By Liza Foreman | Thompson on Hollywood November 6, 2011 at 7:53PM
Many of the deals announced at the American Film Market will never get made. One hot ticket item that could go forward is current it-girl Jessica Chastain starring as Princess Diana in Caught in Flight, reports Liza Foreman.
California beauty Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter, The Help, The Tree of Life), is to play the late Diana, Princess of Wales in Caught in Flight, a controversial love story based on a real-life affair that the princess long kept under wraps.
To be directed by Germany’s Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall, The Invasion), the film revolves around a secret affair between the late princess and a heart surgeon, Dr. Hasnat Kahn, who was said to be the love of her life. Described as a “love story between a princess locked in a tower and an ordinary man,” the film is set to go into pre-production in March 2012 for the British production company, Ecosse Films, whose credits include Nowhere Boy and Mrs. Brown.
The film is readying to shoot in a number of locations, including Pakistan, Angola, the South of France and Paris, where the late princess died in a fatal paparazzi car chase with her lover at that time, Dodi Al-Fayed. The film is budgeted at GBP 9 million ($15 million).
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.
Tim Haslam of Britain’s Embankment Films is handling sales. In his director’s statement, circulating to buyers at the AFM, Hirschbiegel talks about the compassion and wisdom that Dr. Kahn showed the princess. Hirchbiegel has a track record for exploring iconic figures on film and casting them in a different light. Witness Downfall, which looked at Hitler’s dying days.
Those who have read the script for Caught in Flight, by Steven Jeffreys (The Libertine), say that the late Princess is not cast in a particularly favorable light; she is shown as a damaged person who stalks the doctor after he ends the affair.
At one time Pathe was trying to assemble a movie with Keira Knightley as Princess Diana.