Practically since the entire premise for The Crown was first laid out, the Netflix series has been plagued by a crucial question: How will it address Princess Diana’s death? The beloved royal died in 1997, at the age of 36, after a car she was riding in crashed in a Parisian tunnel while being chased by paparazzi. Many viewers have long worried that recreating the accident onscreen would be insensitive to Diana’s family and to her own memory, even for a show that aims to address the many ups and downs of the first 50 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
Those concerns have reached new heights in the last two years, ever since Diana finally appeared on the series in its fourth season, played to heartbreaking, Golden Globe-winning perfection by Emma Corrin. With season 5 of The Crown now out—which sees Elizabeth Debicki taking over the role of the Princess of Wales—the familiar debate over the ethics of portraying Lady Di’s tragic death onscreen is back
The fifth season of The Crown does not cover Princess Diana's death. The fifth season’s 10 episodes stretch about a decade, from the late 1980s to mid-1997, just a few weeks before Diana’s death at the end of August that year.
In the final episode of the season, we see then-Prince Charles (played by Dominic West) attending the handoff of Hong Kong’s sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China, which took place on July 1, 1997. Meanwhile, Diana is shown packing for a trip to St. Tropez at the invitation of Mohamed Fayed; it was after that mid-July getaway that Diana was believed to have struck up a romance with Mohamed’s son Dodi, who died alongside her in the crash.
The final scenes suggest that the princess' death may be covered in season six. Amid growing uproar over the potential reenactment, a Netflix spokesperson confirmed to The Sun last month that “the exact moment of the crash impact will not be shown.”
Instead, as a source working on the production told Deadline in October, the show will focus on the events that led up to the accident and its aftermath. “It’s the run-up: the car leaving The Ritz after midnight with paparazzi in pursuit, and then the aftermath with the British Ambassador to France swinging into action with the Foreign Office, and then the subsequent constitutional aftermath,” the source said.
What have the show’s cast and crew said about recreating the accident?
The Crown’s cast members seem to be on board with that approach. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Debicki praised showrunner Peter Morgan and the entire crew, who “do their utmost to really handle everything with such sensitivity and truth and complexity.”
Her onscreen ex echoed the sentiment: “It’s a hell of a season, because it deals with Diana’s death and appalling scenes, like having to break that news to your sons,” West told EW. “I’ve got two boys of that age, and so it’s a heavy, heavy responsibility to get it right and something I think we all take pretty seriously.”
That responsibility seemed to weigh especially heavily on some crew members. Deadline’s on-set source said, “We’ve been dreading getting to this point. The countdown is two weeks, and while we’re calmly carrying on, it’s fair to acknowledge that there’s a certain anxiety, a palpable sense of being slightly on edge. I mean, there’s bombshell sensitivity surrounding this one.”
Meanwhile, a source told The Sun around the same time that some on the production were feeling “very uncomfortable” with the idea of recreating the crash for entertainment purposes, no matter how sensitively it would be handled.
“The show always tried to present a fictional version of royal history with as much sensitivity as possible. But lately, as things get closer to the present day, it feels harder to strike that balance,” they said. “With some of those moments still so fresh and upsetting, it feels as though a line is being crossed. Some production staff are now starting to speak up about their feelings.”
Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.
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