Spencer screenwriter Steven Knight has always been curious about Princess Diana. But his curiosity was heightened on the day of his funeral in 1997.
âI mean, like most people, she existed in the TV news and the TV footage. I also happen to know people who knew her, so there was a slight connection, but nothing deep. But I mean, in Kensington and Westland at that time, she was there, she was visible to people, which I think people sometimes forget. But I guess the biggest impact was when she passed away, âKnight said. Filmmaker.
âI was in Canada to work. I was getting up early one morning and watching the funeral on TV, the palace doors opened and the funeral procession arrived, and I heard and saw Brits doing something they never normally do â, did he declare. âThey cried, sobbed and cried openly. And I just thought it was so weird. How did she have that effect on people who would normally – I mean, even when Churchill died, there was none of that. It was a direct, spontaneous, visceral connection. And it just made me wonder.
More than twenty years later, when he was approached by director Pablo LarraÃn to do Spencer, the new movie about Princess Diana and Prince Charles split over Christmas weekend in 1991. The movie stars Kristen Stewart as Diana – a role that earned Stewart her first Golden Globe nomination this week.
âThen I met Pablo, and he said to me: How do you feel about doing something about Diana? ” said Chevalier.
In preparing to write the screenplay, Knight didn’t do the traditional research one might expect.
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âI didn’t read any of the books and I didn’t watch any of the movies or documentaries,â he said. âBecause I think what happens when historians report on someone’s life or achievements, it always seems like what happened was inevitable. It still seems like everything was leading at this point and it was an inexorable march towards it. Whereas, as we all know, everyday life, real life, is kind of a chaos, and anything can happen and it’s kinda crazy.
Instead, Knight decided to speak with people who knew Diana – and were present at this particular time in her life.
âWhat I did was talk to people. I decided early enough not to do a biopic. It’s just sort of not really achievable. So I wanted to do a snapshot of a short time, and I thought, Christmas is good because it’s Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day – you are three acts. He is someone in the company of family members who they may not want to be with. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had that experience, and that would make things comparable, âhe said. âBut what I really wanted to do was find out about her really correctly, not the picture. And to do that, I spoke to people who were in the house at the time who were working, serving and watching this. that was going onâ¦ Any writer knows that the real things, the real stories, the real things that happened, are way more bizarre and nuts than anything you could possibly invent. So what I did was using that real stuff as a stepping stone and then weaving the tale in between. â
Spencer is now playing in theaters. Main Image: Kristen Stewart and Sally Hawkins in Spencer. Photo credit: NEON