Over in a flash

Docudrama re-creates fateful night

It's a warm night in Paris, and tourists on the Rue de Rivoli are astonished to identify the occupants of a black Mercedes: Princess Diana snuggled onto the shoulder of Dodi al Fayed in the warm glow of the back-seat lighting.

Despite the fact that the couple died in a car wreck a decade ago this August, the impulse to photograph Diana remains as strong as ever. The tourists whip out their cameras and the flashes light up the limousine's cream-colored leather interior.

The surreal incident took place during a recent night shoot for the docudrama "Diana: Last Days of a Princess," produced by London-based Dangerous Films, which will air on the U.K.'s Five channel on Monday.

The $4 million, 90-minute film is co-produced with Discovery TLC in the U.S., France's TF1 and Germany's ProSieben, and is one of several high-profile shows that will take another look at the life and death of Diana as the 10th anniversary of her death approaches.

"Last Days" blends dramatic reconstructions with interviews of people who knew Diana or were involved in events surrounding the crash. But don't expect any fresh conspiracy theories. The docudrama is mainly based on the 830-page Paget Report conducted by the Metropolitan Police to investigate allegations of conspiracy to murder the princess, and which concluded that her death was the result of an accident.

"I want it to be the most factual re-creation of the last days of her life," director and executive producer Richard Dale says.

The producers have gone to great lengths to achieve maximum authenticity. The section of road through the Alma Tunnel where Diana met her end was closed for one night to allow the filmmakers to drive the actors' car through on a low-loader, with a camera on an outrigger capturing the final intimate exchanges between the two lovers. The Mercedes was driven or towed around the city's streets to re-create the various key stages of the final journey. The production also shot in a mansion north of London that doubled for the Paris Ritz hotel, and on a yacht on the French Riviera.

"It was very eerie in the car. All of us, cast and crew, found it very strange," Patrick Baladi, who plays Dodi, says. British actress Genevieve O'Reilly, who in her daywear bears no real resemblance to Diana, makes a wonderfully demure double for the princess on camera. "That's the wonder of hair and costume. They're bloody brilliant," she says between takes in her trailer, dressed in the same black jacket, white trousers and suede boots the princess wore on her last date.

O'Reilly says it was simply terrifying to play an icon like Diana. "She had an aura about her that touched the world. So you want to be true to the woman, to do justice to the woman and her memory," she says.
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