Look no further than the fact that Princess Diana’s old gym top recently sold for $53,000 as proof that the late royal’s cult status endures. Now, more than two decades after her untimely death, Diana is returning to the spotlight: On Wednesday, Deadline announced that Kristen Stewart will play her in a biopic titled Spencer, directed by Pablo Larraín. It takes place during Diana’s final Christmas holidays at the House of Windsor, covering three days in which the princess decided her marriage with Prince Charles wasn’t working, and realized she didn’t want to be queen.
So far, reactions to the casting announcement seem to be split. There are the K-Stew stans who can’t wait to see Stewart in Diana’s signature bike shorts, and those who still can’t seem to take the award-winning actress seriously. Those in the latter camp can take comfort in the fact that Larraín is known to deliver when it comes to 20th-century biopics. The Chilean director’s 2016 film Jackie, starring Natalie Portman at her best as Jacqueline Kennedy, was widely lauded and nominated for three Academy Awards. (Larraín also directed the Academy Award-nominated 2012 film No, and produced the Academy Award-winning 2017 A Fantastic Woman.) He isn’t the only Academy Award nominee involved: Steven Knight is writing the script.
Spencer marks Larraín’s second film in English. The director was born and raised in Santiago, where Diana-mania was relatively subdued. But he’s is well-versed in fairy tales, which he sees as an antithesis to the story told in Spencer. “Usually, the prince comes and finds the princess, invites her to become his wife and eventually she becomes queen. That is the fairy tale,” Larraín told Deadline. “When someone decides not to be the queen, and says, I’d rather go and be myself, it’s a big big decision, a fairy tale upside down.”
Production is set to begin in early 2021, and the film already seems guaranteed to be a hit on the Cannes virtual market. In the meantime, Larraín has been dropping hints about what to expect. The film is about Diana “finding herself, about understanding that possibly the most important thing for her is to be well, and to be with herself and by herself,” he said. “That’s why the movie is called Spencer, which is the family name she had before she met Charles.”
Stewart, he continued, will add a key element to the film: mystery. That she’ll also deliver on the red carpet during the film’s press tour seems all but guaranteed.