Princess Diana and her tragic story have seen a resurgence in the popular discourse as of late, and rightfully so. In November 2020, the fourth season of The Crown introduced a young Diana (played to perfection by Emma Corrin) and the struggles she faced almost immediately upon joining the British royal family. That portrayal led to an explosion of deep-dive podcasts and thinkpieces about the doomed Princess of Wales and forced us all to rethink our complicity in the horrific treatment of women, and especially young famous women, by the press and society as a whole. More recently, after Meghan Markle opened up to Oprah Winfrey about the severe impact of impossible royal expectations and ruthless press scrutiny on her mental health, it became impossible not to notice how much the duchess' experience echoed Diana's—a similarity that Prince Harry himself even pointed out.
Next up, we'll dive even deeper into one of the most challenging moments of Diana's life in the upcoming biopic Spencer, titled after the royal's maiden name and scheduled for release this fall. Here's everything we know so far about the film, from the star-studded cast to the cataclysmic plotline.
Who's starring in Spencer?
The lead role will be played by Kristen Stewart. In the first official snapshot, which was released in February, Stewart is fully unrecognizable in a black netted hat, black bow blouse, and bold red jacket straight out of the early '90s.
"Spencer is a dive inside an emotional imagining of who Diana was at a pivotal turning point in her life," Stewart said in a statement about the film earlier this year. "It is a physical assertion of the sum of her parts, which starts with her given name: Spencer. It is a harrowing effort for her to return to herself, as Diana strives to hold onto what the name Spencer means to her."
Other cast members include Timothy Spall, recognizable as Peter Pettigrew from the Harry Potter films, who will play Prince Philip; Sean Harris, of Mission: Impossible and The King fame, as Prince Charles; and Sally Hawkins, perhaps best known for her Oscar-nominated lead role in The Shape of Water, who will play an unnamed part.
On the crew side, the movie is in extremely good hands with director Pablo Larraín, whose past biopic bonafides include Jackie and Neruda, and writer Steven Knight, who wrote Locked Down and Serenity, among many other credits, and is also the creator of Peaky Blinders.
What is Spencer about?
Spencer takes place across just three days—specifically, the holiday weekend spent at the queen's Sandringham country estate during which Diana decides she must divorce Charles. With such heavy subject matter to wade through, Stewart has described the film as a very "meditative" project.
"This is a really kind of poetic, really internalized imagining of maybe the heaviest three days' time before she does something as gnarly as leaving the royal family," the actress told Entertainment Tonight in February. "I'm just sort of reading everything that I can and then forgetting it, because it's kind of a really internalized story."
As quick refresher, by the time the early '90s rolled around, Diana and Charles had been through a decade of sustained marital strife, despite welcoming two sons along the way. The movie likely takes place at the end of 1991, since that's when a turning point occurred in their public-facing marriage: Prior to then, they'd put on stoic faces for the press and kept all details of their struggling relationship under wraps, but 1992 was full of dropped bombshells and barely covered-up leaks about their extramarital affairs, resulting in the queen granting them permission to formally separate at the end of 1992. (They weren't allowed to divorce until several years later, in 1996.)
A press release from Neon Pictures in late August provided more context to what the film will delve into: "The marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles has long since grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. There’s eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game. But this year, things will be profoundly different."
When will Spencer come out?
The film will release in theaters on November 5, 2021.
Is there a trailer for Spencer?
On August 26, Neon Pictures dropped the first gripping teaser trailer for the film. In the one-minute clip, the staff at Sandringham prepares the estate before the royal family descends upon it for the holidays. But don't expect any Christmas cheer here—accompanied by a haunting tune, Kristen Stewart's Princess Diana is shown spinning out of control, hurting, and searching for solace in Sally Hawkins's character. In the last few seconds of the trailer, Hawkins says to Stewart, "They know everything" to which Stewart responds in Diana's trademark breathy accent, "They don't."
But before you watch you might want to prepare yourself for just how uncanny of a resemblance there is between Stewart and Lady Di: In pictures from the set, they're even more indistinguishable, with Stewart sporting Diana's exact side-parted blond lob and several extremely '90s outfits that are definitely straight out of the princess' playbook.
On August 25, Neon Pictures also unveiled the film's first poster—a dramatic image of Stewart's Lady Di weeping into her stunning, embellished white ball gown—on Twitter. The social media post was simply punctuated with the apt yet gutting words, "Every fairy tale ends."