Diana, Princess of Wales, changed the face of modern celebrity culture but remained an enigma even after her tragic death; now a stylish new film looks to tell the story of Diana's life and loves in her final years

By Lindsey Bahr
July 19, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Naomi Watts is nervous about Diana. Everybody is. It’s no small task to tell the story of one of the 20th century’s most beloved figures, and there were plenty who resisted. Some of the late princess’ favorite fashion designers declined to be associated with the film. It proved to be a tough sell at Cannes, before distributor eOne struck a deal for the U.S. rights (the company has set a fall 2013 release date). Even Watts hesitated. ”It was something I went back and forth on, and in the end I knew I would be well outside my comfort zone. I was kind of terrified of it, but I was intrigued by that terror,” the actress says. Still, she adds: ”It could be a gigantic mistake.”

Director Oliver Hirschbiegel eschewed the traps of a cable-TV-ready biopic for the film, which focuses on the last two years of Diana’s life, including her relationship with Dr. Hasnat Khan (played by Lost‘s Naveen Andrews). Instead, Hirschbiegel set out to uncover what was beneath the ex-royal’s glamorous facade — though there’s plenty of couture on display. ”Everyone felt, and still feels, that they own her in some respect,” says costume designer Julian Day. ”People forget she [was] a human being.”

”I hate that people are going to say, ‘She doesn’t look like her, she doesn’t have the right nose, accent, voice, whatever,”’ Watts says. ”At the end of the day I made the decision. I just have to commit to it and hope I got it right.”

Princess Grace of Monaco Gets a Biopic of Her Own
Diana isn’t the only tale of a beautiful princess who meets a tragic end that’s coming to the big screen later this year. Nicole Kidman transforms into Grace Kelly, the Philadelphia socialite-turned-Hollywood actress-turned-royal, for Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco. ”It’s Nicole’s film. She’s terrific,” says costar Tim Roth, who plays Prince Rainier. Though Kidman and Watts have been friends for more than two decades, the Diana star says she foresees the catfight headlines that will be generated by their similarly themed movies and is quick to dismiss any sensationalism. ”I’m sure the press will make something of it more than we have,” says Watts. ”It just shows there’s a focus on the biopic right now. People are interested in true ideas and true people.”

  • Movie
Complete Coverage