It’s a princess cage match!
I guess we should have seen this coming, with the worldwide popularity of the royal wedding this past spring and our obsession with the Cambridges, that there would be a rash of princess-themed movies in the wake of that interest. First it was Grace of Monaco and what is sure to be a competitive casting process for Grace Kelly, and now comes the announcement that Jessica Chastain will play Princess Diana in Caught in Flight, which will detail Diana’s affair with Dr. Hasnat Kahn, rumored to have been the love of her life.
The plot sounds pretty juicy, promising to expose Diana as a “damaged person” and highlight her (alleged) unflattering behavior when Khan ended the relationship. There’s a lot to admire about Diana, most notably her extensive charity work post-divorce, but increasingly it feels like we’re supposed to forget the less than noble parts, the parts that made her such a complicated and intriguing person to begin with. I’m sure a lot of people will be offended at the idea of “exposing” Diana in film-form, but these sorts of projects are always more interesting than professional whitewashes.
So now we have two princess projects portraying iconic women and two opportunities for an actress to, potentially, maker her career. Chastain has had a hell of a year, appearing in The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Debt, The Help, Texas Killing Fields and Coriolanus, and she has Wild Salome, The Wettest County in the World and another project with Terrence Malick coming up. Chastain is very busy, very in demand. Is playing Princess Diana really her best move right now? This, like the Grace Kelly role, feels like a break-out opportunity, not a second-stage move. When the Grace Kelly project was announced I texted Lainey that I thought it would be Chastain simply because she’s so in demand, but I’m not sure that would have been that great of a decision for her either.
Certainly I think Chastain can portray Princess Diana. She’s talented and has a lady-like presence that fits with an upper-crusty princess. And she has one of those faces that can look like a dozen different people, so while she might not be a dead ringer for Diana, I do think she’ll manage a reasonable facsimile of her. I’m just stuck on whether or not Chastain needs to do this to begin with. Keira Knightley was rumored for a different Diana project last year that turned out to be a non-starter, and like Chastain, I wonder if Keira needs this kind of role. Like, what does this do for them? Neither has anything to prove, acting wise. We know they’re good actresses. Keira’s already done the titled thing with The Duchess and Chastain did a courtly turn in Coriolanus. I just don’t see what new ground this treads.
Still, whether it’s a good idea or not, Chastain is in as Diana. Which means we need our Grace Kelly to go head-to-head with Chastain in a battle for Best Interpretation: Princess Division. My vote now for Grace Kelly? Rosamund Pike.