Kristen Stewart wants you to know that “Spencer,” her new movie in which she stars as Princess Diana, is not a biopic or documentary. It is a fictional take on what happened when Diana decided during a family Christmas that she wanted out of her marriage to Prince Charles.
“We’re not trying to educate anyone, we’re not trying to solve anything,” Stewart told me Tuesday night at the film’s Los Angeles premiere at the DGA. “We’re also not trying to like figure out whether or not we should have a monarchy. It’s what did it feel like to be her, think about what those nights were like, think about what those meals were like.
“It’s the moments in between,” she continued. “They could have done the dinners and opening presents and the photo ops, but they didn’t. They did getting dressed, cleaning up dirty dishes, and you know, crumpled up wrapping paper, I just think that’s such an interesting way to tell the story that everyone thinks they know so well.”
Not that she didn’t dive into research about the late People’s Princess. She had four months to prepare before filming began. “The script doesn’t profess to know anything, it doesn’t cover any black-and-white detail,” Stewart said. “But I read everything. And somehow, in a sort of abstract way, the script substantiated everything I learned in detail. So it was really nice that ‘The Crown’ existed. And it was really nice that we’ve had all these documentaries and this evolved relationship with what happened.”
Writer and director Pablo Larraín told me that the idea of casting Stewart came about because both women faced immense fame and unparalleled media scrutiny. “It’s this uncrackable mystery that Diana has,” he said. “How do you play that? You have to carry some of that mystery to be able to put it on screen. Kristen has that. If you put a camera on Kristen and you have her stand and just saying nothing, you start looking at her and you wonder what’s going on. It creates tension and it creates intrigue.
“Of course, you can look alike, we help with costume and [an] incredible makeup team, and hair, and then [Kristen] got [the voice] right…but if she doesn’t have that thing that she’s carrying, it will never work,” he continued.
Stewart trained with dialect coach William Conacher, who also worked with Emma Corrin for “The Crown” and with Naomi Watts when she played the titular role in 2013’s “Diana.” Stewart says she wasn’t sure if she got Diana’s voice correctly until “probably the first day I had to put it on camera.”
But still, she was nervous. “Pablo had to come up to me and like, tug the leash a bit. I think I wanted to put everything I learned about her condensed in a moment in the first few lines that I said on screen or on the first day of shooting and he was like, ‘Kristen you got it. You have to trust that you’ve been spending months and you have this beautiful coach and you’ve learned everything, so now chill a little bit,’” Stewart remembered. “I was like ‘OK, OK, OK, I’ve got this.’ I would say on the second day we were we were sprinting.”
Of knowing that Prince William and Harry are probably aware of the film, Stewart said, “We loved this person. We were curious about this person. We leaned all the way in. We played make-believe and hypotheticals to the extent that we do as filmmakers. … She absolutely — I can say unequivocally — believed in in bridging gaps and that human connection being the sort of driving force of her life. I would like to think — obviously because we made this movie — that she would appreciate the fact that we were still talking about her in the most beautiful way.”