Nearly twenty years since her tragic death, Diana, Princess of Wales is still a timeless icon of beauty, glamour and compassion.
“She remains a unique and compelling figure in recent history who had a charisma and a kind of breakthrough quality to a world public that nobody has since matched,” says Terence Wrong.
Wrong is the executive producer of the new ABC special, The Last 100 Days of Diana, which airs May 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Marrying Prince Charles at the tender age of 20 in 1981, Diana became one of the most photographed women in the world. Her public and private life made headlines, even after her tragic death.
It’s this intersection between her private and public life that is explored in The Last 100 Days of Diana, a new documentary that provides an intimate look at the princess during a dynamic and transitory time in her life.
In her private life, Diana’s two-year relationship with heart and lung surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan was disintegrating. Overlapping with this breakdown was her new budding relationship with Dodi Al-Fayed, son of Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed.
While Diana’s private life is one thread explored in the doc, her determination to embrace bold and politically-charged causes, such as her call for a ban on landmines, is also weaved into the narrative.
Diana’s high-profile relationship with Al-Fayed and her outspokenness on issues close to her heart is why the decision was made to focus on the last 100 days of her life.
“It was a departure from earlier years. Now a new, even more independent and even more headstrong Diana was emerging. She was entering a phase where she would define a role for herself,” Wrong tells realscreen.
In crafting this documentary about the late princess, the production team interviewed about two dozen of Diana’s household staff and close friends. Interviews include fashion designer Lana Marks, journalist Richard Kay and her longtime butler Paul Burrell.
Wrong says he thinks most people would not have spoken about Diana a decade ago, but with 20 years having gone by, people are feeling nostalgic about a woman who was in the prime of her life.
Although most of the interviews took place in the UK, Diana’s group of worldly friends brought the production team to South America, Asia and the U.S.
“In Diana’s circle, some of the people closest to her have a lot of resources, and she did move in a dynamic, cosmopolitan set. You have to be prepared to go where the people are, and we made an effort to do that,” says Wrong.
This special gave Diana’s closest friends the opportunity to open up about her and share stories. For many, their relationship with Diana was the most important in their lives.
“You can’t talk every day about that. The 20th anniversary is an occasion where people are receptive to hearing about Diana. I think some of them are taking that opportunity to recall someone they held in great esteem and affection.”
The team did not reach out to interview any of Diana’s family, as in Wrong’s opinion, they weren’t close to her in her last days.
Having about four months to put this documentary together, Wrong said one of the biggest challenges was licensing footage of Diana, which was costly. “You have to figure out what is available, what you can afford and what is really important.”
Acquiring footage and stills was a marathon involving many licensing deals that ABC archivist Emily Wynn worked on for several months. Those deals won’t wrap up until this week.
With Diana’s circle of friends living beyond the waters of the UK, Wrong says there was a logistical challenge of doing a multi-continent documentary while maintaining consistency in quality and look of the project. There was also the added issue of having to locate, engage and disrupt people’s schedules who might also be contacted from competitors on their own Diana projects.
When creating a story about a woman whose life has been covered extensively, Wrong said the team had to distill from the interview transcripts what would be new and interesting for the audience.
“Honestly, it’s challenging to be producing a narrative that essentially has two timelines that have to intersect.”
Although he was based in London, England for ABC in the early 1990s, when Diana’s life was still being played out in the headlines, working on The Last 100 Days of Diana has deepened his knowledge of the icon.
“Diana, twenty years even after her death, I think remains an icon and objective of fascination for the world over. I think one could make the point that when you look at movie stars and other celebrities, we haven’t had anybody quite of her magnitude that resonated so broadly.”
The Last 100 Days of Diana airs Ma7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the ABC Network.