By all critical accounts, Kristen Stewart has given the mother of all Princess Diana portrayals in Pablo Larraín's Spencer, and she did it with royal attention paid to the late icon's devotion to maternal love.
The 31-year-old revealed in a virtual discussion Wednesday out of the Toronto International Film Festival that she felt "markedly detached" from the British monarchy while growing up, but researching Diana's life as a mother to Prince William and Prince Harry gave her the "strongest impressions" of who she was as a person.
"It was the only thing in her life that felt sure. She wanted to feel unconditional about something. Her strength, power, and feral, unstoppable force of nature really came out when she was with her kids, because she wasn't very good at protecting herself, but she was very good at protecting them," Stewart told the audience. "As an outsider, I could feel it. That, I wanted to protect, and that was a scarier aspect of making the movie because if you don't get that right, you don't get her right."
Shoebox Films Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in 'Spencer.'
She described Diana as someone people naturally "lean in towards" because of the disparate parts of her personality, including a "weird mix of hunger, starvation, and extreme indulgence" that led to her being both vulnerable and defensive in interviews.
"She wears her heart on her sleeve like no other. I feel like she can't hide anything, and yet we don't know anything about her. She's just someone you lean in towards," Stewart continued, adding that the artistic liberties Spencer — which follows a fantastical reimagining of Diana's Christmas vacation at Sandringham Estate, where she comes to terms with the looming end her marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) — speak to Diana's legacy.
"She provides this incredibly lush and complicated terrain to make art about. She's somebody who's so inspiring and changed the world, and I've been asked a lot about whether or not it's cool to try and tell someone's story when they're not around, somebody who was already so invaded and taken from," she said. "Because we really don't profess to know anything or present any new information, her whole life force and mission statement was that we need to come together and find connection."
And her approach has worked so far: Critics hailed the performance as one of the best of the year following its premiere on the fall festival circuit, with Stewart gaining considerable traction in the Oscar race as a result.
Spencer — also starring Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall, and Sean Harris — releases Nov. 5 via Neon. Keep up with EW's ongoing TIFF coverage here.
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