Sunday, December 5, 2021

‘Spencer’ Explained: Kristen Stewart, Key Scene Director

Sometimes at the end of a working day on the set of “Spencer” Kristen Stewart felt drained and completely exhausted. On other days, the severity of Princess Diana’s game, coming to terms with her husband, Prince Charles, rejecting her, and the royal family sacking her, infuriated her. Sometimes she felt completely alone. And sometimes it was a combo plate and Stewart was in complete disarray.

It didn’t matter how Stewart felt, however, because at the end of nearly every 37 days she spent filming Spencer, director Pablo Larraine had one final assignment before she left the set. Within 30 minutes, Larrain chose a musical line – it could be Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, or Lou Reed – and Stewart, choosing one of Diana’s dresses from the costume rack, reacted to the music. She didn’t know the song beforehand. And usually, at least in the beginning, Stewart just wanted to talk about the song. Larrain will have to remind her that the camera is rotating.

When Spencer was finished filming, Larrain took all of the footage from those sessions and turned it into a 3½-minute cut that can be seen near the end of the film, a wordless episode of The Crucifixion by composer Johnny Greenwood that summarizes Diana’s challenge to escape.

“You put these songs on and I spun in my imaginary memories of how her life was supposed to be, which was such a trip,” Stewart told Larrain on a recent October night. We are in the Hollywood Hills, Mount Olympus, to be exact, sitting on a patio overlooking the endless blanket of Los Angeles lights and talking about our favorite scenes from Larrain’s sly, subversive and completely subjective film.

“Responding to this music was like being alone in the bathroom, singing songs and fantasizing about the guy you want to hear, your point of view, and you imagine,“ What if he had a vision like me doing it here? “I just always fantasized about Diana, wondering,” What if there were cameras and Charles could see her exploring all of those personal moments? ” “

Billed as “a fable of true tragedy,” “Spencer” is full of such personal moments as well as mysteries. It was this ambiguity that interested Larrain both in Diana and in the actress he chose to play her. Sitting next to each other on the open-air couch, Stewart holding a glass of red wine, Larrain scrolls through his phone for playlists and photos, both voicing their spoiler-laden thoughts on some of the film’s indelible scenes.

Better not to compare a woman to a horse

Timothy Spall as Major Alistair Gregory in Pablo Larren’s Spencer


Larrain says scheduling filming is “science.” On the first day of Spencer, it was visuals, wordless, “embracing” the day, as Stewart says, like “taking a dip in warm water”. Things were different the next day: a five-page scene in which Diana arrives at the chilly Sandringham royal estate on Christmas Eve and is greeted – perhaps more appropriately – by Timothy Spall’s ghostly Major Gregory, the military tasked with making sure of it. Diana is not a hassle. Larrain calls this “arriving at an elegant prison.” Stewart is more outspoken, calling it a “full-blown fight scene.”

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the UK and abroad with the British,” says Stewart. “And I always hesitated a bit with understanding, because quick, random, disarming – what could be interpreted as snide – communication – just not my forte. I’m a very tough, straight bastard. But Diana had a talent for this. It was built into her. She could turn passive-aggressive communication into an art form. “

This first encounter marks the beginning of a cat and mouse game that continues throughout Spencer. In her room, Diana finds a biography of Anne Boleyn, the beheaded wife of Henry VIII. Soon, Diana begins to see the ghost of Boleyn, listening to her advice at a crucial moment. “Anne Boleyn saved my life last night,” Diana tells a friend at the end of the film. Shortly thereafter, we see Major Gregory returning Boleyn’s book to a shelf in the library.

So … was Gregory Diana’s mentor or tormentor?

“There is duality, so everyone is right!” Stewart says. remembering an argument between two guests at her house the morning after the premiere. (She overheard.) A friend said that Gregory was helping, leaving the book as a warning. Another friend found Gregory’s behavior judgmental and threatening.

Even Stewart and Larrain can’t agree on the character’s motives – and Stewart finds it exciting as she loves good discussions. There is an earlier scene in which Gregory tells Diana about a soldier who was telling a story about a wild horse that could not be tamed and was hit by a bullet before he could finish the story. “I ask myself, for whom are we soldiers dying?” says Gregory. “Then I remembered my vow. We all take an oath of allegiance to the crown. “

Larrain believes that Gregory was referring to Diana’s interests. Stewart has none of this.

“He’s trying to connect with this girl, give her some advice and just say, ‘Hey man, this is a structure, I believe in it.’ It’s not that hard if you give up. ” But this is so condescending. Like, “Oh, were you just trying to voice my life that you never lived? thanks for your very beautiful metaphor. thanks for comparing me to a horse. ” I really hope my sarcasm will show in this scene because I’ve thought about it so much! “

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Bedtime Stories with William and Harry

A woman and two boys sit on the floor between two single beds.

Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) with sons Harry (Freddie Spry) (center) and William (Jack Neelen) in Pablo Larren’s Spencer.


Not everyone will like Larrain’s unconventional approach. (“Okay!” Stewart says when I talk about it.) But the scene in which Diana gathers her young sons, William and Harry, for a delightful, addictive candlelit play on Christmas Eve, in which almost everyone should be present, even those who do not welcome the story of the royal family turned into a gothic nightmare. (References to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining abound in Spencer, although Larrain says they were unintentional. “This movie is just in my blood.”

The game’s family night scene was structured but incompletely spelled out, allowing Stewart and her colleagues (Jack Neelen as Prince William; Freddie Spry as Prince Harry) the freedom to play and improvise. At one point, Harry asks William if he wants to be king. “I have no choice,” he replies. William then turns to Diana and asks if she wants to be queen. “I’ll be your mom. This is my job.”

“None of this is written in the script, and I’m not saying this for praise – although please spill it on me,” laughs Stewart, “but because it’s so cool that everyone was so attached to the moment.” …

Larrain takes out his camera and shows them a candlelit shot. “This is the only scene I filmed with two cameras,” he says. Later in the film, there is a scene in which Diana confesses to her eldest son, William. Larrain reports that some people ask him why an adult seeks asylum in a 10-year-old child.

“I tell them I do this all the time,” says Larrain. “I have a 13-year-old daughter. There are boundaries, but she can be very useful in many things! “

Stewart and Neelen, the 12-year-old English actor who plays William, developed a relationship similar to the roles they played in Spencer, confidants on set who shared secrets.

“He always loves to be the only person who really knew what was going on,” Stewart says. “And by the way, he was not mistaken. He was so perceptive that I thought, “Yo! Look away! ‘Sometimes he would come up to me when I was downstairs and ask, “Hey, are you okay?” And I told him: “Stop being so perceptive, little man!”

“This has to be what it means to have a really great relationship with your son, and you want to protect him from some of the things that seem like adults,” Stewart continues. “But at the same time, you want him to be your best friend, and you want to respect him and treat him like an adult, because then he will act like an adult. I really love these kids. “

This montage: “Heimlich’s Emotional Maneuver”

A woman in a yellow dress and a triangular hat stands in the fog in front of an English country house.

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in Pablo Larrain’s Spencer.


Going back to that 3½-minute edit that Larrain calls “the healing process for Diana,” and Stewart sees it as “reanimation to the touch.” He arrives after Diana’s last meeting with Boleyn, in which the former Queen of England convinces her, “Go! Launch! “A lot of the beauty and power of this episode stems from the fact that they filmed it every day for several weeks.” Every time we went on stage, I wore a different dress, “Stewart says.

Larrain opens his Spotify account and shares a playlist of 15 songs titled Spencer Dancing. Here are the songs he played as clues to Stewart:

  • “Perfect Day,” a cover of Lou Reed’s song by the Belgian female choir Scala & Kolacny Brothers, was featured in the teaser for “Spencer.”
  • All Apologies, Nirvana cover by Sinead O’Connor
  • Generic, Miles Davis.
  • “I’m Got You Under My Skin,” by Frank Sinatra, a song that Stewart couldn’t keep cool.
  • “Once in a Lifetime”, Talking Heads
  • Home, LCD Soundsystem, according to Stewart, “The best f-dance song of all time.”
  • Laika, Camel Power Club
  • “Aria from the Goldberg Variations”, BWV 988, Johann Sebastian Bach, Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica
  • “My Woman” by Nicholas Jaar
  • I Found a Cause, Cat Power
  • “Aria”, Balanescu quartet
  • Concert at Aranjuez: Adagio, Miles Davis.
  • Love Time by Françoise Hardy.
  • “Creep”, Scala & Kolacny Brothers
  • “We’ll meet again,” said Vera Lynn, the song that sounds at the end of Kubrick’s Doctor. Strange Love”
A man in black and a woman in a white T-shirt with red pants and a red jacket over her shoulder.

Directed by Pablo Larrain and Kristen Stewart in London West Hollywood.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times) #

“Every time one of these songs started, I wanted to unpack it and talk about it,” Stewart says. “Like,” Oh, I love this song, “or share your memories, but I had to postpone these digressions for later with my friends because Pablo told me,” We’re rolling. ” So I had to be this girl going crazy in this castle. And I was always exhausted because it was the end of the day. “

Larrain smiles. More than 20 years ago, he worked in his native Chile with the Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Lanci, who told him: “There is nothing like a tired actor.” This means that this is when they become more accessible and sometimes vulnerable because their defenses are not working. “I’m always more interested in accidents,” says Larrain. “And if you look at this montage, I think it’s full of beautiful incidents.

“This is the ghost of a movie,” he adds in the evening, looking at the city lights. “You never do what you think you do.”

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