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Who played Diana, Princess of Wales best?

Who played Diana, Princess of Wales best?

The buzz around director Pablo Larraín’s depiction of a fateful weekend in Diana’s life was instant, but the film ultimately divided audiences. One thing critics agreed on? The central performance from Kristen Stewart was a career-defining one. The drama takes place over the course of three days in 1991, when the Princess joined the royal family for a traditional Christmas at Sandringham, only to decide once and for all that she needed to end her marriage. A vintage Chanel-clad Stewart’s depiction of a fragile and isolated Diana earned her her first Oscar nomination. 

Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown, Season 5

Photo Credit: Keith Bernstein

Has there ever been a more perfect casting than that of doe-eyed former ballerina Elizabeth Debicki as Lady Di? Not only is she a trained dancer (one of the royal’s great passions), she perfected her RP on the set of Vita & Virginia (2018), stands over 6ft tall, and looks undeniably fabulous in the “revenge dress”. “I hope I’ve done something interesting for her,” Debicki told Giles Hattersley in the December 2022 issue of British Vogue. “That’s the ultimate goal.” Indeed, her take on the Princess in her most beleaguered and beguiling period is one of the highlights of the show’s most anticipated season yet. 

Naomi Watts in Diana

Naomi Watts as the royal in 2013’s Diana


In all the breathless anticipation that surrounded Debicki picking up the baton as Diana in season five of The Crown, one could almost forget that another Australian took on the role nine years earlier. Naomi Watts played the People’s Princess in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Diana (2013), which charted the two years leading up to her untimely death in 1997. The project was plagued with problems from the outset, and ultimately excoriated by critics. Watts, who pored over archival footage and wore clothes belonging to Princess Diana in her efforts to inhabit the role, later said she was “seduced” by the opportunity to play such a fantastic character, but added: “With risk, there is every chance it’s going to fail. If you have to go down with that sinking ship, so be it.” One for true royal obsessives only. 

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