Princess Diana onscreen: How actors have portrayed the iconic royal

Rebecca TaylorRoyal Correspondent
Yahoo Style UK
Diana, Princess of Wales, has been played onscreen several times. (PA Images)
Diana, Princess of Wales, has been played onscreen several times. (PA Images)

Kristen Stewart is to become the latest actor to step into the shoes of one of the world’s most famous royals, as she takes on the role of Diana, Princess of Wales.

According to Deadline, Pablo Larraín will direct Stewart in Spencer, which will focus on one weekend in the late princess’s life when she decided her marriage to Prince Charles was not working.

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It will be set over three days during one of her last Christmases at the Queen’s Norfolk estate of Sandringham.

The news that Stewart, 30, was to play Diana met with a mixed reaction on social media, with some calling it a “terrible” idea, and others pointing out she might have unique understanding of the late royal.

Both women lived in the public and paparazzi’s eyes, with Stewart propelled to fame through the Twilight franchise.

Read more: Why are Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping back as senior royals?

As Spencer won’t start filming until 2021, Yahoo UK looks back at some of the actors who have played Diana, and how their efforts went down.

Emma Corrin in The Crown (in production)

Emma Corrin will play Diana opposite Josh O'Connor's Charles in <em>The Crown</em>. (WireImage)
Emma Corrin will play Diana opposite Josh O'Connor's Charles in The Crown. (WireImage)

This is one we haven’t yet seen, but stills from shooting show that Emma Corrin has taken on Diana for Netflix’s The Crown in series four.

Corrin, 24, is a bit of a newcomer, and is making her film debut in Misbehaviour this year.

She’s also been in Grantchester and Pennyworth.

She said: “Princess Diana was an icon, and her effect on the world remains profound and inspiring,” and said she would try to “do her justice”.

There are no reviews yet of course, but Josh O’Connor, who plays her onscreen husband Prince Charles, said: “She looked the spitting image [of Diana], and it’s kind of extraordinary.

“Emma’s doing a brilliant job, and it’s breathtakingly accurate.”

We can’t wait to see it.

Naomi Watts in Diana (2013)

Naomi Watts in <em>Diana</em> in 2013. (Ecosse Films/PA Images)
Naomi Watts in Diana in 2013. (Ecosse Films/PA Images)

Diana focuses on the last two years of the princess’s life and, in particular, her relationship with Dr Hasnat Khan, a Pakistani heart surgeon.

The ill-starred film did not go to plan from the beginning, after Jessica Chastain dropped out of playing Diana.

It got terrible reviews, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw writing: “I hesitate to use the term ‘car crash cinema’, but the awful truth is that, 16 years after that terrible day in 1997, [Diana] has died another awful death.”

The film currently has a rating of 1 on Rotten Tomatoes, but some fans have credited Watts for her ability to capture Diana’s accent and manner.

In 2014, Watts admitted to Vanity Fair: “Ultimately there were problems and it ended up taking a direction which was not the one I was hoping for.”

Lesley Harcourt in William & Catherine, A Royal Romance (2011)

Lesley Harcourt played Diana in <em>William &amp; Catherine: A Royal Romance</em>. (Getty Images)
Lesley Harcourt played Diana in William & Catherine: A Royal Romance. (Getty Images)

This made-for-TV movie focuses on Prince William’s love story with Kate Middleton, who became the Duchess of Cambridge, and so features very little of Diana.

But while Harcourt’s role is small it is pivotal, according to the synopsis, as William takes to heart advice from her as he watches an interview she did before her death, leaving a message to “hold on to the love of your life and protect it with all of your heart”.

A cheesy film, it was called “superficial fun” by critics.

Genevieve O’Reilly in Diana: Last Days Of A Princess (2007)

Diana, as played by Genevieve O'Reilly. (Channel 5/PA Images)
Diana, as played by Genevieve O'Reilly. (Channel 5/PA Images)

This offering is a mix of dramatic recreations of the last 12 weeks of Diana’s life before the car crash that killed her in 1997, interviews with people close to her like Mohamed Al Fayed and bodyguard Kez Wingfield, and archival footage.

O’Reilly, 43, “powered through” the docudrama, according to the Irish Independent, despite not looking or sounding much like the princess.

Serena Scott Thomas in Diana: Her True Story (1993)

Serena Scott Thomas played Diana in 1993. (Getty Images)
Serena Scott Thomas played Diana in 1993. (Getty Images)

Scott Thomas played Diana in the dramatisation of the book of the same name, which was written by Andrew Morton.

Variety called the film “engaging and entertaining”, but The Sun called it “shallow as a toddler's play-pool”.

The Daily Mail said: “The royal household are portrayed as the Addams Family on acid with the Queen taking the leading role.”

The Daily Telegraph noted that those reviews did not daunt Scott Thomas, now 58, who played Carol Middleton in a later film about William and Kate.

Amy Seccombe in Diana: A Tribute To The People’s Princess (1998)

Amy Seccombe and George Jackos as Diana and Dodi Fayed. (PA Images)
Amy Seccombe and George Jackos as Diana and Dodi Fayed. (PA Images)

Seccombe played Diana in a tribute film that covered her life from May 1996 until the crash that killed her in August 1997, ending with the princess preparing to accept Dodi Fayed’s marriage proposal.

Discussing the film last year, The Telegraph said Seccombe “delivered every line like the junior manager of a regional branch of NatWest”.

Released just a year after Diana’s death, it was judged to be ill-advised, with the actors “unconvincing” in their roles.

Seccombe had one role afterwards, as a medic in Operation Good Guys.

Julie Cox in Princess in Love (1996)

Julie Cox played Diana in <em>Princess in Love</em>. (PA Images)
Julie Cox played Diana in Princess in Love. (PA Images)

Julie Cox played Diana in a 1996 film Princess in Love, based on the book by Anna Pasternak.

It told the story of Diana’s affair with James Hewitt, which was confirmed by both parties before her death.

Pasternak revealed some details of writing the book last year, particularly hre regret at hurt caused to the Royal Family, including William and Harry.

Despite working with Pasternak on the book, Hewitt also came to regret it, claiming he felt used by Diana as she hoped to diffuse the impact of a second Morton book on her extra-marital relationship.

Caroline Bliss in Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story (1982)

Charles met Caroline Bliss a few years after she played his wife in a TV film. (PA Images)
Charles met Caroline Bliss a few years after she played his wife in a TV film. (PA Images)

This film dramatised the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana, and saw future Miss Moneypenny Bliss play the princess.

A few years later, Bliss met Prince Charles when he visited Pinewood Studios as they filmed Bond movie The Living Daylights in 1986.

According to the MailOnline, one review in The Washington Post said it was “slack-jawed heraldic voyeurism incapable of, and apparently uninterested in, transforming remote news figures into believable mortals”.

Jeanna de Waal in Diana: A True Musical Story (2019/20)

Not a film but a musical – Jeanna de Waal has been bringing Diana to life through song.

It’s a bit of a departure from her previous work, as she was in Kinky Boots and American Idiot before.

In an LA Times review, the show was described as having “generic quality that for all its efficient smoothness seems culturally misplaced”, but a “lively sense of humor about itself”.

Briton de Waal told People before the play premiered that her accent was about all she had in common with the princess, but she studied old clips of Diana intently.

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