Princess Diana captured the hearts of millions during her short-lived life, which led to her nickname as “The People’s Princess.”
Given her time as a member of the British Royal Family, her turbulent marriage and divorce from Prince Charlies, her trailblazing work for countless charities and her tragic death in 1997 that shocked the world, it’s no surprise that the entertainment industry wants to immortalise her in TV and film.
This has led to a number of actors portraying the princess - all with differing degrees of success.
Now, Kristen Stewart is the latest A-lister to take on the role in the 2021 film Spencer which was released on Friday (November 5).
To mark its release, we’ve taken a look at the different depictions of the princess over the years and here is our officially ranking from best to worst.
Emma Corrin in The Crown (2020)
Emma Corrin was a relatively unknown British actress when she landed the big role of playing a young Princess Diana in season four of the hit Netflix series The Crown. The 25-year-old portrayed Diana from just before she met Prince Charles as a 16-year-old in 1977 up until 1990 where their marriage appears to be on the rocks.
Despite having some pretty large shoes to fill, Corrin’s Diana was “a tour de force” who excellently channelled the young royal’s youth and naivety, while also revealing the princess’ vulnerability and loneliness as she navigates her eating disorder and troubled marriage with Prince Charles, along with the harsh realities of being a royal.
It also helps that Corrin is Diana’s double, and perfected the princess’ doe-eyed look in the infamous engagement interview scene (so much so that it became a meme).
Therefore, it came as no shock that Corrin won the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Television Series Drama and the Critics Choice Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series this year for her portrayal of Princess Diana.
Most people are familiar with Stewart’s role as the awkward teen Bella Swan in the Twilight franchise, but it’s not the first time we’ve seen her portray strong female characters in biopics on the big screen, namely American rock star Joan Jett and actress Jean Seberg.
Nor is it the first time she’s had to speak in a British accent for a role, with small snippets in the 2012 film Snow White and the Huntsman. So, it seems she would be a great candidate to portray Princess Diana, and judging by the favourable reviews, they agree she was a good casting choice.
In Pablo Larraín’s Spencer, Stewart is able to exude Princess Diana’s beautiful aura while also perfecting her skittishness and paranoia as she spends the entirety of the film on a three-day Christmas holiday with the royal family at Sandringham House, where she decides to end her marriage to Prince Charles.
There’s been talk that her “enjoyably strange” and “inspired” portrayal could land Stewart her first-ever Oscar nomination, so watch this space...
Watch Spencer in cinemas now.
Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown (2022)
With the Netflix hit series The Crown going into its fifth season, there is often a cast change as the story moves on with time.
After Emma Corrin’s excellent portrayal of Diana in her younger years, Australian actor Elizabeth Debicki will take the reins in the next season and play the princess in the early 1990s. This period will cover the end of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ marriage, her famously explosive tell-all interview with Martin Bashir.
While there are no official clips of the new season yet, a still image of Debicki as Diana has been released and it’s fair to say that the actor shares a remarkable likeness to her. Debicki is best known for her TV role in The Night Manager and blockbusters including Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2, The Great Gatsby, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.
And bearing in mind that The Crown’s casting has been spot on so far, we have high hopes for Debicki’s portrayal of the princess.
When we think of actors who have played Diana throughout the year, Naomi Watts is one of the first that springs to mind - but for all the wrong reasons.
The 2013 film by Oliver Hirschbiegel was based on Kate Snell’s 2001 book, Diana: Her Last Love and focused on Diana’s relationship with Pakistani heart surgeon, Dr Hasnat Khan, and billionaire Dodi Fayed.
Although on paper the seasoned actor seemed a sensible casting decision, and the setting of the story was different to what had been explored in Diana’s life before, the film gained overwhelmingly negative reviews and flopped at the box office. Though critics did praise Watts’ performance as “extraordinary,” and “impressive,” it was ultimately the rest of the film i.e. “the Mills & Boon-level script” and “poverty of the dialogue” that let her down.
Eight years on, and the film is marked as a career blip for the British actress who later admitted she had regrets about taking on the biopic and described the film as a “sinking ship.”
“I got seduced by the fantastic character,” she told Harper’s Bazaar in 2014. “Diana did a lot of things that had positive and negative results. She was multifaceted.
“But ultimately there were problems [with the film] and it ended up taking a direction that was not the one I was hoping for. With risk there is every chance it’s going to fail. If you have to go down with that sinking ship, so be it.”
Genevieve O’Reilly in Diana: Last Days of a Princess (2007)
While this TV documentary series aired in 2007 before the wave of Diana portrayals in TV and film became a full-blown trend, Genevieve O’Reilly’s performance as the princess during the last week of her life surprisingly wasn’t the complete focus of the film.
In a strange hybrid, there was a mix of real-life footage and interviews from people who knew the princess such as butler Paul Burrell and royal correspondent Camilla Tominey which accompanied the re-enactments of Diana from O’Reilly, who is best known for her role as Mon Mothma in the Star Wars franchise.
Though the film didn’t impress one critic who described it as a “disgrace.” “The acting is dire, the script even worse,” Sam Wollaston of The Guardian said at the time. The publication also reported that the film “attracted a lukewarm 1.5 million viewers” when it aired in the UK.
Jeanna de Waal in Diana: A True Musical Story (2021)
Perhaps proving our Diana obsession has gone too far we have an all singing and all dancing production on the life of the princess.
Diana: The Musical opened on Broadway in previews in March 2020, though live performances were quickly paused when theatres closed due to Covid-19. But last month a filmed performance of the musical was dropped on Netflix while the production returned to the stage recently on November 2.