The reality of playing one of the most famous women of the 20th century set in for Emma Corrin one day on the streets of West London.
She was filming a scene for Season 4 of “The Crown” re-creating the early media frenzy around Princess Diana — nee Lady Diana Spencer — the bashful 19-year-old nursery school assistant who became the subject of insatiable public curiosity thanks to her burgeoning romance with Prince Charles.
Corrin, in character in a feathered blond wig, stepped out of Diana’s former building in Earl’s Court and was swarmed by extras clicking away on vintage cameras. But just beyond the actors pretending to be photographers was a throng of real-life paparazzi, there to get a shot of the young, unknown actress stepping into a career-making role as “the people’s princess,” a woman who redefined contemporary celebrity.
In that surreal moment, Corrin tried to seize on the advice that director Benjamin Caron had given her when she got the part.
“He took me aside and very helpfully said, ‘You and Diana are going through a very similar thing. You’re going to suddenly be in the public eye, in a role that everyone has had their eyes on,’ ” Corrin recalls. “ ‘You will be in the newspaper and you’ll be papped. Anything you feel about it, be it fear or excitement or nervousness, be aware of it because that’s exactly how she would have been feeling.’ ”
“God,” she continues, “he was so right.”
Corrin is speaking via video conference from a friend’s home in the English countryside, where she’s enjoying a few days of quiet before “The Crown” returns to Netflix on Sunday and beams her likeness into living rooms around the world. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s sitting at her laptop wearing earbuds and a cozy sweater instead of strutting the red carpet in a couture gown. But she doesn’t know anything different: Prior to “The Crown,” the 24-year-old had only a few acting credits, the most notable a recurring part in the Batman prequel series “Pennyworth.”
In the new season of The Crown, the British rising star plays Princess Diana – here she shares her travel secrets
From her favourite secluded hotel in the middle of the Atlas Mountains to what it’s like to film in the Royal Suite at The Savoy, acress Emma Corrin shares with us her favourite places around the world.
Your favourite small and secret hotel?
‘I’m reluctant to give up the name of this secluded gem but as much as I want it all to myself, people should definitely know it’s out there. In the middle of the Atlas Mountains, about an hour outside of Marrakech, is a hotel called L’Amandier. It’s on a plateau so you get this 360-degree panorama of the verdant Ouirgane Valley, meaning when the sun sets in the evening you feel like you are being totally engulfed by it. There are some amazing walks you can go on right at the doorstep. One hike took us through lush pastures with grazing goats, across barren patches where the red soil scuffed our boots and through villages where gaggles of children would follow us. It’s a real slice of heaven. The silence wraps you up, as do the views and the smells – a truly wholesome experience of life in the Atlas.’
One thing you have never told anyone about your travels?
‘As much as I love travelling with other people, I think there is something special about discovering new places on your own. These days we are constantly interacting – especially in my industry which is a very social one. I have found I really value time spent on my own and when you pair this with travel it’s a great combination. Take yourself off to a city you’ve never been to and just wander around aimlessly! Bliss.’
Your favourite classic hotel?
‘While filming The Crown recently, we were lucky enough to use the Royal Suite of The Savoy, which was standing in for Diana’s hotel room from her New York trip in 1989. For someone who has lived in or around London most of my life I had shamefully never really registered the beauty and history of the Savoy – but, oh my gosh! I feel like they should open up the Royal Suite once a year just so people can appreciate the completely absurd view you get over the South Bank through these vast windows. It was very hard for any of us to concentrate when all we wanted to do was gawp at the scenery and take turns trying out the enormous bed.’
A great little find away from the crowds?
‘I’m an absolute devotee of the Canopy & Stars website, which has quirky glamping destinations across the UK and Europe. Among my favourites was staying in a yurt in Somerset with a four-poster bed, a wood-burning stove and, most excitingly, a roll-top bath. With the ingredients from our welcome basket we made sausage stew on the open fire outside, then wrapped up in blankets and did some stargazing. Another gem was a converted horse-box in Wales which overlooked the Brecon Beacons. No phone signal, no Wi-Fi – everything you could wish for and also nothing you didn’t need.’
The book that inspired you to travel?
‘Reading Olivia Laing always makes me want to escape. There is a fluidity to her narratives and an incisiveness to the way she writes about selfhood that makes me feel so dissatisfied with the stagnancy of day-to-day life. It inspires me to shake off my shackles and run away on my own for a bit, to rediscover myself. I am also a huge Murakami fan and had read his books devotedly for many years before ever making it to Japan. I went on a theatre tour at university, we toured Romeo and Juliet around Tokyo for a month and it was one of the best trips of my life. The city is unlike anything I had imagined, it is electric and you feel like if you blink you’ll miss something – it’s a complete sensory overload!’
If you could have one feast right now?
‘I spent New Year in Venice in 2019 and one evening, on a friend’s recommendation, we wound our way through the backstreets to find Corte Sconta, a traditional fish restaurant with a little vine-covered courtyard at the back. The menu changes depending on the season and what has been caught that day, so the fish is always fresh and delicious. I would recommend the soft-shell crab and the scallops in particular but, honestly, it’s all so good. The atmosphere is also wonderfully low key and local, hardly any tourists know about it so it feels like a wholly authentic Venetian experience. I think the same family have been running it for two generations.’
The film whose location blew you away?
‘When I was younger I was obsessed with A Room With A View and it has left me with a completely irrational love of Italy, especially Florence. I think it was watching Helena Bonham Carter’s character come of age in a city so steeped in history and romance, I always thought that if I spent time there it would be particularly defining for me. Before I went to university I worked in pubs and restaurants in order to save money to travel Italy on a history of art tour, despite the fact I am no artist! We went to Venice, Florence and Rome, and it was just as magical as I had thought. I would really recommend exploring cities such as these in the context of learning about their art, it defines them, so it was an amazing way to explore. Next up I want to live in Florence for a few months and fall in love there – I don’t ask for much.’
The destination you’d most like to visit next?
‘I have family in Argentina whom I have never met, so I would love to see them. They run a stunning ranch out there, and to stay with them for a while would be a great opportunity to get to know the country and learn some of the language. Also, being a keen water-skier I’m always trying to find places where I can stay while keeping up that sport – any recommendations would be welcome!’
A place you fell in love in?
‘Every summer from the age of 13 to 18 me, my mum and my two brothers would pile into the car and drive to the Limousin in France. We had friends from Scotland who owned a farm there and during the summer invited guests to stay in teepees on the farm. It was totally idyllic. They had about 10 children of all ages and there were two other families from the UK who also returned with us year after year. All in all, we were a 20-strong group of kids and we grew up together over those blissful summer weeks, inventing games and spinning bottles, sleeping under the stars and pulling pranks – we all fell in love and out of love repeatedly, and it taught us a huge amount about ourselves and each other.’
Your washbag essentials?
‘My Foreo face brush, which is fantastic for cleansing skin while travelling. And I can’t go anywhere without Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream to tackle dryness, especially on lips during flights. Scent is also important to me – to be surrounded by familiar, soothing smells when I’m away – so I take my perfume, Tom Ford Café Rose, everywhere and usually some lavender essential oil that I can put on my pillow, in a bath and even on my temples.’
Bend. Or Break.
As the 1970s are drawing to a close, Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) and her family find themselves preoccupied with safeguarding the line of succession by securing an appropriate bride for Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), who is still unmarried at 30. As the nation begins to feel the impact of divisive policies introduced by Britain’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson), tensions arise between her and the Queen which only grow worse as Thatcher leads the country into the Falklands War, generating conflict within the Commonwealth. While Charles’ romance with a young Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) provides a much-needed fairytale to unite the British people, behind closed doors, the Royal family is becoming increasingly divided.
Season Four of The Crown. November 15.
Emma Corrin Takes the Throne
The Crown’s Princess Diana isn’t totally ready for superstardom, but it’s been waiting for her.
This summer, Emma Corrin, who joins season 4 of The Crown as Princess Diana, found herself on the same plane as Vanessa Kirby, who starred as Princess Margaret in seasons 1 and 2. “We had this moment of reunion as if we were long lost sisters. It was so nice,” says Corrin, 24, of the instant kinship. (The pair had only met briefly before.) “It’s because you’re part of a family.”
In joining the esteemed series, Corrin has forged connections not only with A-list co-stars like Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, and Helena Bonham-Carter, but become part of a lineage of talents from seasons past and future. Though she’s a relative newcomer among her colleagues (previous credits include the Epix Batman spinoff Pennyworth), she captivates from the first moment she appears onscreen, portraying Diana as a shy teen both forward and demure with Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles. Over the course of the season, Corrin takes Diana from a young girl of 16 to a confident and increasingly independent 28-year-old.
Corrin spent an audition-packed year fighting for the role, and embodying one of the world’s most famous women presents distinct challenges. “If you say her name, you instantly have her image, you have her voice, you have her mannerisms. That’s a very intimidating thing to be up against,” she says. Joining Peter Morgan’s high-profile series in a pivotal role, Corrin is sure to have a brush with overnight stardom—and its accompanying highs and lows—much like Diana. “All these feelings of excitement, the novelty of it, the fear and the confusion, that’s all what she would have been feeling. Exactly, like play by play,” Corrin says. But fame is something she’s steeled herself for. “I live in a flat with my three best mates from university, none of whom are actors. It keeps you grounded. I never want to get lost in it.”
You were quite young when Diana died. How did you study her?
Peter’s scripts helped immensely. I watched one documentary called In Her Own Words, which is fantastic because it’s narrated by her and you have her telling her story. You’re not going to get closer to an actual version of events than that. Then working with William Conacher, who was my dialect coach, and Polly Bennett, who was my movement, character coach. Working on her physicality and her psychology, that’s when I really felt like I could get my teeth into her.
A Royally Candid Interview with The Crown’s Emma Corrin, Josh O’Connor, and Emerald Fennell
The new season of The Crown exposes the drama, betrayal, and lies that drive the monarchy. Oh, and then there’s that affair…
It’s a legendary story, this one,” says Josh O’Connor, flashing a sly, dimpled smile. The British actor, who plays Prince Charles in The Crown, then launches into the serendipitous details—not of the real life love triangle involving Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles, and Lady Diana Spencer, which drives so much of the drama in the series’s fourth season, but rather of the day of auditions that led to the casting of an unknown actress to play one of the most iconic women of the 20th century.
SEE INTERVIEW VIDEO: Here
The story begins in 2018, as the third season of The Crown was getting underway. The casting team was on the hunt for their Camilla and brought in O’Connor to read with a few front-runners. They hadn’t started their search for Diana yet, as her character wouldn’t make an entrance until the following season. But they needed a warm body to run her lines.
Emma Corrin, then just 22 years old, got the call through her agent, who stressed that it was not an audition. “But, obviously, I was like, ‘I’m going to prepare as if it were,’ ” Corrin says. Without the benefit of a hair, makeup, or wardrobe department, Corrin focused on what she had: her voice. She analyzed Diana’s speech patterns with the help of her mother, a speech therapist. “No matter what Diana is saying, it kind of goes down at the end,” Corrin says, slipping into the hauntingly similar imitation that makes her so believable. “It’s like a sadness.”
Corrin was a toddler when Diana died and has no memory of her. Stepping into the casting room that day, she also had no experience acting on television. And yet she captivated the crowd. “I was in awe of her,” O’Connor tells me. “This young actress who hadn’t done an awful lot, and here she was inhabiting Diana, seemingly quite easily.” The Crown’s creator and writer Peter Morgan was entranced too. For Diana’s debut into his award-winning Netflix series, Morgan wasn’t looking for someone to play the global superstar she eventually became; he needed the fidgety 19-year-old girl to whom the Prince of Wales proposed. “We spent our whole time just staring at this woman reading the lines going, ‘Wow, she’s kind of perfect,’ ” Morgan says.
Zooming with Corrin from some 5,000 miles away, I feel that too. Perched in front of a tree-filled window in her London home, she often leans so close to the screen that her forehead is cut off. Her white tank top and cutoff jean shorts are paired rebelliously well with blue gemstone statement earrings, a nod to the princess’s sapphire engagement ring. “I hate being asked what it’s like to play someone iconic,” Corrin says (though, for the record, I hadn’t). “It makes her untouchable—the whole point was that she was touchable.”
Although Corrin impressed the Crown team on that first day, she wasn’t given the part straight away; an extended courtship was required. It took eight months for director Ben Caron to make her an offer. “It was the most exciting proposal I’ll probably ever receive in my life,” Corrin says. To celebrate, she got a blue merle cockapoo and named him Spencer.
Corrin had another six months to prepare, and a team ready to help. The show’s movement coach, Polly Bennett, worked with her on abstract Diana concepts, like how the princess might stand in a doorframe (centered, leaning on one side) and what kind of animal she might be (not a deer in the headlights, as Corrin first thought, but a cat: curious, composed, a bit calculating). Still, it was Corrin’s newcomer status that proved the most useful on set. “If we had gotten an experienced actress, it would have been an actress acting being nervous,” Morgan says. “Trust me, Emma was nervous on every day that we were filming,” calling it “enormously helpful.”
The Crown’s fourth installment spans the 1980s, a transformative decade for the British royal family largely because of Diana. But the People’s Princess is not the framework for these 10 episodes. Once again Morgan centers the season on the prime minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher. As divisive a figure as Thatcher was, the approach poses some new challenges. “When you’ve got Charles and Diana as a narrative, everything else feels a bit like eating vegetables, right?” he says. “The other narratives are necessarily going to be slightly more tired.”
What does it take to play Diana, Princess of Wales, one of the most scrutinised and beloved women of the 20th century? In the October 2020 issue, Emma Corrin tells Vogue the answer ahead of the premiere of the fourth season of The Crown on 15 November.
It’s hard to imagine a more difficult role to step into than that of Diana, Princess of Wales – particularly Diana, Princess of Wales in The Crown. Since its premiere in 2016, Netflix’s epic £10-million-an-episode production has garnered a well-deserved reputation for its spot-on casting thanks to Hollywood legend Nina Gold. Who could forget the eerie way that Claire Foy morphed into the Queen on her wedding day in the first series? Or Helena Bonham Carter’s spectacular transformation into Princess Margaret on her 1965 tour of America with Lord Snowdon in the last season?
It’s a pressure that British Vogue’s October 2020 cover star Emma Corrin is keenly aware of ahead of the release of the fourth instalment of The Crown on 15 November. The Cambridge University graduate was tapped to play the People’s Princess at the beginning of 2019 after more than nine months of practice reads on set – despite having only a handful of small roles to her name. “I didn’t tell anyone for a while,” the 24-year-old told features director Giles Hattersley of her casting during a stroll through Hampstead Heath earlier this summer. “I love my mates but I think it would have got out.”
Her fascination with the late royal, however, ultimately gave her away – with her inner circle figuring out her secret on their own. “My friends from school did this incredible thing, where they made me a scrapbook filled with all of the screenshots from our group WhatsApp, where I have said, ‘Oh my God, guys, I’ve been invited to read.’ Or a random conversation we’d had four years ago when I said, ‘Isn’t Diana amazing!’”
The actor has always been drawn to Diana (not least because Corrin’s own mother bears an uncanny resemblance to her) but her preparation for the fourth instalment of The Crown naturally led her to do endless research into the late Princess’s life, from meeting with Diana’s private secretary Patrick Jephson (“[He] said that she was so funny and so happy so much of the time – I loved that”), to watching Diana: In Her Own Words “about a hundred times”. She even worked with movement coach Polly Bennett to try and figure out which animal Diana most resembled in her movements. (After initially considering a deer, Corrin settled on a cat.)
In the forthcoming series, Corrin puts her studies to good use playing Diana from the age of 16 – when she first met Prince Charles during a grouse shoot at her childhood home of Althorp – through to her late twenties, when her marriage began to collapse in spectacular fashion. “I feel I’ve got to know Diana like you would a friend,” Corrin explains. “I know that sounds really weird, but I get a great sense of companionship from her. I suppose, over time, you kind of start to patch together a sense of empathy and a sense of understanding. I love figuring people out.”
Naturally, there are countless moments that viewers are excited to see recreated on screen – from Diana’s debut at Balmoral to her first royal tour with Charles – but none is quite as breathlessly anticipated as the royal wedding in 1981, for which The Crown recreated Diana’s wedding dress. “We were filming the scene when you first see her in the wedding dress – I think it was Lancaster House in London – and I had a team of about 10 people helping me put it on, because it’s massive,” Corrin recalls. “I walked out and everyone went completely silent. More than anything else I wear in the series, it’s so… It’s her.”
Source: Vogue UK