naveen Andrews (Lost). Watts said she was both intrigued and terrified at the idea of playing the People’s Princess, and watched the infamous TV interview with Martin Bashir (in which she said there had been three people in her marriage to Prince Charles) at least “10,000 times”.
The film has so far had a right royal bashing by the British press, with critics bemoaning its trashy script, written by Stephen Jeffrey, and “cardboard cut-out dialogue”. Others have said it was intrusive and in poor taste, and to be honest many punters may go into the cinema thinking that merely the idea of making such a film less than 20 years after Diana’s death — and while her sons are still young — is a fairly tasteless idea.
On the plus side, director Oliver Hirschbiegel has already shown from his previous masterpiece, Downfall, the story of Hitler’s last days in a Berlin bunker, that he is a master auteur.
Diana opens at the Regal today (Friday) and continues all week. The film contains strong language, injury and surgical detail.