Kristen Stewart joins the British royal family in Spencer
by David Katz
- Pablo Larraín's biographical drama on Princess Diana, a co-production between the UK, Germany and Chile, will begin COVID-secure principal photography next month
With the endless global interest in the British royal family finding new voice with Netflix’s The Crown, here’s another tale attempting to understand that mercurial lot. Kristen Stewart will be Diana, Princess of Wales, in Pablo Larraín’s Spencer, a UK-German-Chilean production from Shoebox Films, Komplizen Film and Larraín’s own Fabula. The Steven Knight-penned film will begin production early next month in Germany (where the cast and crew are currently quarantining), doubling for Norfolk in South-East England. Further casting details will be announced shortly.
Spencer being her family name, the story fittingly follows the iconic royal’s decision to divorce her husband, Prince Charles, ending her route to eventually becoming Queen. There’s a compressed timeline familiar from Larraín’s last English-language film, the political biopic Jackie [+see also:
film profile], with the story being set in the days around Christmas at the Sandringham estate, Queen Elizabeth’s private home. Here, Diana will come to terms with her failing marriage and her overall unhappiness, ultimately setting her on a path that would change perceptions of the royal family forever.
Larraín, not being British and thus not overly familiar with the royals, found an offbeat angle for the story. Ensconced in a sprawling 20,000 acre estate, he saw Diana’s arc as an inverted kind of fairy tale: “Usually, the prince comes and finds the princess, invites her to become his wife, and eventually, she becomes the 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, an upside-down fairy tale.”
He also asserts the emotional connection he wants to foster with the film: “It’s a great, universal story that can reach millions and millions of people, and that’s what we want to do. We want to make a movie that goes wide and connects with a worldwide audience that is interested in such a fascinating life.” The main narrative won’t reference Diana’s tragic death in 1997; her relationship with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry – seldom out of the headlines in the present day – constitutes an especially large element.
The film was financed through international pre-sales at last summer’s virtual Cannes Marché du Film, where it was represented by FilmNation. Larraín is one of the most acclaimed Chilean directors, with three of his past films in competition at Venice, most recently Jackie. Screenwriter Steven Knight’s recent successes include the TV hit Peaky Blinders and Locke [+see also:
Producing are Paul Webster for Shoebox Films, Jonas Dornbach and Janine Jackowski for Komplizen Film, and Pablo and Juan de Dios Larraín for Fabula.
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