TV & Movies

Every Actor Who’s Played Princess Diana Across The Decades

These stars took on the role of the people's princess with varying levels of success.

Originally Published: 
Getty Images / Netflix.

The history of the British royal family has captivated audiences in some of the biggest films and TV dramas of the past few decades, and the world’s lasting obsession with Diana, Princess of Wales can be felt in the many onscreen depictions of her fascinating life.

Over the years, the late Princess Diana — who tragically died in August 1997 following a car accident in Paris — has been portrayed in streaming hits such as Netflix’s acclaimed royal drama The Crown, several straight-to-television biographical flicks including CBS’s Princess in Love, an ill-fated 2013 biopic starring Naomi Watts, and much more.

In 2020, it was also announced that audiences have yet another Diana-centric biopic to look forward to, as the hotly-anticipated Spencer starring Kristen Stewart is scheduled for release later in 2021, around the same time Broadway’s Diana The Musical is set to drop on Netflix.

Taking on a role as beloved as Princess Diana is no mean feat, but that hasn’t stopped these actors from stepping into the shoes of one of the most famous figures in royal history. Below, you can discover all the different actors who have played Diana over the years and managed to bring the people’s princess to life on screen.

Serena Scott Thomas

Based on Andrew Morton’s bestselling novel, the 1993 TV movie Diana: Her True Story stars Serena Scott Thomas in the leading role. Her performance was received well by some critics at the time, with Entertainment Weekly praising the actor’s ability to portray the late princess with “great charm.”

Years later, Thomas went on to star in another royal TV movie titled William & Kate, in which she appeared as Prince William’s mother-in-law, Carole Middleton, Tatler reports.

Julie Cox

Based on a bestselling novel, the CBS film Princess in Love starred Julie Cox as the Princess of Wales. As Tatler reports, the film raised a few eyebrows upon its initial release due to the plot’s exploration of Diana’s rumoured relationship with Captain James Hewitt.

Reviewing the film, People criticised Cox’s lack of resemblance to the beloved princess, writing that the actor was “no body double.” Elsewhere, the publication also revealed that Cox had little interest in “Windsor-mania” and never actually read the book on which the movie is based. “I thought I would hate it. I thought, if I read it, I'll have a hard time taking the script seriously,” the actor said at the time.

Naomi Watts

The 2013 big-screen biopic Diana gained a lot of attention upon its limited cinematic release – sadly, it was for all the wrong reasons. Starring Naomi Watts in the titular role, the film was largely panned by critics, and the response was so bad, in fact, that Diana was never awarded a theatrical release in the United States, E! reports.

However, according to a review by the New York Times, one saving grace was Watts’ portrayal of the late Princess of Wales, which the publication praised as a “sympathetic” humanisation of “the woman behind the smile, the helmet hair, and the myth.”

You can watch Diana on Amazon Prime Video.

Genevieve O'Riley

The 2007 docudrama Diana: Last Days of a Princess combined dramatic reenactments with real-world interviews with some of the people closest to Diana throughout her life. Per Insider, Genevieve O'Riley took on the role of Princess Diana in the TLC production, which centred on the days leading up to the car accident that would tragically claim her life.

At the time of release, the New York Times described the docudrama as a “surprisingly credible picture of the princess's last summer,” and said O'Riley managed to portray Diana as “needy but manipulative, loving but flawed — in other words, as a human being.”

Bonnie Soper

Silver Screen Pictures

The role of Princess Diana was taken on by Bonnie Soper in the 2018 and 2019 Lifetime original movies, Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance and Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal. The films depict the romance between a young prince and a beautiful actor, who begin to find their place within the traditions of the British monarchy.

During an interview with Stuff, Soper said getting the chance to play the late Princess of Wales was a “pretty amazing experience,” and revealed that, although she wasn’t very familiar with the modern royal scene, she recalled seeing Princess Diana “in the magazines” and was “very interesting by her.”

Emma Corrin

Courtesy of Netflix

The early years of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer’s relationship was a central storyline of The Crown’s fourth chapter and saw newcomer Emma Corrin take on the role of the people’s princess. Her Golden Globe-winning performance was lauded by many critics as a highlight of the drama, with the Evening Standard describing her portrayal as “startlingly fresh.”

Watch The Crown on Netflix.

Elizabeth Debicki

In the hotly-anticipated fifth and sixth seasons of Netflix’s The Crown, Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager) will replace Emma Corrin in the role of Diana, Princess of Wales. Throughout the show’s fifth outing, Debicki will reportedly depict Diana’s life during her highly-publicised divorce from Prince Charles, the release of her controversial tell-all book, and during the recording and aftermath of the Princess’ explosive Panorama interview with the now-discredited journalist, Martin Bashir.

In a statement following her casting announcement in August 2020, Debicki said it was a "true privilege and an honour" to be portraying a woman whose spirit, words, and actions “live in the hearts of so many.”

Jeanna de Waal

Courtesy of DKC/O&M

Jeanna de Waal is set to play the Princess of Wales on stage in the forthcoming Broadway spectacular Diana The Musical, which will officially open on Wednesday, November 17, 2021. Speaking to Theatre Mania about what audiences can expect, de Waal said “So, this show is about this once-upon-a-time princess called Diana. She met her fairytale prince, who was called Charles. But unbeknownst to her, he had a love on the side who was called Camilla. And the story is the workings of that relationship in a very public spotlight and what came to pass.”

If Broadway isn’t an option for you, you’re in luck, as the highly-anticipated production is also going to be streamed on Netflix starting Friday, October 1, 2021.

Kristen Stewart

Pablo Larraín

Directed by Pablo Larraín, the forthcoming biopic Spencer will depict one momentous weekend in the life of Princess Diana, during which she made a decision to end her marriage and step away from royal life. Twilight’s Kristen Stewart, who is taking on the film’s leading role, began filming in early 2021. Speaking to InStyle, Stewart revealed she had been working with a dialect coach to perfect Diana’s voice. “The accent is intimidating as all hell because people know that voice, and it's so, so distinct and particular,” she told the publication.

Per Deadline, Spencer is scheduled for release in Autumn 2021. However, fans have already been treated to the first on-set photo of Stewart as the late princess, and the resemblance is uncanny.

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