The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana

The Princess Diana I Knew by Linda Yellen

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Linda Yellen made the highest-rated MOW of 1982 “The Royal Romance of Charles & Diana” and now prepares for the World Premiere movie about the love story of the ages “William & Catherine: A Royal Romance.”  Ms. Yellen had the privilege of knowing Princess Diana and shared her reflections in this story…

 I met Princess Diana several times. The first time was when I was lucky enough to get an audience with her at Kensington House, as my movie, “The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana” was in the process of being finished for American television. There were rumblings that it might not be accepted in England. Diana graciously agreed to see the movie and afterwards agreed to meet with me.
When I walked through the door I was so impressed by her beauty, not conventional, but with a true luminescent quality. And her kindness. The first thing she said, in that soft deep voice of hers, is “you cast someone prettier then me to play Diana!” Not so!
Diana was sympathetic to our attempt to do the film in a way that was respectful and well as insightful for the common man. She was complimentary.  Most importantly, Diana provided us with keen advice on what we could do to make our serious intent known, and have the film received with an open mind and heart, in the UK.
Diana was grace itself. She asked me in great detail about the film making process, how various costumes were chosen, to be copied. How scenes were selected, etc. She seemed very interested in how movies were made. And she seemed mature beyond her age. I was older then her, yet I felt like she was someone I was looking up to.
Photo: Courtesy of Hallmark Channel
The last time we met a couple of years later was at a fundraiser at the Dorchester Hotel honoring Margaret Thatcher. I hadn’t expected to see her there but we sort of found each other across the crowded banquet room, as we were the only two women wearing simple black dresses in a room filled with colorful, frilly, evening gowns in every shade of pastel!
When things started to go wrong in Diana’s marriage, no one was more surprised then me. I thought she had a keen understanding on people’s wants and needs. She seemed to have great ability to focus on whomever she was with and address their concerns. I delighted in the tidbits of anecdotal information I learned along the way, i.e. why she was wearing flat shoes? – (Charles didn’t like how she towered over him.), She asked, if I was going to be in the Hamptons that summer, how much she would like to be in the Hamptons. Did you hear that latest rock album, etc.
I’ve always been drawn to people who could be as equally comfortable living in grandeur, or the simple life. That was one characteristic about Diana I think her boys have inherited.
My observation when their marriage did go south was that Diana and Charles, both entered it believing they could change each other.
Diana wanted to change Charles’ wardrobe, his hairdo, and his taste in music. Charles wanted Diana to switch her innate style to that of Royalty several generations past. Charles wanted his sons to be raised in the tradition of future Kings, Diana wanted her sons to have a childhood that would make them open to all experiences
The task of bringing any true-life story to the screen can be daunting yet it’s always been something that excited me. Because real life stories are very often more extraordinary then anything a fiction writer can make up.
Getting into the hearts and heads of the people I’ve done movies about, be it the travelers on the Mayflower, (which I can only know through historical reference), or the living people whom I’ve attempted to do films on, Fania Fenelon and all the women in the Auschwitz Orchestra in “Playing for Time”, Jacobo Timmerman, and his family in “Prisoner Without a Number”, Doctor Rene Richards in “Second Serve”, “Liberace”, and even the “Royal Romance of Charles and Diana.” These all came with a responsibility to try to get to some inner truth about the characters that would bring with it a larger message than the particular story, perhaps serve to be some observation on human nature.
No project was more daunting then this one in terms of portraying Princess Diana, and the affect that her life and her passing had on the Royal Family.