“Diana,” German director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s biopic of the late Princess of Wales, is eagerly awaited in many quarters — it’s hard to underestimate the devotion the so-called People’s Princess still inspires in millions across the globe, nearly 16 years after her death, and this is the first major feature film to take her as its principal subject. Two-time Oscar nominee Naomi Watts is filling the princess’s chic shoes, and the wordless teaser trailer below promises a reasonable physical approximation.
Hirschbiegel’s film focuses on the last two years of her life, covering her anti-landmine activism and her romances with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan and billionaire producer Dodi Fayed, and therefore steering clear of her royal marriage woes. Either way, I must confess that Diana — a nice woman no doubt — doesn’t hold much fascination for me as either a public or private figure. Hopefully Hirschbiegel (who broke out with the Oscar-nominated last-days-of-Hitler drama “Downfall” in 2004) and writer Stephen Jeffreys (“The Libertine”) can persuade me otherwise; for now, “Diana” strikes me as one of the less enticing dishes on the late-year prestige buffet.
The film hasn’t set a US release date yet (Entertainment One is the distributor), but it’ll open in the UK on September 20 — presumably after premiering on the fall festival circuit. Whether it film lands more like “The Queen” (in which, of course, or “The Iron Lady” with critics, Watts’s performance will be carefully scrutinized for its awards-season potential. As we’ve been reminded all too often in recent years, famous people playing other famous people is a trick Oscar voters never seem to tire of — and if they have a royal title, so much the better. Watts, meanwhile, got back on the Academy’s radar last year with “The Impossible” and is well positioned for a follow-up nod.
It all adds up on paper, but the performance still has to impress. Is Diana a sufficiently meaty character to take her there? Hard to say. This brief glimpse doesn’t give much away, but check it out and share your thoughts in the comments.