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Princess Diana director reveals surprising thing viewers won't know about late royal

New documentary film The Princess is is available to watch on Sky and HBO

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Eve Crosbie
TV & Film Writer
August 14, 2022
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Twenty-five years may have passed since the death of Princess Diana, but the public interest in her life and legacy shows no signs of waning. From portrayals of her in Spencer and The Crown to the reissue of her famous 'black sheep' sweater, it seems that the late Princess of Wales is still at the forefront of our minds.

MORE: How Princess Diana would have reacted to Prince Harry and Meghan quitting royal life

Which means that it comes as no surprise that a brand new documentary film exploring Diana's life is hitting screens this week. The Princess, directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ed Perkins and produced by double Oscar-winning producer Simon Chinn, tells Diana's life story exclusively through contemporaneous archival footage.

WATCH: Check out an exclusive clip from new Diana documentary The Princess

The pair, along with co-producer Jonathan Chinn, trawled through "hundreds of hours" of archival footage to create a bold and immersive narrative that explores the complicated relationship between Diana and the public.

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In an exclusive interview with HELLO!, Ed said: "The starting point for me was, 'Can we try to make a film that explores why was it that tens of millions of people cheered her on when she got married? Why was it that we all dissected everything she did, everything she wore, everything she said? And then why after she died, was there this unprecedented outpouring of grief?'"

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"So while it's a film about Diana, it's also a film about all of us and our relationship with the monarchy and celebrity and our complicity in this story."

Simon added: "The film tracks the changing attitudes towards the monarchy over that period, precisely through the story of Diana because she was such a lightning rod and because she helped the nation access, its feelings about the monarchy, in a way that no one ever had before."

princess diana doc magazine

Princess Diana spent 17 years in the pubic eye after marrying Prince Charles at 19

In the film, audiences see Diana transform from a shy and seemingly ill-prepared teenager to a self-possessed woman determined to break free from the confines that being a member of the British royal family has placed on her – and the intense media scrutiny that comes with it. In the exclusive clip above, she is seen calling a press conference to announce her decision to withdraw from public life, just four years before her tragic death, caused in part by a high-speed pursuit by paparazzi through the streets of Paris.

princess diana doc grief

Her death in 1997 was met with an outpouring of grief

However, the most surprising thing that Ed and Simon came to learn about Diana after getting to know her intimately through watching endless hours of footage for the documentary? Just how intelligent she was.

"Not clever in the kind of 'book smart' way, but clever in this instinctual way," Simon explained. "She really understood what she had and how to leverage her power very clearly but she wasn't a strategist, she didn't have some sort of gameplan. We came to learn in the research that all of that stuff was done in a fairly knee-jerk way."

princess diana doc 1992

The documentary explores the complicated relationship between Diana and the public

Ed added: "I saw someone who – either consciously or unconsciously – was very aware of how to tell her own private story publicly through her own body language. She didn't speak [publicly] that much about her life so she knew how to let us know how she was feeling. That's clever, that takes an emotional intelligence and an understanding of your own power and communication. And I think you see that all throughout [the film]."

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As for whether they would follow up the film with another exploration of a royal family member, the pair were keen to stress that they don't think anyone will ever compare to Diana in terms of being such a unique subject – but are not ruling it out.

"Never say never, I would be up for doing something maybe if we were given access to follow the accession," Simon said when asked and Ed agreed.

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