After the London premiere of Diana, British critics have hammered the film and Noami Watts. She must be feeling the total lack of love that has been shown for this dubious biopic. One critic went so far as saying that, in the looks department, Wesley Snipes in a blonde wig would more closely resemble the late princess.
While many have said that Watts has gotten Diana’s mannerisms down pat, the overall view is that something was lacking in her performance. Which is not really fair. The 44 year-old actress did the best she could with the material given.
Before the film premiered in London, Watts went on record to say that she did not intend to do an impersonation of Diana. Unfortunately the film was so careful in its depiction of the princess that the only thing left was imitation.
Watts is touchy about it. On September 3 this year, she stormed out of an interview with radio host Simon Mayo. She left Mayo, the presenter of Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review on BBC Radio 5 Live, mid interview and no reason was given. Mayo tweeted about the incident on Twitter afterward saying that he still didn’t know just what he had done.
In response to a Twitter follower who asked why, Mayo tweeted back that he “had no idea” and put it down to his questioning style. Who knows, perhaps Mayo asked Naomi Watts about how she felt being compared to Wesley Snipes wearing a wig?
The news that the film will be going straight to DVD in less than a month after its cinema release seems to indicate that the producers, and the studio, have realized they made a mistake.
Several were made. The decision to use “ridiculous” dialogue; the leaving out of the two royal princes apart from a tiny cameo and perhaps most damaging of all, to hold the red carpet event in England. The one country that still has vivid memories of “the people’s princess” and where the rumors of conspiracy still surround her death.
The filmmakers would have been better off to open in America where the fascination for all things royal can almost guarantee a good opening at least. Here, critics almost universally panned the film. Using phrases such as “atrocious,” embarrassing, and most damning of all, “terribly, terribly dull.”
One journalist for the United Kingdom newspaper The Telegraph was meant to interview Watts, alone, and was told that the director would also be present. Apparently, the English interviews had not been going well and Naomi needed some help, or as the journalist called, some sort of damage control.
But Watts has lived outside of the United Kingdom for some time now. In her reported home in Los Angeles with Liev Schrieber she has obviously forgotten the British press attitude to ex-pats who have chosen to leave the shores of England.
The long knives were going to be out regardless of how well she portrayed a national, and well-loved, icon. If you don’t believe it, look at the number of one star ratings the picture got.
Some critics were kinder, with one giving the film a three star rating and another saying that it was a decent “weepy” film. Most though, let loose with verbal crudgels to bludgeon the film and the actress unmercifully.
The overall judgement was that Naomi Watts was the wrong choice to play Diana Princess of Wales. None more so than the UK’s Daily Mirror. It was this paper’s critic who stated that Naomi, “looks, acts and sounds nothing like the Princess of Wales”. It was also the critic who opined that Wesley Snipes in a blonde wig would have pulled off the portrayal more effectively. Such criticisms are unfair to Watts, whose biggest sin was not to portray the people’s princess, but to be British and live in another country.
By Michael Smith