Little has been said about Diana, director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s film about the late Princess of Wales. Naomi Watts stars in the title role, but other than a pair of trailers showcasing the actress’s transformation into the iconic figure, the film’s marketing campaign has remained mum, despite its looming September release date in the UK.
The film’s status as a potential awards contender is obvious, given the Academy Awards’ penchant for celebrating performances that aim to imitate capture the essence of real-life people. In recent years, stars like Jamie Foxx (Ray), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) have walked away with Oscar gold for doing just that, and this latest news makes it clear that Diana hopes to place Watts in their company.
Entertainment One – the studio behind Diana – has announced plans to release the film to a limited number of theaters on November 1, before expanding to additional theaters in the following weeks. Written by playwright Stephen Jeffreys, the film is based on the book Diana: Her Last Love by Kate Snell and chronicles the last two years of Diana’s life, including her divorce from Prince Charles and untimely death in 1997.
The release date certainly follows a common trajectory for an awards contender, as such films often open slowly in the hopes of building buzz. Hirschbiegel is perhaps best known for the Oscar-nominated foreign film Downfall, and Watts is a past nominee as well for both 21 Grams and The Impossible. So there’s certainly reason for the studio to place their hopes in Diana.
However, this Oscar season may prove to be a crowded one, with releases like Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (starring the equally Oscar-friendly Cate Blanchett), David O. Russell’s American Hustle and Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis still on the horizon. Biopics have largely proven to receive awards almost exclusively for their lead performances – after all, in many cases, the people are the story itself – but Diana’s is a tale that the general public is perhaps more familiar with than most.
In fact, media scrutiny placed an integral part in the final chapters of her life (the same period the film covers). Therefore, Diana may run the risk of telling a story that a large segment of moviegoers already know all too well. The film may have to prove itself more than merely a showcase for Watts’ performance work to truly stand out among the crowd.
Diana also stars Naveen Andrews (Lost), Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Charles Edwards and Juliet Stevenson.
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As mentioned above, Diana will hit U.S. theaters in limited release on November 1, 2013.