For Watts, playing Diana required both a physical and metaphysical immersion. "I definitely
prepared more for this role than I have for any other character I've played," Watts declares.
As she prepared, she began wearing Diana-like clothes -- with lots of double-breasted,
shoulder-padded suits -- and even donning her perfume. Among the most important elements was
the intensive process of taking on Diana's very particular voice and inflection.
"I spent six weeks of hardcore daily coaching with Penny Dyer (THE QUEEN, MY WEEK
WITH MARILYN) before we started filming -- and William Conacher (RAILWAY MAN, BILLY ELLIOT)
coached me on set," she explains. "It was really important to all of us to get it right. Diana's voice is
something I think we all remember very well about her. She was aristocracy but she didn't have that
old-fashioned stiff upper lip. Her way of speaking was warm and modern and there was a breathiness
to it, which made it attractive. There was a lot to get right. Even my mother said to me, 'Oh God. I
don't know if you'll be able to get that voice, Naomi!'"
Watts constantly referred back to the famous "Panorama" interview between Diana and Martin
Bashir -- in which Diana spoke openly about her husband's infidelity, breaking a massive taboo in
British society -- for inspiration. She honed in not only on Diana's speech patterns but the whole
range of her mannerisms, from the look in her eyes to how she moved her hands. "I watched it over
and over again and listened to the audio on a daily basis during the weeks leading up to the shoot
and even during filming," she says.
The more she listened, the more insight she felt she gained and the more she grew to admire
the way Diana had handled herself in that controversial moment. "I know people have mixed feelings
about the interview, but I think I would have wanted to do the same thing, and I don't know if I could
have been that courageous. Here was a woman who went into that otherworldly Royal life at 19 with
absolutely no preparation. I loved that she then fought for her happiness against all odds -- and I take
my hat off to her."
As pre-production commenced, Watts began to get even deeper into the nitty-gritty details of
being Diana. She worked closely with hair and makeup designer Noriko Watanabe (MEMOIRS OF A
GEISHA, PORTRAIT OF A LADY) to establish a look that would take on Diana's iconic mid-90s hair-
cuts and profile, while acknowledging that Watts is not a dead ringer for the Princess.
"Naomi is not a lookalike for Diana -- and that's not what we wanted," comments Bernstein.
"The film is very much one interpretation of Diana but obviously the look is a big part of that
interpretation, so it was very important to get it right."
Watts wore four main wigs in different lengths and colors, and she also donned a subtle prosthetic to reshape her nose. "Our noses are so completely different that I wanted something to
make mine stronger without it being too distracting," she states. She also re-trained her natural facial
movements. "My face tends to go to the right but Diana's goes to the left, so I had to learn to use that
side. It was actually quite difficult to train my face to work in the opposite way."
Ultimately, Watts felt that much of embodying Diana would be in her eyes. She shaved her
eyebrows to match Diana's and got creative with mascara, but she says it came down to something
more ineffable. "Diana's eye make-up was actually very simple, but there is just something incredible
about the way her eyes could change from being very shy and vulnerable to a powerful eye contact
that was almost confronting," she observes. "She could say a lot with just one look."
As she was sculpting the look, Watts worked equally closely with costume designer Julian Day
-- who also worked this year on Ron Howard's RUSH and Richard Shepard's DOM HEMINGWAY --
who tried to encapsulate Diana's inimitable style in a signature pieces.
"In the last few years of her life, Diana became very simple in her style, very elegant and
classic. She wore a lot of shift dresses and she didn't wear a lot of pattern," Day says. "I chatted to
Naomi about what suited her and we talked about really trying to capture that elegance."
Day approached Versace, one of Diana's favorite designers, to reproduce the exact blue gown
that Diana wore to the Victor Chang event in Sydney, Australia. Jacques Azagury, another of Diana's
favorite designers, also lent the production two of the dresses that Diana actually wore.
"Proportionally, they fit Naomi perfectly and we only had to alter her dresses slightly," Day
Not all of her costumes are exact recreations of Diana's clothes, however. "What we have
done is reproduce her style rather than copy every item. Some people may like that and some may
not but we are not making a documentary," Day explains. "There are a lot of occasions when people
just don't know what she wore, so I looked at the film as a whole design concept, rather than just
reproducing individual pieces."
Everything came together in the re-creation of one of the most famous moments in Diana's life
-- the Martin Bashir interview in which Diana said with a candor that shocked the Royal Family and
the nation: "There were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded."
Watts felt it was in many ways her most important scene. "It was probably the hardest part of
the film for me, because I knew there would be clear comparisons drawn. I was very invested in
getting it right, the phrasing of the voice, the looks in the eyes and the way she articulated the words.
I had a lot of fear about it but it was also very exciting," she says.
No matter how great the pressure, Watts always felt she had to find a way to make the role
organic, to comfortably disappear inside it. "You don't want to get caught up in mimicry -- my aim was for the performance to be a truthful one, to be a very personal interpretation and not an imitation," she
That interpretation left many on the set deeply moved. "It was shocking how good she was in
that scene," says Hirschbiegel. "It was like seeing a ghost, watching Naomi giving the answers to
Bashir exactly the way Diana did it back then."
Watts says one thing she always kept in mind in her performance is that Diana's sons might
see it. "Obviously, now they're grown men, but I really do care about how they feel. I think they
understand that their mother was the most famous woman of all time and that this is an important
piece of history -- a story that had to be told and would be told. Perhaps it's fresher than they would
have liked, but everything is quite immediate these days, isn't it?"
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