As one of Hollywood’s most versatile actresses, Naomi Watts dives into the shoes of the late Princess Diana, in the movie biopic that will no doubt have the world buzzing.

She likes to take risks and is one of Hollywood’s great actresses, but this may be Naomi Watts’ most criticized roles yet. After all, when you’re playing the late Princess Diana, who was the embodiment of adoration, fascination and controversy, the pressure is on.

Diana is a compelling portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales during the final two years of her life. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Academy Award-nominated for DOWNFALL), the film is based on a screenplay by the internationally acclaimed playwright Stephen Jeffreys (The Clink, Libertine) and focuses on a love story between Diana and Dr. Hasnat Khan, a British Pakistani heart surgeon, that allowed the late Princess Diana to achieve her defining successes, as she evolved into a major international campaigner and humanitarian.

IMG_6312.CR2So how exactly do you write and bring a movie about the world’s most famous person to life knowing critics are already in place to pounce? The filmmakers wanted to portray Diana’s life as accurately as they could and the film was heavily researched from archive and source materials and with consultants and people who had met her. “The crucial events of any such films are the moments to which there were no witnesses, the private scenes, usually between two people where no-one actually knows what happened. In these scenes I had to take off and fly using empathy and imagination. This was the hardest part,” said producer Robert Bernstein. “Clearly there’s some dramatic interpretation because we weren’t always privy to what actually happened behind closed doors, but in those scenes we try to go with what we felt the spirit of things were.”

“She really was a game changer. You marry into the Royal Family and there are two ways; you either play the game, which is very isolating and not very fun for a woman, or you chose to be the rebel and sort of do it, but go against it at the same time,” said director Oliver Hirschbiegel. “That’s exactly what Diana did and he admires her for it. “She was a rebel, so insecure and afraid but at the same time she was a fighter and I loved that. Hasnat’s grandmother compares her to a lioness and that’s exactly what she was.”

As for Watts, the idea of playing such a powerfully captivating woman that was loved by so many was daunting at first. “I struggled with the idea for some time, obviously because she is the most famous woman of our time, and with that comes a lot of pressure,” Watts admits. “Everyone feels they know her so I questioned whether I could ever claim her as being my own character.”

But when Watts realized the story had a different angle to it and focused on part of Diana’s life that no one knew about, changed the game for her. “I was definitely fascinated by the idea and I liked that this was a great love story. I realized there was a lot I didn’t know about her life, which was this relationship at the center of the movie,” she said.

4232.CR2“I like to play women who are complicated and full of contradictions, and Diana was this and more. At times she was strong and rebellious: she could also be happy, giggly, flirty, mischievous and incredibly wise. I’m interested in watching those kinds of women on screen. I’m also drawn to these kinds of women in my friendships in life.”

Preparing for Diana meant that Watts had to submerge herself into her complicated life, which was no easy task. “I definitely prepared more for this role than I have for any other character,” admits Watts. From her poise to the clothes to perfume she war, Watts admits these things were small in comparison to getting Diana’s voice right.

“I had six weeks of hardcore daily coaching,” Watts says. I just knew I had to get it right,” she says. “Diana’s voice was something we all remember very well. She was aristocracy but it wasn’t that old-fashioned stiff upperlip. It was warm and modern and there was a breathiness to it, which makes it sound more attractive. There was a lot to get right. Even my mother said to me, ‘Oh God. I don’t know if you’ll be able to get that voice, Naomi!’”

Once of Watts’ greatest sources of Diana was her famous interview with Martin Bashir.  “I watched it over and over again and listened to the audio on a daily basis during the weeks leading up to the shoot and during filming,” Watts says. “I think her answers in that interview were brilliant. I know people have mixed feelings, but I think I would have wanted to do the same thing, and I don’t know if I could have been that courageous. Here was a woman who went into that life at 19 with absolutely no preparation. I loved that she fought for her happiness against all odds and I take my hat off to her.”


Diana opens in theatres on November 1 (limited) and stars Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge and Juliet Stevenson.



—Toni-Marie Ippolito






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