The Princess is Not the Usual Princess Diana Biopic
The traditional documentary standards are avoided in a new HBO film about Princess Diana. The 2022 Sundance Film Festival kicked off last week with “The Princess.”
Diana’s “fairytale” is highlighted in “The Princess,” which examines how the public and media interact with the royal family. From Kristen Stewart’s “Spencer” to Netflix’s “Diana: The Musical,” there has been an abundance of Diana-related media in the last year.
At the time, Princess Diana was the subject of the most photographs in history. Thus, British director Ed Perkins had a ton of material to choose from when he decided to create a documentary on her life using just historical video.
“The Princess,” which debuted at the January virtual Sundance Film Festival, will have its HBO premiere on Saturday at 8 a.m. EDT/PDT and will also be streaming on HBO Max. The captivating royal’s life is explored in the movie, from her engagement to Prince Charles of Wales in 1981 until her terrible death at age 36 in a vehicle accident in 1997. The documentary chronicles Diana and Charles’ narrative solely through images, news clips, audio recordings, and interviews from that era rather than the typical conventions of talking head interviews and narration.
Hollywood’s fixation with Princess Diana is becoming ludicrous, but it won’t go away. In his interview with USA TODAY, Perkins says that he believed that a documentary that shunned the typical retrospective analysis and went for something more immersive would give something to the discourse that we’re still having about Diana 25 years later.
Following numerous stage and film accounts of Diana’s life, notably Kristen Stewart’s Oscar-nominated performance in “Spencer,” “The Princess” is the latest. Prince Harry, Diana’s younger son, and his wife Meghan Markle have also been the targets of intense scrutiny and intrusive media attention, which significantly influenced their choice to leave the royal family in 2020.
According to Perkins, “I hope (this movie) presents a more sophisticated view of both Diana and the ongoing relationship we have with the royal family, as mediated by the press.” Many of the conflicts and rifts that now persist in that relationship can be linked to Diana, according to the author.
What connection did you have to Diana’s tale before “The Princess”? What novel perspective did you expect to add to it?
Ed Perkins recalling his own experience said that he was 11 years old the day Diana passed away, and he recalls being awakened up by his parents who were surprisingly emotional about it. He doesn’t believe he’s ever experienced anything like the widespread loss and mourning that was experienced at that time or thereafter. As though she were their own mother or daughter, adults were grieving for this lady.
He continues that Diana has been the subject of numerous documentaries, but he honestly believed they could portray her story from a unique angle. Many movies have had a strong inner focus, attempting to delve inside Diana’s mind and examine both the dissolution of her marriage and her psychology. All of that is fascinating, however he believes that some of it is guesswork.
What the Diana story could have to say about the people intrigued him more. His goal through The Princess was to try to flip the camera back on the people and ask, using that archive-only form rather than any current interviews: “What connection do we have to the monarchy? To be famous?” It was quite distressing to witness Diana (by paparazzi) being pursued constantly, and I wanted to investigate our involvement. We generate the demand for the publication of those (tabloid) articles and those photographs.
How long did it take to select all of this old video for The Princess?
Perkins detailing on the process of The Princess said that thousands of hours went in the selection. They had a fantastic team of co-producers and researchers who spent months and months searching the world for everything and everything about Diana. He further said that they worked extremely hard to identify those “needle in a haystack” moments that hadn’t really been seen before, rather than just using the same iconic moments from this story. “It was a massive undertaking that took the greater part of two years to create a video that is archive-only,” he concluded.
A particular video clip of Diana using a tennis racket to cover her face from cameras particularly stood out to me. Despite this, she makes a brief pause to say hello to a young girl who is giving her flowers. Do you think that very much sums up Diana’s personality?
It does appear to capture one of the many ironies that have come to characterize Diana, according to Perkins. She occasionally despised the media attention, and for good cause. But we also know that she occasionally sought it out and applied it to good ends. We virtually canonized Diana in the years following her passing since she passed away at such a young age.
A portion of that struck me as an airbrushing of the things that made her and her life so fascinating. She possessed an incredible blend of beauty and fragility that was incredibly disarming to people, as well as a desire to be open and admit her errors. It was a struggle for us to look for those jagged edges in this movie.
There are a lot more eerie scenes in this movie, too: Journalists have said that Diana’s marriage is just the “beginning” of her fairy tale or that, after divorcing Charles, she will have at least “20, 30, 40 years” of public life remaining. Even one reporter claims that “you will damage a modern individual when you place them in an archaic institution.” How did it feel to come upon these news clips, which ended up being almost sadly prophetic?
Perkins finally said that it was unsettling to witness that and hear people predict what would happen. The press wasn’t always complimentary of Diana at various points in her life, and a lot of that has been forgotten. Re-examining some of the challenging feelings they experienced when they were accusing her of being manipulative or whatever it may have been was a part of the process of making The Princess. That’s the truth of how the team initially understood the story, so it felt essential to bring those up again.
Will you watch yet another documentary on Princess Diana in the form of The Princess? Let us know your views.