Jessica Chastain, American, cast as Princess Diana. Cue outrage!
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Here’s some news: Some people are shooting a movie about Princess Diana, that 20th century saint who kept the glittering-castle fairy tale alive by giving us two handsome princes. And those filmmaking people have cast an American woman, Jessica Chastain, in the role.
Cor blimey! We can practically see the hand-wringing now. Oh wait. We actually can see the hand-wringing.
‘Can an American actress pull off such an iconic British figure?’ Syracuse.com asks.
‘Which AMERICAN Actress Is Playing Princess Diana In Controversial New Film?’ another blog thunders.
Movieline has given it a bit more thought.
‘I’m on the record as Team Chastain from way back; she can accomplish anything she wants as far as I’m concerned,’ S.T. Vanairsdale intones. ‘Except, that is, appease a nation for whom news of their precious Diana treated as a real woman with complex needs and desires — played by an American, no less — will prove the equivalent of one police baton in the head too many.’
So why did director Oliver Hirschbiegel hire Chastain? Other than the fact that, well, she appears to be the only ingenue in Hollywood having a decent year?
Well, two things: One, this isn’t going to be the Princess Diana you know and love. It’s the skanky, stalkery, desperate princess who once had an affair with a plastic surgeon. That’s the focus of this particular story, not the Diana who hated land mines and loved her sons.
Second: Chastain is having a very hot year. (Think ‘Tree of Life,’ ‘The Help.’) Producers like actors who are having hot years. Especially actors who don’t yet have big names. That means they’re relatively cheap, but will generate oodles of buzz.
‘For investors this is a good move,’ says Bonnie Gillespie of the casting firm Cricket Feet. ‘It’s like catching any of the ‘Twilight’ kids just before ‘Twilight.’'
And lastly, well, when you’re tackling a British legend, sometimes it’s better not to be British.
‘A lot of people are going to take issue with this casting, no matter who gets put in the role,’ Gillespie says. ‘If she’s a Brit, then the issue will be that she’s not from the right place, or she didn’t look the right way, or come from the right class.’
Would you cast someone else? Tell us in comments.
— Leslie Gornstein