Steven Knight interview: ‘Spencer’ writer
“We wanted it to be a fairy story, because she was a princess so and I think all fairy stories are horror stories with happy endings,” reveals Steven Knight about constructing his screenplay for “Spencer” as a fairy tale rather than just another biopic. “They’re all pretty horrific, children or people being captured in a castle,” he suggests. “So this fairy story, I wanted to tell with the knowledge that it should be quite scary, because we’re in her head and she’s quite scared.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Spencer,” directed by Chilean helmer Pablo Larraín, offers a glimpse into the mindset of the late Princess Diana, desperate to break free from her life as an outsider in the British royal family. The award-winning Neon film stars Kristen Stewart as Diana, who grapples with ending her loveless marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) on a cold December morning in 1991 against the backdrop of the royal family’s Christmas festivities at the Queen’s estate in Sandringham. The film focuses on a transformative crossroads in Diana’s life, re-imagining what might have happened in the lead up to her decision to break free from the family’s suffocating grasp.
After its world premiere in-competition at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 3, the film received raves from critics, with Oscar buzz building for Stewart’s compelling performance as the troubled princess, which takes center stage throughout the film, alongside a strong supporting cast including Timothy Spall, Sean Harris and Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins, all of whom play key member’s of the family’s household staff.
“Spencer” is introduced onscreen as “a fable from a true tragedy,” putting the audience on notice that the film is not a biopic about the people’s princess as such, but rather a fictionalized rendering of a private moment in the life of a very public figure.
“I was very conscious of the pitfalls involved in a project like this and didn’t really want to do a biopic because first of all it’s been done, but also a biopic presents you with its own beginning middle and end, which really limits you as to what you can do,” Knight explains. “Diana was probably one of the most observed human beings in human history,” he says, revealing that he “wanted to get inside her head and observe from her point of view, the world around us, reversing what normally would happen [in a biopic]. Once you do that, once you’re in someone’s head, in their perception and their imagination, it gives you permission, I think, to start to be something other than totally realistic.”