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Spencer director on how “mystery” of Diana impacted film’s depiction: ‘No one really knew her’

"That mystery is what gives us the room for interpretation and fictional portrayals."

Published: Friday, 5th November 2021 at 9:00 am

By: Kimberley Bond


New psychological thriller Spencer depicts a side to Princess Diana not many of us would be privy to.

Kristen Stewart’s depiction of the 'People’s Princess' shows Diana grappling with her mental health as she spends Christmas with the Royal Family at Sandringham.

No-one know what happened for certain during that four-day period, but Stewart’s take on Diana sees the princess start to lose control as her health deteriorates and her marriage starts to disintegrate.

It is this gap between the Princess Diana we see and feel we know in popular culture and the reality of Princess Diana’s tragic life that makes her life so rich for depiction, says Spencer director Pablo Larraín.

Speaking exclusively to, Larraín explained: “Stephen Knight, who wrote the screenplay, spoke to lots of people who knew Diana and the royals in those years.

"The truth is that a lot of people who knew her and related to her – like the housekeeper, the security person, they all related to her but none of them ever really knew her, and that’s why I guess so many of us are fascinated. That mystery is what gives us the room for interpretation and fictional portrayals."

Larraín believes that the depiction of Diana we see in Spencer is the most "intimate" that we have ever seen on screen.

"This is just about her perspective," he said. "We see other people, but Spencer is about her point of view. It’s about her internal world all the time. And the very compressed days maybe will help us understand a little but about who she was and how she was feeling at a time of crisis.

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"It’s not an entirety of her personality, but a snapshot of what we see during this era. If we did a longer period of time, we would see a more complex character or person. It’s partly why Diana became such a pop culture icon, as there was just so much to her as a person. I think there is room for different interpretations and angles of Diana’s life."

Larraín added that his experience on 2016’s Jackie – starring Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy – aided him massively in bringing an iconic woman such as Diana to the big screen.

"I grew up seeing my mum obsessed with Princess Diana. As I got older, I realised it’s not just my mum,” he said. “So I delved into Diana and who she was. I bought a number of books and did my research. It seemed the more I learned, the less I knew about her. That was something interesting, I think. The main motivation of the film was to try and approach that mystery in her humanity.

"When I was making the movie, I didn’t really know what we were doing. But in making the movie, I started to understand that the film was about motherhood. I’m not and won’t be a mother, I’m not a woman, but I am a father and I am someone’s son.

"It made me consider Diana’s motivation beyond being just a tragic figure of the 20th century. Diana was a lot of things to a lot of people – she was a pop icon, she was a fashion icon. But the movie I was trying to make was about motherhood and her humanity."


Spencer is out now in cinemas. Visit our Movies hub for more news and features, or find something to watch with our TV Guide.


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