Pablo Larraín Opens Up About “Spencer” And Why Kristen Stewart Was Perfect To Play Princess Diana

Pablo Larraín Opens Up About “Spencer” And Why Kristen Stewart Was Perfect To Play Princess DianaSkip To Content

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“I thought she was fearless. I thought she was confident and she wanted to do this and she needed to do this,” Pablo Larraín told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview.

Posted on November 4, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. ET

With movies, documentaries, and even broadway musicals, it’s fair to say that Princess Diana’s life has been chronicled from almost every angle imaginable.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

But the latest movie attempting to capture the legacy of the beloved icon, simply titled Spencer, has taken a different approach to the path well-trodden, opting to create a “fable from a true tragedy” instead of something that is entirely based on fact.

Courtesy of STX Films

The movie is contained within a three-day period, imagining what might’ve happened behind closed doors during a Christmas at the Queen’s Sandringham estate. The relationship between Diana and Charles is already unraveling as the movie begins, with the princess coming to terms with the fact that the future she imagined — one where she might one day become queen — no longer exists.

Of course, Spencer isn’t the first interpretation of Princess Diana’s life, but it’s one that identifies itself as a work of fiction from the very beginning — something other versions have failed to do.

Frederic Batier courtesy of STX Films

As The Crown brought Diana’s character into the forefront, for example, her brother said there should be a disclaimer that explains the story is fiction based on true events, calling it “unfair” that people might take what they see as being fact.

“I think it would help The Crown an enormous amount if, at the beginning of each episode, it stated that: ‘This isn’t true but it is based around some real events,'” he previously said. “I worry people do think [the show] is gospel, and that’s unfair.”

“It’s the only way to do it,” Pablo Larraín, the director of Spencer, told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview. “You have to start with things that are real, and that’s why, before the movie starts, you can read on the screen that it says it’s a fable from a true tragedy.”

Stephane Cardinale – Corbis via Getty Images

“Many things are real facts — the context, the events that actually did happen,” he said. “But once you are inside, once the doors are closed, all you have is a sort of fiction and we just imagine how could that be, but always understanding that we’re not doing a documentary. We’re doing a fable.”

In fact, Pablo would go as far as to say that it’s “not possible” to create a biopic that’s a true and complete reflection of a person – especially one as well-known and loved as Diana.

Jonas Dornbach courtesy of STX Films

“I’ve worked before in the past with other known people and figures from history,” Pablo, who previously directed Jackie, explained. “I’m sure that you would never be able to really capture someone — it’s not possible. Not even the most accomplished biopic.

“What I try to do is to find some sort of space that could resemble a very specific illusion on who that person might have been,” he went on. “And I think Diana, she’s part of the universal myth. It’s like working around William Shakespeare. Someone could just pick up any of his plays and do a version, and this is our version of that sort of universal narrative.”

This interpretation of Diana’s story is led by an impressive Kristen Stewart, who is already receiving Oscar buzz for her performance. That likely won’t have come as a surprise to Pablo.

Pablo Larraín courtesy of STX Films

“It was really beautiful to see how someone is at the top of her game, the top of her skills, and she was just doing something extremely beautiful,” he said of working with the star on set. “She did prepare herself a lot and worked really hard and delivered something that’s indescribable, like music or art — you just have to see it and experience it.”

It’s fair to say that Kristen’s performance shuts down any criticism of her casting in the role, nailing the all-important accent as well as encapsulating the “mystery” of Diana.

Frederic Batier courtesy of STX Films

“[Kristen] can be very mysterious on camera and that I connected with the mystery that Diana had,” Pablo explained. “She’s able to have a very expressive and strong internal world that she’s always breathing and that’s how we connect.

“I think the incredible resemblance she has with Diana is not only because of the way she looks but mostly because she’s able to create an emotional bridge between her and the audience,” he went on. “I really enjoyed working with her and seeing how she was able to bring that majesty.”

And although you might assume it took a while to find the perfect Diana to lead the movie, it actually happened pretty quickly during a phone call between Pablo and Kristen.

Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

“It was just a simple conversation,” Pablo said of the call, describing Kristen as “unflinching.” 

“It was just like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna make this movie, would you play Diana?’ It was quite a call. With her perfect American accent, she said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll do it.’

“I thought she was fearless,” he added. “I thought she was confident and she wanted to do this and she needed to do this as much as I needed to do this.”

The story of Princess Diana is one that’s been recounted in multiple forms numerous times over the years. However, the person at the center of it all is still shrouded in mystery despite being one of the most well-known people in the world.

Tim Graham / Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

“What’s interesting is that the more you research, you read, the more movies you see, TV shows, documentaries, countless books, articles, you name it, the less you know,” Pablo told BuzzFeed News. “There’s an incredible amount of mystery that she carries, and combined with such magnetism, it’s so striking just to know why she was so obscure, so interesting for millions around the world.

“I grew up seeing my mom being very interested in her,” he continued. “I realized that my mom was just one out of hundreds of millions around the world and I thought it was captivating. I thought it was interesting to work around a figure that is such an icon — a pop icon, as a mother, as a woman, as a fashion icon. There’s so many layers that are so interesting to cinema, but particularly I guess, it’s the mystery. It’s just something that’s uncrackable.”

At its core, Pablo believes that Spencer is a movie about motherhood, something that seems fitting for a woman who appeared to adore her children more than anything else.

Pablo Larraín courtesy of STX Films

“I think it’s a fair portrait of motherhood, which I care a lot about,” he said when asked what he was most proud of about the project. “I will never be a woman, I can’t have children — I’m a father, but mostly I’m a son.”

He added: “Here, thanks to the kids, the little actors Jack and Freddie who play William and Harry, as we were filming, I realized that somehow I saw myself in them with all the differences and I understood that this movie was strongly about motherhood.”

And so what is Pablo’s desire for Spencer as it prepares to be unveiled to the world?

Courtesy of STX Films

“I hope it’s another element on culture that could maybe show to the world what a fascinating person she was and there’s a reason why millions around the world remained so interested in her,” he said. “I’m sure other movies and TV shows and documentaries will come because there’s an enormous amount of humanity that she carried that really serves to be told and this is another version, another angle, and I hope it makes sense for people.”

Spencer is due to be released on Nov. 5.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn’t want you to see.