Director and star defend “Diana”

ImageThe new movie “Diana,” about “The People’s Princess,” has not been greeted with open arms. Well, not in Britain. Not by British critics. The huffing and sneering from the chattering-reviewing classes has been deafening, and downright personal.
“Atrocious and intrusive,” complains The Times of London.
“Her every utterance sound as though it has been culled directly from the pages of Hello! magazine,” fumes The Observer.
It’s as if the film, which stars Naomi Watts (an Australian, the nerve!) and depicts the arc of the last two year’s of Diana’s life — a marriage ended, a secret love affair with a Pakistani doctor, much of it beyond the reach of the ever-present paparazzi — is some sort of personal affront. The reviews suggest a sense of ownership of the princess that perhaps director Oliver Hirschbiegel had not anticipated.
“The U.K. press did not want to see this sort of intimate portrayal of her,” he says. “In their mind, they had a different picture of her. Our research was pretty close to the facts, but they just don’t care. They want THEIR version of her. Other countries don’t seem to have that problem.”
Scathing remarks about makeup, moments of tears and the like mostly spare the film’s star, Watts, recently Oscar nominated for “The Impossible.” But Time Magazine’s reviewer’s puerile rip — “Cryana, Princess of Wails” — suggests some sort of wound that the movie reopens.
“She was the most famous woman of our times and her legacy lives on,” Watts says. “It’s such a tragic way to die and she was so famous that we feel that we knew her and this can’t be all. It’s very hard to reconcile sudden, tragic death like that. That keeps her saga alive.”
Watts laughs.
“But in any case, it’s good practice, to be defending your movie as it comes out.”
Hirshbiegel says that their intention was to “redraft the legacy, because at her death, she was done this disservice with all these stories of her yachting with Dodi (Fayed, the millionaire playboy), and jetting around the world with him. The other aspects of her life got forgotten.”
Hirschbiegel’s film focuses on her connection to Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews in the film) and her crusade against land mines — which linger in former war zones, killing and maiming the innocent years after the combat has ended. “Diana” details “the game” she played with the paparazzi, with disguises, driving her butler’s car to sneak out, after hours, for dates and assignations. And it plays up her utter isolation.
“She had some desire to be ‘normal,’ just for a bit,” the director says.” I understand, now, why this legend lives on. She chose to be a rebel from the royal family. She was very emotional and spiritual, where the English character is all about irony and sarcasm, especially in that family. She did not have that..
“She knew how to enter a room. She had presence, a real movie star quality. Nobody in that family, not even Princess Kate, has that. The tragic thing is the minute she died the world realized how special she really was.”
And he’s not sweating the reviews. Hirschbiegel, 55, has a veteran filmmaker’s thick skin in that regard.
“I did ‘Downfall.'” the German Hirschbiegel chuckles, remembering the acclaimed 2004 Hitler-in-the-Bunker drama that has become a favorite Internet meme in the intervening decade. “The response that I got in Germany to that movie (about Hitler’s final days) was pretty similar. I’m used to it.”

(Roger Moore reviews “Diana” here).

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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