THE CREATION OF Kristen
Marie Claire Australia|February 2022
A child star who experienced the intense glare of fame as a teen, Kristen Stewart knew exactly what to draw on in her portrayal of Princess Diana. No wonder, then, that the film is set to earn the actress her first Oscar nomination.
James Mottram

On a bright sunny October day, tourists and residents sip tea in the courtyard of the Corinthia. Upstairs in this tranquil five-star London hotel, in a second-floor suite, is Kristen Stewart. Meeting Hollywood stars can sometimes feel like being ushered into the presence of royalty, but Stewart is different. There are no airs and graces. She slips off her white stilettos and, barefoot, takes up a Buddha-like pose on the brown chaise longue in front of me.

The 31 year-old is having what might be considered a “moment” – a hugely significant year both professionally and personally. Her new movie, Spencer, sees her unveil a magnetic performance as British royal Diana, Princess of Wales, whose death in 1997 threw the world into mourning. Stewart was seven years old when Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris, but the collective outpouring of grief left a lasting impression. “I remember flowers in front of Buckingham Palace,” she says. “And I remember people reacting like something really happened.”

Twenty-four years later, Diana remains a global icon. This past year has seen a titular musical hit on Broadway, while Netflix show The Crown introduced the beloved princess – played by Emma Corrin – into its compelling take on the British royals. “I am a real fan of the show,” says Stewart, who binged the first four seasons over three nights when she got the role. With Australia’s Elizabeth Debicki playing Diana in season five, set in the same early Nineties-era as Spencer, comparisons will be inevitable.

Yet it is hard to imagine a performance more empathetic than Stewart’s, one that’s already gained rave reviews from critics and is set to earn her the first Oscar nomination of her career. This is light years from her days as Bella Swan in Twilight, the hit vampire yarn that propelled her to Diana-levels of fame. It feels far closer to the 2019 film Seberg, in which she played 1960s starlet Jean Seberg, who lapsed into a horrifying mental decline after being targeted by the FBI. Or perhaps 2016’s Personal Shopper, another film dealing with matters spiritual and psychological. “Everyone asks me if I was scared or daunted or intimidated [to play Diana] and the answer is yes, absolutely, intensely,” says Stewart. “I just didn’t want to be the type of person at this stage to shy away from something like that.” Set over three days during Christmas 1991, as Diana spends time with the royals at Sandringham, Spencer is at the opposite end of the spectrum to The Crown. It squarely focuses on Diana’s isolated, paranoid perspective – even featuring troubling scenes of her self-harming and struggling with bulimia.

“She was really honest about her relationship with her body and food,” says Stewart. “And this feeling that she wanted to disappear, that she was just diminishing, that she was wasting away, it became so physical for her. To live inside a female body, an unacknowledged, muzzled female body, is a violent experience and it is not easy to talk about. It’s a complicated matter, obviously. But she was really vocal about it. And so we had to go there.”

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