Netflix’s fictional retelling of Queen Elizabeth’s ascendancy to the top of the British monarchy in The Crown is the stuff brilliant series are made of. While the first season saw enormous popularity, the second cemented its appeal among a wider audience.
The debut season of The Crown was the toast of every award ceremony and granted Claire Foy instant stardom. In terms of its female cast, the series was inherently ambitious in nature. The year Olivia Colman grabbed the Best actress Oscar trophy with her portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite, also saw her announced as the forthcoming Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. Since then, the series has gone from strength to strength. With the addition of Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, it continued its upward trajectory. It was recently announced that Elizabeth Debicki will be portraying Princess Diana.
The actress, who shot to overnight fame in the role of Hugh Laurie’s girlfriend Jed in Susanne Bier’s The Night Manager, and who appears in the soon-to-be-released Christopher Nolan film Tenet, will play the Princess of Wales in the final two seasons of the popular series, which are expected to cover the rise of the Princess, the collapse of her relationship with Prince Charles, and her subsequent death in a Parisian tunnel while traveling in a high speeding car alongside her alleged lover Dodi Al Fayed in 1997.
Watch: Elizabeth Debicki cast as Princess Diana
Bringing Diana back to life
Bringing Princess Diana to life again on screen is sure to impact British pop-culture. Despite the infidelity and disdain towards royalty, Princess Diana remains a popular and towering figure in British history. The period when she became a part of the royal family, till the time of her death, she remained both a non-conformist and a controversial figure in British history. Her stay at Kensington Palace was a turbulent phase in the history of the British monarchy, marred by her distancing from the Queen, Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, and, ultimately, divorce. The marriage, which lasted 11 years was never a fairytale. She broke traditions when she selected the names for her children and refused the services of a royal nanny, instead opting for one on her own volition. She even selected schools for her children – much against royal protocols.
Watch: The Royal Documentary on the life and death of Princess Diana
23 years since her death, despite the flaws and a stubborn image, Diana still remains an iconic figure in British minds. The work she did, far removed from the royal family, in the field of AIDS and cancer awareness and the removal of landmines from war-torn regions of the world is still remembered. In other words, her charity made her a force to reckon with. Her immense popularity could easily be gauged by the fact that close to six million people attended or watched her funeral. She was someone who heralded the era of celebrity culture beyond Hollywood. Diana remained a real charmer in the media and thus, when she was interviewed for BBC’s Panorama, she spoke directly to the camera and poured out her grief. It was a watershed moment in Diana’s popularity. She possessed an uncanny ability to sell her own life in a packaged format for the press.
Elizabeth Debicki as Diana
Debicki won’t be the first actor playing that the character of Diana, which has been explored on television and cinema on several occasions. Caroline Bliss, Serena Scott Thomas, Julie Cox, Amy Seccombe and Genevieve O’Reilly all portrayed Diana on TV, while Naomi Watts played the princess in the film Diana. It’s interesting to note that none could leave an impression, and today the roles are at best forgotten. With these parameters, it’s a tall order for Debicki – both to leave a mark as well as to ensure the series goes out on a high.
Debicki is another export to the world of glamour from Down Under, joining an illustrious list of stars like Margot Robbie, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Teresa Palmer. For someone who won a bursary for being an outstanding student while pursuing a drama degree at Melbourne’s Victorian College of Arts, her beginning in the world of arclight too was outstanding, with Buz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. With directors like Steve McQueen, Christopher Nolan, Susanne Bier and James Gunn seeking out Debicki for their films, her credentials are more or less certified. The Crown gives Debicki an opportunity at a role that has yet to be cracked. It also gives Debicki an opportunity to become established in the hearts of the British public forever, just like the iconic character she is portraying.
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