Princess Primer: 5 Things You Should Know About the Diana Biopic

Everything about the drama before you go to the theater!

By Matt Stevens Nov 02, 2013 7:14 PMTags
Diana, Holiday Movie GuideFilmgate Films

The Impossible's Naomi Watts takes on the impossible challenge of playing the beloved Princess Diana in this sometimes-soapy romance. The film focuses on the last two years of Diana's life, from 1995 to 1997, following her separation from Prince Charles, who never graces the screen with his presence (ditto for the Queen). Despite being hounded by the paparazzi, Diana carries on a covert love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews). The tabloids eventually break the story, and Khan begins to doubt he can maintain a relationship with "the most famous woman in the world," which the script repeatedly reminds us. Go behind the palace gates with our five essential Diana deets:

Ecosse Films

1) The Princess Diaries: The script by Stephen Jeffreys is largely based on Kate Snell's book Diana: Her Last Love, which details the unseen moments of Diana's romance with Khan. In addition to Snell's book, the filmmakers consulted multiple biographical sources (including Sarah Bradford's Diana), poured through news archives, and interviewed those who knew Diana well. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall, which spawned that ubiquitous Hitler meme) also had access to a trove of Diana's personal letters, revealing her thoughts and feelings about her royally difficult situation.

Ecosse Films

2) Royal Makeover: A two-time Oscar nominee, Watts says she prepared more for the Diana role than for any character she's played. As she prepped, she began wearing Diana-like clothes and even donning her perfume. To master Diana's voice, the actress trained daily with a dialect coach for six weeks before production and during filming as well. Watts also worked closely with the hair and makeup designer to evoke Diana's mid-'90s style. For the final film, she wore four main wigs plus a facial prosthetic to subtly reshape her nose.

Ecosse Films

3) The Most Challenging Scene: The film recreates well-publicized moments in the Princess' life, including Diana walking through landmine-rigged fields, Diana holidaying on Dodi Fayed's boat, and—probably most famous—her candid TV interview with Martin Bashir. For Watts, that interview was her most important scene in the film because she knew clear comparisons would be made. The actress watched or listened to the interview on a daily basis, studying not just Diana's speech patterns but also her range of mannerisms, from the look in her eyes to the way she moved her hands.

Filmgate Films

4) Wrath of Khan: The opportunity to play Hasnat Khan proved irresistible to Naveen Andrews (Lost). The real Dr. Khan resists publicity and was not involved in the production, but Andrews spoke with several people who know or knew the surgeon in order to gain some insight. The few pieces of footage that exist, particularly an interview with Khan years later, were also helpful. Otherwise, Khan has spoken little to the media and only publicly acknowledged his near-marriage to Diana during the inquest into her death.

5) Lots and Lots of Locales: Diana filmed in over 100 locations across nine weeks in the UK, Croatia, Pakistan, and Mozambique. Filmmakers couldn't get permission to shoot inside Kensington Palace, Diana's official residence from 1981 until her death in 1997, so they recreated those interiors in an old building on the outskirts of London. However, the production was allowed by the Royal Household to film outside the famous palace gates and to shoot Watts as Diana jogging through Kensington Gardens near her home.