Diana docus creating TV 'miniseason'
EmptyPARIS -- Nearly a decade after her demise, Diana is back.
It will be 10 years in August since Princess Diana died in a Paris car crash, and she looks set to take the ratings by storm in the summer as broadcasters worldwide prepare to mark the anniversary.
The world's most photographed woman in her lifetime, there is no denying Diana's small-screen draw, even in death. Her funeral was watched by a global audience estimated at as many as 2.5 billion. Now, the princess, the crash and her legacy are the subject of at least a half-dozen new projects, with no doubt a slew more being kept under wraps.
It isn't just fresh programming that will be getting the royal treatment. Anything from catalogs with "Diana" in the title is bound to be a hot ticket at next month's MIPTV market in Cannes, with broadcasters hungry to fill schedules around the Aug. 31 anniversary.
The summer's programming about the princess will kick off July 1 with the Concert for Diana at London's Wembley Stadium, with coverage supplied by Live Nation.
Beyond the celebrations of Diana's life, the crash that killed her is an inevitable focus of renewed attention. Despite a score of previous documentaries, at least two more factual programs will take a fresh look at the crash.
ITN Factual is finishing filming a documentary for Channel 4cq. The producers declined comment, but a source said it will look at the role of the pursuing paparazzi, who initially were blamed for the crash but later exonerated. Several of the photographers involved will speak on camera. "It will look at the paparazzi's side to tell the story from a different angle," the source said.
On the other side of the channel, Artline Films is in postproduction on "Diana and the Ghosts of the Alma Tunnel," a docu that focuses on the significance of Dodi al-Fayed and his family in the tragic events, for pubcaster France 3. "The program will take the official version and pull it apart," line producer Benjamin Landsberger said.
For others, the crash simply is the starting point of a wider tale. London-based Dangerous Films is producing what likely is to be the biggest-budget program in the current crop, a docu-drama with the working title "Diana: Last Days of a Princess." Budgeted at about $4 million, the 90-minute film will premiere on the U.K.'s Five and is being co-produced with Discovery TLC in the U.S., France's TF1 and Germany's ProSieben. BBC Worldwide is handling international sales. The program will blend full-scale drama with interviews of people who were there at the time and archive footage, and will trace two time lines which collide -- the last six weeks of Diana's life and her final day. Genevieve O'Reilly, star of the ITV comedy drama "Time of Your Life," will play Diana, and Patrick Baladi (BBC's "The Office") will play Dodi.
Director/executive producer Richard Dale also helmed "9/11: The Twin Towers," which gave a similar treatment to the New York attacks for its fifth anniversary. He draws a parallel between that commemoration and the 10th anniversary of Diana's death. "There's something about those round numbers that make people want to look at a story again," he said.
BBC Worldwide also is repping a high-end landmark docu from the corporation's production division with the working title "The Week Diana Died," a 90-minute stand-alone for BBC1. The program will start with the week the princess died and move backward from there to explore what gave her "the power to ignite that explosion of grief," director Kevin Sim said. "You can't tell (Diana's) story without the dark side. But we will probably report on the positive side. There are few people who could illuminate a room the way Diana did," said Sim, who will be filming in the spring.
On a lighter note, U.K. independent production company Mentorn is prepping "Diana Unseen," likely to be a one-hour film using previously unseen footage of the princess culled from home videos. Mentorn has been advertising for film and photos from contributors but said the project remains in its early stages. The program will go out as part of ITV's commemorations, which will include Stephen Frears' "The Queen," an ITV production.
"We will be showing a number of documentaries and also 'The Queen' to mark the anniversary as part of a miniseason of programs to commemorate the event," a network spokesperson said.
Infinity Television is working on "Whatever Love Means," a docu on Diana's life looking from her childhood through to her relationship with Prince Charles and her sons, and how she coped with "the third person" in the marriage, Camilla Parker-Bowles. The film is being made without a broadcaster attached, instead being largely driven by DVD sales. "The audience for this kind of programming is colossal," producer-director Alan Scales said.
Channel 4 also is understood to be developing "Di and I," billed as a drama about the making of a horrendous biopic about Princess Diana. Producer Touchpaper Television still is waiting for the green light from the broadcaster.
Previously broadcast programs with Diana themes will no doubt find themselves back in strong demand at MIP. TVF International is bringing two to the market: "Diana: The Night She Died," a probe behind the conspiracy theories; and "Diana: Story of a Princess," a series of four one-hour docus. "In light of the 10th anniversary, they are being picked up again by channels worldwide and so will hopefully find homes for broadcast this summer," TVF's Kate Ward said.
Minotaur is touting "The Curse of Diana's Dresses," a look at the couture sold at auction soon after Diana's death and the strange things that happened to their buyers. With lots of buyers already lined up to screen the one-hour film in MIP, Minotaur director Sarah Tong said Diana still has "a fascinating hold on audiences worldwide."
Elsewhere, Granada International is shopping its 90-minute romantic drama "Whatever Love Means" -- distinct from the docu of the same title -- about the young Prince Charles and his tryst with Parker-Bowles up until his marriage to Diana Spencer.