Kristen Stewart, who plays the late Princess Diana in Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, says there’s a big difference between her as an actress going to the depths of despair on-screen over her character’s marriage to Prince Charles and the late Royal herself.
While speaking at the Toronto Film Festival on Wednesday, Stewart reflected on her time portraying Princess Diana and explained how she felt support on set of the biopic that comes to Toronto by way of a world premiere in Venice and a North American premiere at Telluride.
“The one difference between Diana and myself, especially, is that she was alone and I was not. I had people holding me… I had a sort of safety net,” Stewart said.
Larrain’s Spencer is set over a long Christmas weekend during which Diana decides to end her doomed marriage to Prince Charles. Stewart, while being effusive in her admiration for Princess Diana, reiterated that she and the late Royal were quite different people, despite the Hollywood actress being thrust into the glare of similar superstardom after her star turn in the Twilight franchise.
“There was no way to play this part perfectly, and therefore it was actually easier, or at least easier to not be so intimidated or daunted. Because the only way to catch something wild is to be that, and I could only be my version of that and hope that I learned everything I could learn from her and then kind of meld and kind of be both me and her in what was going to be best version,” she explained about the alchemy required to play Diana on screen.
Besides the aid of a voice coach to nail down her British accent and donning costumes, hair and make-up provided by Larrain’s creative team to play the iconic late Royal, often with her classic head-tilt pose, Stewart credits her close collaboration with the Chilean director to get Diana right on the screen.
“You have to be humane and not destroy your crew and not take advantage of people and performers and artists. But if it’s coming from the right place, you can really drive someone in the ground and they like it,” Stewart said of Larrain. “As someone with ambitions to make movies, I was revived by him and blown away by his commitment. His commitment to his vision, which was so particular and weird, was feral and it was very cool. Those are the only types of people who should be making movies.”
She had equal praise for cinematographer Claire Mathon — another veteran of Larrain’s creative team — along with costume designer Jacqueline Durran, makeup and hair designer Wakana Yoshihara, and production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas.
“Claire’s a genius. She’s a woman of very few words. She’s so watchful. She’s just not thinking of what’s she’s putting out when she’s working. She’s receiving. I could get up and run across the room and somehow she would be in front of me before I got there,” Stewart recalled.
“Some people are very caught up in their own shit — composition, lighting and what they want you to do — versus what you’re going to throw at them,” she added.
The Toronto Film Festival is set to run until Sept. 18.