After reporting on the amazing transformation Naomi Watts made to play the late Princess Diana in biopic Caught In Flight, that has since been renamed Diana, I had an interesting discussion on my personal blog “the musings of monique” with Melissa over how Prince William and Prince Harry must feel about this movie being made. After all, it is about a fairly controversial time in Diana’s life, and will focus on her relationship with heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan, as well as looking at her time with Dodi Fayed, who she was with at the time she died. The movie will also include her death, aged 36, in a car in a Paris tunnel in 1997 with Dodi.
Mel was saying that she didn’t understand the fascination with making movies about historical events when they are within living memory of most people, “I reckon a bit of distance (like 20-30 years) would make for better biopics … sometimes we actually have a clearer perspective on things several decades later and after most of the main players have died rather than 15 years later when most of the characters involved are still living and working and generally still in the middle of their own stories.” And although I love biopics, I completely understand what she was saying. While I really want to see this film, I wonder how William and Harry will feel about it.
Put yourself in their shoes. They’ve grown up in the public eye with the weight of responsibility on their (mainly William’s) shoulders. During this time, their parents separated and then got divorced after their mother publicly accused their father (and rightly so) of having an affair with their now stepmother, while she also had an affair. They watched the press follow their mother everywhere like a moth to a flame as they reported on two high-profile relationships. She was tragically killed in a car accident and the whole world had a front row seat to their grief.
Would you really want a movie about the final years of your mother’s life to be made for all to see? I know I wouldn’t. No matter how ‘accurately’ the events are portrayed, they will still differ to how William and Harry remember them happening. You can’t capture a feeling or a memory perfectly.
I would hazard a guess that if the Princes ever do see Diana, they probably won’t be happy and it wouldn’t be the first time. Rosanne Cash, daughter of the music legend Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian Liberto, was not happy with the film, Walk The Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, that focused on her parents marriage and divorce, Cash’s rise to fame and remarriage to June Carter.
In an interview with The Harvard Crimson back in 2010, Cash spoke of her feelings about the film:
When asked what she thought about Walk the Line, the 2005 Hollywood blockbuster about Johnny Cash, she said, “I thought what anyone would think if they made a Hollywood version of your childhood.”
“Nobody would like that,” she added.
Cash said she refused to go to the premiere, but watched the movie before its release with her teenage daughter.
The movie was “painful,” Cash said, “because it had the three most damaging events of my childhood: my parent’s divorce, my father’s drug addiction, and something else bad that I can’t remember now.”
Her daughter, on the other hand, liked the movie. Cash said she realized the movie was not for her enjoyment, but rather “for other people”—for them and her daughter, “it’s just some story.”
No one wants to see their family’s dirty laundry aired for all to see and I feel that that is exactly what Diana is going to be. Having said that, I still want to see it (so go on, call me a hypocrite), but I agree with what Mel said earlier, it would be much better if a significant amount of time passed between when an event happened and when a movie is made about it.
How do you feel about biopics when some of the people concerned are still alive? Will you be seeing Diana?