One of the most iconic interviews of all time, the BBC Panorama special which saw Diana, Princess of Wales speak candidly about her marriage and the royal family, was a landmark TV moment.


The journalist who conducted the famous interview was BBC journalist Martin Bashir.

The fifth season of The Crown depicts the controversial interview, which in recent years came under the microscope for the manner in which Bashir secured the interview.

So, who is Martin Bashir and who plays him in The Crown?

Who is Martin Bashir?

Martin Bashir broadcasts live from London
Martin Bashir. Mark Allan/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Martin Bashir is a former British journalist who is best known for his tenure on the BBC programme Panorama.

In 1995, Bashir conducted his most noteworthy interview when he secured a televised talk with Diana, Princess of Wales.

The famous interview saw the Princess of Wales speak candidly about the breakdown of her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales, their extra-marital affairs, and the future of the monarchy.

After leaving the BBC in 1999 after around 13 years, Bashir joined ITV and then from 2004 to 2016 he worked in New York, including for ABC and then MSNBC.

In 2016, Bashir returned to work for the BBC as a religious affairs correspondent.

However, in 2020, as reported in The Sunday Times, BBC-director general Tim Davie apologised to Diana's brother Charles Spencer, Earl Spencer after it emerged that Bashir had used fake documents to help persuade the Earl to aid in securing an interview with Diana.

The following year in 2021, an inquiry by Lord Dyson found that Bashir had breached BBC rules by mocking up fake bank statements to obtain an interview with Diana and that he showed the documents to Earl Spencer.

The inquiry also ruled that the BBC effectively covered up its discoveries about how Bashir landed the interview.

Speaking to BBC Panorama, Earl Spencer, who introduced Diana to Bashir, said: "Well, the irony is that I met Martin Bashir on the 31st of August 1995 because exactly two years later she died - and I do draw a line between the two events."

Elsewhere, Bashir’s fake documents accused Diana’s former private Secretary Patrick Jephson of involvement in the surveillance of the Princess, accusations which were untrue. Jephson said the Panorama interview caused Diana to lose “the royal support structure that had guided and safeguarded her for so many years”.

Jephson added that this "made her vulnerable to people who didn't have her best interests at heart" or could not properly "look after her".

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama
Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama. Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Following the inquiry, in a statement apologising for his "stupid" use of the faked bank statements, Bashir added: "The bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview.

"Evidence handed to the inquiry in her own handwriting unequivocally confirms this, and other compelling evidence presented to Lord Dyson reinforces it."

A handwritten note from December 1995 by Princess Diana was also found in the inquiry, stating: "Martin Bashir did not show me any documents, nor give me any information that I was not previously aware of."

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The late Princess of Wales added that she had "no regrets" about doing the interview.

The Dyson inquiry ruled that there had been a "serious breach" of BBC guidelines, stating that the corporation "fell short of high standards of integrity and transparency".

After the findings were revealed, the BBC then wrote to the Princess's two sons, Prince William (then Duke of Cambridge) and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.

The Metropolitan Police later ruled that year that they would not be pursuing a criminal investigation into the interview.

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama
Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama. BBC

As a result of the inquiry, BBC’s director-general Tim Davie ruled in 2022 that the interview would never be broadcast by the corporation again.

Davie said: "Now we know about the shocking way that the interview was obtained, I have decided that the BBC will never show the programme again; nor will we license it in whole or part to other broadcasters.

"It does of course remain part of the historical record and there may be occasions in the future when it will be justified for the BBC to use short extracts for journalistic purposes, but these will be few and far between and will need to be agreed at executive committee level and set in the full context of what we now know about the way the interview was obtained.

"I would urge others to exercise similar restraint."

In the same statement, Davie commented: "Following publication of the Dyson Report last year we have been working with those who suffered as a result of the deceitful tactics used by the BBC in pursuit of its interview with Diana, Princess of Wales for the Panorama programme in 1995, including the matters that were mentioned in court today in respect of Miss Tiggy Legge-Bourke, now Mrs Alexandra Pettifer."

He added: "The BBC has agreed to pay substantial damages to Mrs Pettifer and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise publicly to her, to The Prince of Wales, and to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, for the way in which Princess Diana was deceived and the subsequent impact on all their lives."

Who plays Martin Bashir in The Crown?

Prasanna Puwanarajah as Martin Bashir in Season 5 of The Crown
Prasanna Puwanarajah as Martin Bashir in Season 5 of The Crown. Netflix

Martin Bashir is portrayed in The Crown by actor Prasanna Puwanarajah.

This is not the first time that Puwanarajah has portrayed Bashir, either, having played the journalist in the 2013 film Diana opposite Naomi Watts as the Princess of Wales.

In addition to this film role, Puwanarajah has also appeared in television series such as The Sarah Jane Adventures, Silk, Critical, Cold Feet, Doctor Foster, Patrick Melrose, Defending the Guilty, Line of Duty, Three Families, and Ten Percent.

Puwanarajah has also appeared in numerous productions on stage.

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