American actress Jessica Chastain is to dye her hair blonde, cut it short, put on a British accent for the first time and step into the daunting shoes of the late Princess Diana for what is sure to be a highly controversial biopic, Caught in Flight. The film is a British production from Ecosse Films, the studio behind the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy and the movie about Queen Victoria’s bereaved relationship with Scottish servant John Brown and is a package being sold to distributors at the American Film Market.
Written by The Libertine scribe Steven Jeffreys, the film will focus on the post-Charles divorce years from 1995 and up to Diana’s death in 1997 and her ‘secret affair’ with Dr. Hasnat Khan, regarded by some to be the true ‘love of her life’. The relationship came before she dated Dodi Fayed, and some speculate (as they do about all aspects of her life) that she rebounded with the son of the billionaire as a way to make Hasnat jealous as she was devastated their relationship ended so abruptly.
Jeffreys’ script portrays the former Princess Royal “as a damaged person who stalks the doctor after he ends the affair” and she is “not cast in a particularly favorable light”. Miss Chastain, you are very brave Californian girl to take on this movie but it’s the latest challenging role from an actress who with Tree of Life, Take Shelter, Texas Killing Fields, Coriolanus, Wilde Salome and The Help all released this year, has emerged as one of dramatic cinema’s key female talents.
The princess met Dr. Hasnat at the Royal Brompton Hospital in 1995 when she was visiting a friend who was recovering from heart surgery. The couple pursued a quiet two-year affair. Dr. Kahn, who she named “Mr. Wonderful,” maintained an eleven-year silence over the relationship, until he spoke The Telegraph about the affair in 2008. In the article, the relationship is described as being so serious that Diana was thinking of converting to Islam. She wore traditional dress to meet his family on a visit to Pakistan. “The Khans are deeply religious,” the newspaper reported, and “his wall-hangings include a painting that has an inscription of verses from the Koran.” Dr Khan left Britain in 2007. Diana is said to have been heartbroken that he wanted to end the relationship.
There’s no mention as to whether Diana’s death on that fateful night in Paris would be touched upon but the biopic sounds controversial enough that they would be probably wise to leave that out.
The film will be directed by German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel and if you are familiar with his work, you will instantly know this isn’t even close to being his most controversial film. This is the man who made the defining biopic of Adolf Hitler with 2004′s Der Untergang (Downfall) that portrayed a human leader out of the German Nazi leader dictator who was responsible for the calculated death of millions. He was the first director to cast a German in the role of Hitler for a German production and Downfall is one of the last decade’s most important historical films and in comparison a movie chronicling a few traumatic years in the life of a former Royal seems small by comparison.
Therefore there probably isn’t a better director to take on this movie. Filming begins in March and it will shoot in Pakistan, Angola, the South of France and Paris. Oh wait… yeah, they probably are going there aren’t they?
Caught in Flight (awful, awful title) will be budgeted at around $15 million.
This is actually the third Diana biopic in the works. Producer Stephen Evans is trying to get a $30 million adaptation of Diana’s lifelong bodyguard Ken Wharfe’s book ‘Diana: Closely Guarded Secret” into production with Charlize Theron and Ewan McGregor but has had no luck in the past year. Meanwhile Pathé films have for a long time wanted Keira Knightley to take on a much broader biopic of the late Princess but Knightley was smart enough to do The Duchess instead (about a Diana like figure of yesteryear) and has been stalling on offers for years.
But Caught in Flight has the momentum and if Ecosse Films has a package here that can sell to distributors, it won’t be long until this controversial movie goes before camera’s.