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From the early 1980s until the present day, actresses have been taking on the challenge of portraying Princess Diana.
Despite being a member of the House of Windsor for only 15 years, the Princess of Wales’ life story remains fascinating. She began to make headlines during her courtship with Prince Charles and continued to captivate the world when she decided to leave the House of Windsor. Diana, who died in a tragic car accident in 1997, was recognized globally for her charity work, style and beauty.
Though Princess Diana’s life was the subject of multiple movies while she was still alive, since her death, films, movies and Broadway productions have continued to tell her story. The latest is Pablo Larraín’s Spencer which features Kristen Stewart playing the late royal who was born Diana Frances Spencer. While Spencer takes place over the weekend when Diana considers whether to end her marriage, other films have focused on her relationships after Prince Charles. Diana stars Naomi Watts in the titular role and showcases her connections with British-Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan and Egyptian film producer Dodi Fayed.
Each actress who has been cast to portray Diana has delivered their unique interpretations of how she dealt with struggles in the public eye.
Below, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at the actresses who have played Princess Diana.
In Spencer, Stewart’s portrayal focuses on a three-day holiday weekend when Diana considers whether she should escape the House of Windsor. In his review, THR‘s chief film critic David Rooney calls the film “audaciously original” and Stewart “incandescent.”
JEANNA DE WAAL
Diana: The Musical is based on the princess’ life and features music and lyrics by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro. After being delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the production began performances on Broadway in November, with a special filmed presentation hitting Netflix on Oct. 1.
The fourth season of Netflix’s The Crown focuses on Queen Elizabeth II’s life from around 1979 to 1990, which introduces Emma Corrin’s version of Lady Diana Spencer. Corrin portrayed Diana from her early 20s, when she was courted by Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), to when she became his fiancée and later married him. The actress’ performance landed her an Emmy nomination for best drama actress.
Elizabeth Debicki will take over the role of Lady Di for The Crown’s fifth season. She will be joined by Dominic West, who is taking on the role of Prince Charles. Season five isn’t expected to be released until 2022, but Netflix already shared the first look of Debicki lying on a couch and staring into the distance.
Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance follows the love story between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Its sequel, Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal, focuses on their first year of marriage and was followed by Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace. Soper was one of the few supporting characters who appeared in all three Lifetime films.
In 2013, Naomi Watts played the title role in the biographical drama Diana. The screenplay for the movie was based on the book Diana: Her Last Love, written by Kate Snell. Diana starts with the Princess of Wales divorcing Prince Charles before falling in love with British-Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan (played by Naveen Andrews) and then dating Egyptian film producer Dodi Fayed (played by Cas Anvar). Fayed was killed in the Paris car crash with Diana. The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics.
As the title suggests, the 2011 Hallmark movie William & Catherine: A Royal Romance focuses more on the relationship between Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Harcourt briefly appears as Diana in the film. In one scene, William watches an old interview of his mother for advice about love.
Princess in Love aired on CBS in 1996. This film, based on a book of the same name by Anna Pasternak, focused on the love story between Julie Cox’s Diana and Captain James Hewitt, portrayed by Christopher Villiers. Hewitt, a former British cavalry officer who was a source for the book, had an affair with Diana while she was married to Charles.
The Women of Windsor follows Nicola Formby as Diana and Sallyanne Law as Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, also known as Fergie. Diana and Sarah both split from their royal husbands four years after The Women of Windsor was released.
SERENA SCOTT THOMAS
In 1992, journalist and writer Andrew Morton released a biography about the Princess of Wales titled Diana: Her True Story. A year later, the book was turned into a television film in the United Kingdom. The movie aimed to show Diana’s life before becoming a royal and how it changed once she became a princess.
CBS released a biographical television movie about the British royals in 1982 called The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana, with Catherine Oxenberg playing Diana. The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana was released a year after Diana wed Prince Charles. Oxenberg then returned to play Diana in the 1992 ABC drama Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After about the collapse of their marriage. Oxenberg also has a personal royal connection: She is the daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia.
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