THE Crown’s eagerly awaited mini-series on Princess Diana is due to hit our screens – and for the woman playing her, it is all about one scene.
Aussie actress Elizabeth Debicki insists the defining moment was recreating those images of Di wearing a blue swimming costume on a diving board in Portofino, Italy, in 1997.
Elizabeth, 33, wanted to mirror the photos that spread around the globe as closely as she possibly could.
At the time they were taken, Diana was dating Dodi Fayed and staying on his family yacht.
And the actress likened the importance of nailing the iconic swimsuit look to earlier scenes which showed the princess’s famous “revenge dress” — a black, off-the-shoulder gown she wore to a gala in 1994, on the day that Prince Charles admitted his affair with now-wife Camilla on national television.
Elizabeth said: “There was just something about that swimsuit and recreating that moment that felt very sacred.
“It was very important we got it right. In a way, it reminded me a little bit of when we shot the revenge dress — it’s as close as possible to the real imagery.
“As an actress, I get to enter into that space and discover what’s emotionally in that moment.
“With the revenge dress, I didn’t really know until I stepped out of the car.
“At this moment, I didn’t really know until I was sat with the sea under me.”
The Crown returns to Netflix on November 16, with four episodes which are all set in 1997.
The remaining six instalments of the final season will drop on December 14 and lead up to 2005, when Prince Charles finally gets married to Camilla.
The scene on board the yacht was meant to capture Diana’s isolation following her divorce from Charles.
During her relationship that followed with Dodi, played by 42-year-old Khalid Abdalla, Diana for the first time wondered if she had found true love.
But dreams of her happy ever after were shattered after both died in Paris on August 31, 1997. Diana was just 36.
Their fatal car crash is not shown in the series, but Elizabeth and Khalid did recreate scenes involving their pursuit by paparazzi, including one on a scooter.
And the actress found the plot so harrowing to film, she did not need to pretend to be afraid.
Elizabeth said: “There’s nowhere you can go and you only have to be in a situation like that for about a minute before you realise, ‘This is completely unbearable’.
“To have this swarm around you, you feel very trapped. It’s a really unpleasant experience.
“There are times as an actor — where you’re actually doing a stunt, or you’re jumping off a building, or you jump into the water, or whatever it is — that you experience something very physical and there’s not a huge amount of acting that takes place.
“I think that was what was happening a lot when we were recreating those scenes, because it’s really horrendous to have that many people yelling at you and wanting something.”
Dodi actor Khalid added: “I experienced, for the first time in my life, of being in a car as it’s moving and having paparazzi come next to the window and . . . bang.
“Of course, we’re doing these scenes again and again, which simulates in many ways what their experience was, again and again.
“When we finished shooting on one of those days, I went home.
“As I was going home out of costume in the car, any time a scooter would go past me, I would flinch.”
The creators of The Crown wanted to faithfully recreate the couple’s final moments in Paris, where they had dined at the Ritz shortly before their deaths — and to perfect every aspect of the City of Light.
Olivia Williams, 55, who plays Camilla, revealed: “The Crown is such an extraordinary production, and carries such extraordinary influence now, that Paris seemed to give itself over entirely to the shoot.
“They had incredible access to buildings and roads and I believe that the lighting department had to light the Eiffel Tower for that part of the shoot.
“So I think it was a combination of the event being tragic and monumental.”
In emotional scenes from the drama, Dodi’s father Mohamed, played by Salim Daw, 73, is seen tearfully laying his beloved son to rest in a traditional Muslim ceremony carried out within hours of his death.
The Sun exclusively revealed last week that he is also seen repeating lies that the princess was pregnant when she died, and claiming that the crash was the result of an establishment plot to kill Diana to stop her marrying his son.
Salim said: “He was so wounded, so humiliated and so helpless, and he felt so bad really, and after that he became very, very angry — ‘Why do they hate me like that? Why?’.
“He was really, really wounded, deeply wounded by the Royal Family, yes, and it’s clear in season six.”
The new series also delves deeper into the life of Dodi, who seemed to play a supporting role in the tragic story of Princess Diana.
‘Charles is punished’
But Khalid admits he did not have much material to go on when it came to nailing his movie-maker character’s voice and mannerisms.
He said: “There’s this one interview that we got just before the first read-through, which is this weird call where he calls in to Larry King, who is interviewing Burt Reynolds.
“Dodi calls him to ask Burt Reynolds to do an impression of Tony Curtis doing Cary Grant.
“It’s barely 20 seconds of him speaking but, from it, you hear his voice.
“There was one other video we managed to find but, from that, you construct this voice, which was essentially American but with little tones of Egyptian inside it.
“Dodi was never really known, and so he was never really mourned.
“Between season five into six, you really get to explore and know him in a much wider way.
“For me, season five is getting to know Dodi with his father, with his parents.
“It’s like someone knowing you with your parents, and then someone knowing you with your friends.
“In season six, in some ways, you get to know Dodi more with his friends and in his friendship and love affair with Diana.
“We explore the tender circumstances between them as they approach their tragic passing.”
He added: “Their relationship, from beginning to end, was six weeks.
“That’s one of the things that very often shocks people.
“We were kind of exploring it in real time.”
After her death, Diana’s spirit is reportedly seen weeping over Dodi’s coffin.
In later scenes, she returns to tell him how moved she was by the outpouring of grief for her.
Charles is then joined by Princes William and Harry, played by teen actors Rufus Kampa and Fflyn Edwards respectively, who appear utterly grief-stricken.
Dominic West, who portrays Charles, says the relationship between the future King and his boys develops in series six.
Describing their scenes together showing the aftermath of the Paris tragedy, he said: “There’s a lot of scenes of Charles trying to come to terms with that, breaking the news to his sons, trying to help his sons mourn and having varying degrees of success.”
Dominic insists he found it simple to develop the right dynamic with the lads playing William and Harry — as he is a dad himself.
He said: “I found it quite easy because I’ve got two boys the same age, though they don’t give me as hard a time as William was giving Charles this season.
“I felt on solid ground there, I knew what I was doing.
“I think I’m always trying to fight Charles’ corner.
“I’m always trying to present him in a good light and I don’t always succeed in doing that.
“But I think in the latter half of the season, where he can’t get through to William, I can understand how that feels.
“I don’t, fortunately, have that with my boys yet.
“But it’s another way in which Charles is being punished and I think all parents are punished eventually by their children.
“You can’t get angry, you can’t get defensive, you can’t reason.
“You just have to love and admit your inadequacies and I think all parents have to do that.
“I’ve found that very moving.”
EARS TO NEW LOOK
THEY have played a leading part in The Crown for five series . . . but Prince Charles’s big ears have now finally bowed out.
Actor Dominic West has revealed he wore special devices that made his lugs protrude while playing the royal role.
That wasn’t a problem for the two actors who previously portrayed him – Billy Jenkins and Josh O’Connor – whose own ears gave outstanding performances.
In series five, Dominic had to get help from The Crown’s prop department, who came up with ear “plumpers”.
But now he’s gone “au naturel”.
He said: “It was quite a faff and they were quite uncomfortable and, actually, they didn’t make me look any more like Charles.”
The difference is subtle, but notable in the new images from The Crown.
For decades, the future King Charles was gently mocked by impressionists such as Mike Yarwood, Rory Bremner and Jon Culshaw.
Dominic previously said it was hard to emulate him at first.
But he added: “What The Crown has always been very clever at is not trying to imitate the characters, but to evoke them.”