Ghost of Diana returns in biopic starring Naomi Watts
So far all we have seen is a one-minute trailer of film detailing Princess Diana's final years, but the awestruck tone is obvious
theguardian.com, Thursday 13 June 2013 15.53 BST / http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/13/diana-biopic-naomi-watts
She is back. The ghost of Diana Spencer is back. A one-minute trailerhas been released online, promoting a biopic directed by Olivier Hirschbiegel, about the last years of Princess Diana's life before the fatal 1997 car crash in Paris. It avowedly concentrates on her landmine removal charity work, her painful affair with surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan, and of course her persecution by the paparazzi. Naomi Watts stars as Diana, with her blonde hair fiercely styled and what looks like a nasal prosthesis in place.
It is impossible to tell what a film is really going to be like from a trailer, but here the awestruck tone is obvious. This account of Diana's final lonely years is unlikely to be subversive or controversial – although it is noteworthy that Hirschbiegel's most famous film so far has been Downfall, his study of Hitler in the bunker.
But what is eerie is how the film is beginning to surface just as media obsession with Kate Middleton – her wedding, her pregnancy – is beginning to grow as well. The woman who would have been Diana's daughter-in-law is undoubtedly experiencing many of the pressures Diana was facing, but is probably better equipped to deal with them, with a more relaxed and media-savvy sense, and what appears to be a less frantically uptight and solemn attitude than that surrounding Charles and Diana in private.
Perhaps it is interesting that the subject of Diana's death has not been filmed before now. Is it because she has been untouchable? Not quite. For a year or so after her death she was untouchable, and then fads changed and Diana became less interesting. The older royals - the Queen and the Duke Of Edinburgh – so derided in the annus horribilis years of the 1990s, became popular again, reaching an apogee in the euphoria of last year's Olympics and jubilee. Diana is almost forgotten.
Serena Scott Thomas, sister of Kristin, played Diana in a 1993 TV movie based on the Andrew Morton book. But perhaps the nearest we have come to a proper Diana film is The Queen (2006), written by Peter Morgan and directed by Stephen Frears, which depicted Diana's death only in terms of how it affected the monarch, brilliantly and sympathetically played by Helen Mirren.
A whole younger generation may well yawn at the idea of a Diana movie: they never experienced the shock of that news. And it is strange remembering how sensational her death was – before 9/11 the biggest thing imaginable – a news story which was the Big Bang for today's celeb industry. It was a death that existed before Twitter and Facebook, before social media made everything common knowledge instantaneously, when it was still possible to tell people, face-to-face, about important news. (I remember telling a French tourist, standing outside Kensington Palace, what had happened – and seeing his stunned, almost tearful expression.)
Everyone talks about the feverish, hysterical atmosphere of that week between Diana's death and the funeral. What no-one admits is how exciting it was – a strange, meaningless, directionless excitement, an all-you-can-eat buffet of emotional excess. Will Hirschbiegel capture any of that? Will he want to? We shall see.