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Naomi Watts Replaces Jessica Chastain As Princess Diana In Oliver Hirschbiegel's Biopic 'Caught In Flight'

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist February 9, 2012 at 7:16AM

It's almost impressive at this point that we've gotten this far down the line (nearly fifteen years after her death) without some kind of film focusing on the life of Princess Diana, the ill-fated tabloid sweetheart who married Prince Charles, the heir to the English throne, only for the marriage to swiftly disintegrate. They divorced in 1995, and Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris two years later (the events of which are depicted in Stephen Frears' "The Queen," in which Diana only appears via archive footage.)
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Naomi Watts Princess Diana

It's almost impressive at this point that we've gotten this far down the line (nearly fifteen years after her death) without some kind of film focusing on the life of Princess Diana, the ill-fated tabloid sweetheart who married Prince Charles, the heir to the English throne, only for the marriage to swiftly disintegrate. They divorced in 1995, and Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris two years later (the events of which are depicted in Stephen Frears' "The Queen," in which Diana only appears via archive footage.)

But the last couple of years have started to see movement on various projects, with names like Charlize Theron, Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson and, more recently, Carey Mulligan, bandied about as possibilites to play the late Queen of Hearts. But the most concrete news came last year, when it was announced that Oliver Hirschbiegel, the German helmer of "Downfall," would direct "Caught In Flight," which would focus on Diana's affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan, and that woman of the moment Jessica Chastain was in talks to take the lead role.

However, word has been quiet since then, and when we spoke to Chastain in Marrakech in December, the actress told us that "when you're playing a real person you have to be as absolutely aware and  educated as you can be on their life and that you're telling the right story in the right way. So all of us involved in this project are looking to make sure that if and when it happens, it will be with great respect... it's a huge risk, which makes me want to do it more, but I also want to make sure it's the right story."

Well, it looks like her doubts couldn't be assuaged, as Deadline report from the market in Berlin that Chastain is out. Fortunately, they haven't downgraded too far (or at all), as backers Ecosse Films ("Wuthering Heights") have announced that Oscar-nominee Naomi Watts has stepped into the role for the project, which is penned by Stephen Jeffreys ("The Libertine").

While it's a shame that Chastain's packed schedule (she's about to film Kathryn Bigelow's Bin Laden movie) wasn't able to accomodate the project, we're glad that Watts has found a lead role, particularly as some of her more recent turns ("Dream House," "J. Edgar") have been somewhat thankless. But with this, and "The Impossible" and "The Grandmothers" on the way, things are certainly looking up. Filming should get underway in the U.K. late in the year.

This article is related to: Naomi Watts, Diana, Oliver Hirschbiegel


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