Even in these Diana-saturated times —with a recent documentary, a series of The Crown and a musical all offering perspectives on the tumultuous and tragic life of the Princess of Wales— the new movie Spencer was a triumph at the Venice Film Festival. Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s psychological drama film features US actor Kristen Stewart as Diana in an Oscar-tipped performance; and while she has played many iconic figures, Stewart says that the English princess is the most enigmatic. The film is set over three days at the end of which Diana decides to break centuries of royal protocol and end her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales. As Larraín explains, his interest in Diana derived from his mother’s emulation of her as a glamorous young mother.
Pablo Larraín (Chilean accent): I realised that she carried an enormous amount of mystery and magnetism. I was very curious to know why someone like her, born to [in] privileged circumstances, linked to the royals, aristocracy, was someone so normal, so ordinary and could build these bridges of empathy all around the world.
SELFLESS AND ALONE
Stewart became fascinated with Diana and the way in which her extreme loneliness was combatted by her selfless generosity, as she explains.
Kristen Stewart (American accent):
I think it’s just something she was born with. There are some people that are endowed with an undeniable penetrating energy. She was desperate to reveal some truth in an environment that is steeped in this stiff upper lip mentality. The really sad thing about her is that she felt so isolated, so lonely... [although] she made everyone else feel accompanied and bolstered.
While she was known as a fashion icon, Diana refused to appear aloof.
Kristen Stewart: There’s this really common thread in the fashion world, which is elevation, the unattainable. But even when she looked her most beautiful and her most substantial, you feel honesty from her. She knew how to use clothes as armour but at the same time was so constantly available and visible. She wore her heart on her sleeve.
And, says Stewart, while she herself understands what it is like to be in the spotlight, this is nothing to what Diana, the most famous woman in the world at that time, was forced to endure.
Kristen Stewart: Feeling sometimes like you don’t have control over a situation or an impression of you, when you know that the story on the street is wrong and there’s no way to correct it... I don’t feel an extreme imposed rigidity to the extent that she felt, because I’m allowed to make mistakes. I don’t consider my job as lofty... There’s such a huge difference between the job of an actor and somebody in the royal family who is keeping together an ideal: that monumental, symbolic representation that is supposed to keep an entire nation together.