• Film

The Enduring Appeal of Princess Diana

There’s no denying that glamour and tragedy make for an irresistible combination. Add in a beloved royal icon and it’s no surprise that the world’s fascination and obsession with Princess Diana hasn’t waned. In fact, it has extended well beyond her tragic death in 1997 at the age of 36.

Since then, there has been an onslaught of films and TV shows, all of which have focused on different aspects of Diana’s well-documented life. In commemorating her death twenty-five years on, another documentary recently surfaced, titled simply, The Princess. Directed by Ed Perkins, it uses archival footage to tell her story – from the eve of the announcement of her engagement to Prince Charles to her fatal car accident in Paris.


Looking back on the different cinematic iterations of her life, the standouts include Diana, released in 2013, in which Naomi Watts took on the iconic role; several years later, Season Four of the Golden Globe-winning Netflix series, The Crown, in which Emma Corrin played the People’s Princess with alarming authenticity; and last year’s film, Spencer, directed by Pablo Larrain, whose unique take on Diana’s life was brought to life by Kristen Stewart, earning a Golden Globe nod for her evocative performance, which revealed a different side to the princess.  

On the subject of Diana’s incomparable appeal and charisma, some of the actresses who have portrayed her have weighed in during Hollywood Foreign Press Association interviews while they were promoting their respective movies.

Naomi Watts’ portrayal of the Princess was taken from the last two years of her life when she was having a secret love affair with a Pakistani heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews). 

Watts said of Diana’s relatability, “We can all relate to her because she seems to have had really human problems and looking for love is something that we can all identify with. And also, she was someone who never wanted a divorce, coming from divorced parents herself. A broken family was something she never would have imagined [for herself] but she found this connection with this man and that was the uplifting part of the story.”  

Emma Corrin was awarded a Best Actress Golden Globe in 2021 for her performance in the hit series, The Crown, in which the focus was on Diana’s early years with the royal family. Corrin offered, “Diana had a way of connecting to people and a way of showing that she cared in a very unconditional, loving way that people hadn’t really seen before. This was an age, a dawn before celebrity as you know it today, so I think that people felt like she knew them. She looked you in the eye, and she had this way of making you feel like you were the only person in the world, but not in a deceitful way. I think she was genuinely a very caring person. She made people really feel appreciated, and I think that’s why they called her ‘The People’s Princess,’ because she liked the people.” 

Most recently, Kristen Stewart starred as Diana in last year’s movie, Spencer.  The movie was presented as a fairy tale of sorts, and she portrayed the princess as something like a bird in a gilded cage.  It was centered on the Christmas festivities at the Queen’s estate at Sandringham, in 1991. Stewart focused on Diana’s imagined inner life as well as her mental issues, which in the film included hypothetical conversions with the long-deceased Anne of Boleyn.  

Stewart said, “More than her good looks or fashion sense, it was her undeniable charisma and personal power left a lasting impression on those around her. I think it’s just something that she was born with. Some people that are endowed with an undeniable penetrating energy.  I think the really sad thing about her is that she could be normal and casual and disarming, but she also felt so isolated and so lonely.   

I think the idea of somebody being so desperate for connection and somebody who is able to make other people feel so good, feeling so bad on the inside and being so generous with her energy, I just think that we haven’t had many of those people throughout history. I mean, she really sticks out as a sparkly, just a house on fire.”