Kristen Stewart has earned early Oscar buzz for her performance as Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s “Spencer,” which is making its way through the fall festival circuit. It turns out her decision to take on the role came from gut instinct. Speaking during a conversation broadcast as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, Stewart said she hadn’t even read the “Spencer” script by Steven Knight before she told Larraín she was interested in playing the beloved British icon.
“He called me on the phone. At first I hadn’t read the script yet, and he proposed this idea and said he was doing this sort of weird tone poem about Diana, and asked whether or not I would be interested in tackling the subject at all, before he sent the script,” she said. “Kind of without thinking, very irresponsibly, I said ‘Yes, absolutely.'”
Stewart said normally when she takes on a role she comes from a place of “trust me, I can do this,” but when she said yes to Larraín she “did not have that.” The actress added, “I could have totally fucked it up.”
“In the moment right before I was going to say, in a word, yes or no, I was like ‘Who are you if you don’t say yes?,” Stewart continued.
“Spencer,” directed by “Jackie” director Larraín and written by “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight, takes a lyrical approach to the story of Diana, describing itself as a “fable” that takes place over three tumultuous days in 1991 before the princess divorces Prince Charles. That approach worked well with Stewart’s sensibilities.
“My favorite kinds of movies are explorations and cultivating that controlled chaos, that’s how you make discoveries that are worth photographing,” the actress said, adding she didn’t feel pressure to play a pitch-perfect Diana as a result.
“She’s such a live wire and somebody who has this incredibly disarming, casual, contagious, beautiful, empathetic, warm energy that reaches out, but at the same time you always feel like there’s something wrong — she’s protecting something,” Stewart said. “You never know what’s going to happen. She walks into the room and the earth starts shaking. So I knew there was no way to play this part perfectly and therefore it was easier. Or at least easier to not be so intimidated and so daunted. I could only be my version of that and kind of hope that if I learned everything about her and absorbed her and kind of meld, and be both me and her in some sort of weird way, it was going to be the best version.”
There was one piece of Diana that Stewart knew she had to get right: Her experience as a mother.
“I think that her strength and her power and her feral, unstoppable force of nature really, really comes out when she was with her kids. She wasn’t very good at protecting herself, but she was really good at protecting them,” she said. “If you don’t get that right, you don’t get her right.”
“Spencer” is set to be released in theaters November 5 by Neon and Topic Studios.