The BBC is to broadcast a one-off drama exploring the impact of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on the lives of ordinary people.
Diana and I will concentrate on the week in August 1997 after she died in a car crash in Paris.
Written by Jeremy Brock, whose work includes the Oscar-winning film The Last King of Scotland, the BBC2 drama will follow the lives of four people who had no personal connection to the princess yet were touched in some way by her death and swept up in the public outpouring of emotion.
Diana and I is the second BBC drama touching on the impact of the royal family on the British public. The corporation recently broadcast King Charles III, an adaptation of Mike Bartlett’s play exploring a fictional future in which the Prince of Wales ascends to the throne and plunges the country into a period of civil unrest. Featuring a fleeting appearance by Diana’s ghost, the drama was seen by many as bold commission for the BBC, which is perceived as usually sympathetic towards the royal family.
Unlike Bartlett’s drama, Diana and I will not see any actors playing Diana or any members of the royal family, and Brock was insistent that while this year marks the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, his drama was “categorically not a film written in memoriam”.
The drama, which is in production with no set broadcast date, will be based around the stories of the four figures – a mother, a son, a wife and a boyfriend – whose lives are unconnected but momentarily cross over in the week following Diana’s funeral at Westminster Abbey. The cast will include Green Wing’s Tamsin Greig, Tuppence Middleton, who recently starred in the BBC’s War and Peace, and Neil Morrissey. It will be directed by Peter Cattaneo, whose credits include Rev and The Full Monty.
Brock said he was “compelled by the impact that incredible week had on all of us who remember it, whether royalist or not.
“I wanted to explore the lives of four ordinary people and how they internalised their memories of Diana in the aftermath of her death. The week following her fatal car crash was a week like no other before. It catapulted many of us into emotional states we rarely visit, leaving us open to new insights and new experiences.
“Diana and I is categorically not a film written in memoriam. It’s a celebration of what it’s like to be human – good and bad – in the unexpurgated and improvisatory shock of real life.”
Despite two decades passing since her death, Diana remains present in the British consciousness. Prince Harry recently opened up the for the first time about the impact her death had on him, aged 12 when she died, and having to deal with his grief in the public eye.
Patrick Holland, controller of BBC2, said: “Diana’s death wasn’t just a tragedy for her family; the nation responded with a collective grief which is still remarkable 20 years on. Jeremy Brock’s emotionally layered drama engages with the lives of ordinary people whose stories play out against this extraordinary outpouring of communal loss.”
The drama has been commissioned by the BBC’s new head of drama, Piers Wenger, who moved from his job as head of drama at Channel 4 to succeed Polly Hill. Other new dramas commissioned by Wenger include adaptations of The War of the Worlds by HG Wells and the Rumer Godden novel Black Narcissus, an examination of the scandal that brought down Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, and Giri/Haji, a thriller about a Tokyo detective who travels to London.
On Diana and I, Wenger said he “cannot wait to see Jeremy’s vision brought to life on BBC2”.
He added: “Jeremy has written a deeply emotional and evocative script which examines the impact of the Princess of Wales’ tragic death on four individuals and on us all.”
The BBC is not the only broadcaster currently dramatising the life and legacy of Diana. Ryan Murphy’s series Feud, on US TV network FX, will for its second season portray Charles and Diana’s divorce, while Netflix’s The Crown plans to chart the history of the royal family over the course of six seasons, with season four and five focusing on Diana.
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