It wasn’t easy for the 31-year-old Twilight alum to prepare for the role.
“I was scared, for sure,” Stewart tells us during a recent interview for the film, where she was joined by director Pablo Larraín (watch above). “I could sit and sort of theorize about us having really genuine personal curiosities about her and that whatever we ended up making was coming from the right place — and that ultimately you have to do things that scare you and trust-fall with directors that you believe in and that have perspectives that they’re committed to…
“But two weeks before we started shooting the movie I was having TMJ [temporomandibular joint disorder, which causes pain and limits movement of the jaw] that made me not able to open my mouth. I couldn’t even run my lines with my dialogue coach. … I was obviously feeling the personal weight that I put on myself because I grew to really love her as a character and feel like I knew her.”
The film tells a fictionalized account of the royal family’s 1991 Christmas gathering at the queen’s rural Sandringham Estate, where Diana Spencer grew up on a neighboring property. With her marriage to Prince Charles in shambles, an anxiety-ridden Diana struggles to endure the formal festivities.
“There wasn’t enormous surprise or evolution of my perception of her, because it wasn’t highly developed before I came to this project,” Stewart says of the beloved late princess of Wales who died in a car crash while fleeing paparazzi in 1997. “I didn’t have any expectation of her. I didn’t have anything where something she would do would be like, ‘Oh, I can’t believe Diana did that’ because I didn’t know her. I knew that she was adored and coveted and lost too soon. And that was really like where my knowledge of her stopped before I endeavored to make this movie.”
Spencer also details how uneasy Princess Di felt with royal traditions by the time her marriage began to disintegrate. The story will inevitably remind viewers of Diana’s own son, Prince Harry, who — along with his wife, Meghan Markle — stepped away from their royal duties in early 2020, just months before Spencer went into production.
“Meghan Markle’s going to love it,” Robbie Collin wrote in his review for the British daily The Telegraph.
Larraín says Harry and Meghan’s status was not on their minds, however, when they filmed Spencer.
“The origin of the movie and the story, it’s older than that,” he says. “We were really focused on her life, on her experience on this planet. I don’t think we looked to anything else but her.”
Spencer is now playing.
Watch the trailer:
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by John Santo