Sixteen years after her tragic death, the life of Princess Diana continues to captivate millions.
One man who wasn’t interested? Actor Naveen Andrews, who just so happens to star alongside Naomi Watts in this weekend’s new movie “Diana,”a biographical drama based on Kate Snell‘s 2001 book “Diana: Her Last Love,” which chronicles the last two years of the princess’ life.
“I had no interest in the royal family whatsoever prior to this film,” Andrews told me during a recent interview. “I know far more about the royals in the 14th century than the tabloid, modern royal family now. Elizabeth II doesn’t interest me one jot.”
So when he was handed the script for “Diana,” which profiles the Princess of Wales’ two-year, secret love affair with heart surgeon Hasnat Kahn, it wasn’t the royal aspect of the story that caught his eye.
“What drew me in immediately was that it just seems to be a very pure and simple love story between two ordinary people – excluding the fact that one of them was obviously nationally renowned, famous and an icon,” Andrews revealed. “It also reminded me of my favorite love story, a film called ‘Brief Encounter.’ The idea that two people have this incredible connection, and yet somehow it feels that the relationship will never work out.”
Throughout her marriage to and divorce from Prince Charles, photographs of Diana flooded tabloid magazines all over the world. Her every move was meticulously followed, including her relationship with Egyptian billionaire Dodi Fayed, which Andrews describes as a “smokescreen” for her affair with Kahn.
“I had no idea about this relationship. I thought, like everybody else, that the only relationship she had had was with Dodi,” the 44-year-old said. “The idea that Diana would be interested in a man like Hasnat was a very pleasant surprise. It’s a testament to his concerns of privacy and the fact that he never went to the press about their relationship.”
Unfortunately for Andrews, who had to gain 20 pounds for the part, this also meant that there was virtually no public information available about the notoriously private doctor. He was able to meet with Kahn’s former co-workers as research for the role, and even considered paying the surgeon a visit, despite his public protests of the film.
“Naomi [Watts] and I did think about going down there, but unless he was willing to meet us, it probably wouldn’t have been a great idea,” Andrews said. “I met with someone from the Royal College of research who knew him very well and worked with him. He said Hasnat was extraordinarily self-contained, almost to a fault. If he was like that then, Christ knows what he is like now. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing we didn’t go. Just the fact that he knew this film was being made was enough of an acknowledgement.”
Andrews has nothing but praise for Watts’ performance as Diana, and says he admires the vulnerability she brought to the role. He also admits that making the movie may not have changed his views on Britain’s monarchy, but it did shed light on the true woman behind the “People’s Princess” moniker.
“I have to say, doing this film allowed me to see somebody, Diana, from that class as a human being and, more importantly, as a woman,” he said.” She was somebody who wanted to be loved and cherished and wanted. She just wanted to be loved. I hadn’t seen her like that before. She was kind of quite cool, actually, in her own way. There was something uncanny about her. She was quite spiritual in some respects. All these things I never would have been aware of if it weren’t for the film.”
“Diana” is in select theaters today. Click here to order tickets through Fandango.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.