Playing Princess Diana: How Actresses Prepared For The Big Role

Before Kristen Stewart, here are some of the Hollywood and Broadway actresses who played the beloved Princess of Wales.

With sneak-peeks of Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana circulating social media recently, many are anticipating the latest film about the story of the late Princess. Directed by Pablo Larraìn, Spencer brings to light the three crucial days when Princess Diana began to reevaluate her marriage to Princess Charles. Fans of both the Princess and Kristen are thrilled to see the latter’s photos during the set of Spencer. As we look forward to the release of the film, here are some of the women who played Princess Diana since her passing. While each film, play, and biopic tackles a different period of her life, the actresses have re-humanized the iconic woman, sharing her story of love, grace, and strength amid difficulties.

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(Photos from Marie Claire and People)

Naomi Watts

Intrigued by the challenge, Watts took on the role of the iconic woman in Diana who she believes embodied great wisdom, charisma, strength, fragility, and compassion. To portray these well, Watts did extensive research—from immersing herself in books, old news articles, footage, to even the controversial Martin Bashir interview. She claims the last one was among the most helpful, having studied Diana candidly speak, reveal her mannerisms, and of course, her thoughts about her marriage.

In the Bashir interview, Watts revealed how difficult it was as she wanted to re-enact Diana’s pauses, where she tilted her head, moved her hand, and more. “I know how much everybody remembers that and I wanted to be as exact as possible,” the actress said in an interview.

Critics may have shunned this Diana biopic by Oliver Hirschbiegel, but Watts’ efforts remain commendable.

(Photos from The Times and TechHive)

Jeanna De Waal

Diana: A True Musical Story looked promising with De Waal as the Princess, but the pandemic, unfortunately, postponed the show. Nevertheless, it is interesting to know her preparations involved Gyrotonics. As a five-foot-five playing a five-foot-ten Diana, De Waal had to commit to Pilates workout to stretch her body and replicate the graceful movement of the Princess. De Waal also revealed watching hours of YouTube videos to study the voice, mannerisms, and habits of the Princess. Hopefully, we will witness the Broadway actress’s talent and all her hard work once the COVID-19 outbreak ceases.

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(Photos from Harper’s Bazaar and BuzzFeed News)

Emma Corrin

Beyond her resemblance to Diana’s looks, Corrin’s portrayal in season 4 of The Crown bears incredible parallelism to how the late Princess felt in her life. Although Corrin is not new to acting, receiving the honor to play as Diana made her ecstatic but later on, she admitted to getting overwhelmed during the shoot. She filmed performance sequences of “Uptown Girl” and “All I Ask of You”—songs Diana loved and performed—many times in front of many people in a different version than what she knows. Furthermore, Corrin’s exposure to sudden and wider publicity is similar to the daunting feeling of the Princess from such media treatment.

As a newcomer to The Crown, Emma revealed feeling “very out of my depth,” as she was also surrounded by household names like Helena Bonham Carter, Gillian Anderson, and Olivia Colman. Still, Emma channeled her learnings and experience from the theater scene. Her empathy for Diana further helped her translate the line between strength and vulnerability that the Princess was known for.

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(Photos from David O’Neil and Daily Mail UK)

Kristen Stewart

When news of the Twilight actress set to play Diana in Spencer first broke out, many were surprised at the casting choice. ‘Why not a British actress?’ as people commonly asked. Filmmaker Pablo Larraìn —who directed the Jackie Kennedy biopic where Natalie Portman earned the Best Actress nomination in Oscar—remains confident in his decision. He perceives Stewart as among the many great actors of this age, and Stewart is actively studying Diana to prove it. She admits to getting nervous at copying the Princesses’ accent, but she has her vocal coach to guide her.

To further help her, she studies biographies and existing footage of Diana. While Stewart feels downcast about the life of the Princess, she underscores wanting to know her “implicitly,” so she can better re-humanize the fashion and philanthropist icon.

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