Princess Diana still a hot topic 24 years after her death


Princess Diana died in a tragic car crash on Aug 31, 1997. Photo: Filepic

Testament to the bottomless public appetite for the British royals and their most tragic figure, no less than three new portrayals of Princess Diana are on the way in the coming months.

The Crown returns to Netflix next year to cover her final terrible years, while a Broadway musical about the princess opens in November.

Before all that, Kristen Stewart will take on the role that has made and broken careers in Spencer, which premieres at the Venice film festival this week.

Here is a selection of the great and not-so-great attempts that have gone before her.

Diana (2013)

To date, the biggest budget take on the Queen of Hearts was this Naomi Watts vehicle, widely acknowledged to be an absolute stinker.

Watts later admitted it was "a sinking ship".

The Guardian could not help themselves: "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."

Diana: Her True Story (1993)

One of the least excruciating of the many TV movies dished up mostly for American audiences, The Sun newspaper still found this adaptation of a popular biography "as shallow as a toddler's play-pool".

The biggest challenge was trying to recreate that famous hairdo, with the filmmakers reportedly auditioning seven wigs before they got the look right on Serena Scott Thomas (sister of Kristin).

Diana & Me (1997)

The "lost" Diana movie stars Toni Collette as an Australian named Diana Spencer who travels to Britain to catch a glimpse of her famous namesake.

Unfortunately, it was due for release in September 1997 and was yanked from the schedules following Diana's death on Aug 31.

Though the filmmakers reshot some scenes in a bid to win back the distributors, the plot, which includes Collette teaming up with a paparazzi photographer to chase down the princess, inevitably made for awkward viewing.

The film is now available only via a German DVD release.

The Crown (2020)

The comparison that matters for Spencer is whether Stewart can match the revelatory turn by Emma Corrin, who won endless praise and a Golden Globe this year for her performance in season four of the Netflix smash.

Many have quibbled over the details, including Diana's brother Charles Spencer, who worried on Britain's ITV: "I find Americans tell me they have watched The Crown as if they have taken a history lesson. Well, they haven't."

But few could resist the drama, with the Daily Mail saying Corrin "captures the fact that there was something tragic about Diana before she even became tragic".

There won't be much of a wait before another dollop of Diana, as The Crown returns next year, this time with Elizabeth Debicki (Tenet, The Night Manager) in the role.

William & Kate (2011)

But if you are tired of Diana rehashes, her children now provide plenty of fodder for TV movies, too.

William & Kate, shot in Los Angeles for US channel Lifetime, was released to coincide with the royal wedding.

Newsday said it had "the dramatic vitality of a tree stump".

Trying to find something positive to say, London's Evening Standard came up with: "It is recognisably a film, in that it takes place on a screen. Events run in a forward direction."

Clearly, the film was not made with snooty journalists in mind, and the film has a resounding five stars from royal fans on Amazon.

The good news for them is that Lifetime has followed it with no less than three Harry and Meghan movies: A Royal Romance, Becoming Royal and the forthcoming Escape From The Palace.

Escape for Meghan, that is, but not the rest of us. – AFP Relaxnews
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