Even better than the reel thing
Hollywood royalty Naomi Watts is set to step into Princess Diana's shoes, writes Deirdre Reynolds
It's 15 years since the Princess of Wales died tragically in Paris aged just 36. As new pictures of Naomi Watts on the set of biopic Caught in Flight emerged on her anniversary though, it was as if Princess Di never left.
Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg, Kristin Scott Thomas's younger sister Serena and Bond girl Caroline Bliss are just some of the stars to step into the shoes of the People's Princess over the years.
But Australian actress Watts is the first to play Prince William and Harry's mother in a major Hollywood movie, due for release next year.
"It was very scary and I kind of wanted to say no but I couldn't," says mum-of-two Watts (43) who was born in Kent.
"It's very difficult to play someone who left such a lasting memory on the public . . . you know that people will complain that you don't look enough like her, that you're not tall enough, all those things.
"But I wanted to do her justice and help tell her story truthfully."
Here, we recall some of the other starlets to make movie-goers do a double take.
Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe
My Week With Marilyn star Michelle Williams (32) pulled out all the stops to portray the ultimate blonde bombshell on the big screen.
The mum-of-one spent six months immersed in all things Monroe in order to perfect her girlish voice and famous wiggle: “I'd go to bed with a stack of books next to me and I'd fall asleep to movies of her,” says the former Dawson's Creek actress. Just like Norma Jean, though, Williams was overlooked for an Oscar for her role.
Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II
Tracing the ripple effect of the death of Diana on the Royal family, Hollywood queen Helen Mirren nailed her turn as the real thing in Stephen Frears' 2006 drama The Queen — nabbing her first Oscar in the process. And sex symbol Mirren (67) joked that she looks more like the grandmum than people may think. “Sadly, I used very little makeup,” said the Dame. “I didn't spend hours in the makeup chair with all kinds of magical things being added to my face.”
Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo
Mum-of-one Salma Hayek beat off stiff competition from Madonna and Jennifer Lopez to land the role of flamboyant artist Frida Kahlo.
Super-fan Salma spent six years swotting up on the fellow Mexican before bringing her to life on the big screen in 2002.
And the star famously even grew a moustache and monobrow to impersonate the painter. “[Frida] has been in my life since I was 14,” said Hayek (46). “We’ve been through a lot together.”
Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett
Putting the ‘amp' back into vampire, Twilight star Kristen Stewart (22) garnered rave reviews for her portrayal of rocker Joan Jett in The Runaways in 2010 — not least from Jett herself.
“I found us to be really, scarily similar, just in our physicality,” says the 53 year old, who shot to fame as one fifth of The Runaways in 1975. “When we were hanging out together on set, it was like I had a mirror image.” But the likeness didn't end there — Stewart also took singing lessons to sound like the star.
Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor
Fans of the late Elizabeth Taylor were up in arms earlier this year when it was revealed she would be played by Lindsay Lohan in upcoming TV biopic Liz & Dick.
Dolled up like the screen icon in a recent publicity shot however, Lilo looked the part. The 26-year-old hasn't had a starring role since Labour Pains in 2009. Only time will tell if she can do justice to legendary Liz when the film airs on Lifetime later this year.
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher
Critics were unconvinced about The Iron Lady, but few could find fault with star Meryl Streep's rendition of ‘Lady M’.
The famous Hollywood liberal threw herself into the part of the Conservative leader by studying footage of the politician and chatting with frenemies such as Neil Kinnock.
And she completed the transformation in Thatcher's bouffant and skirt suits. “I guess I'm as passionate about my work as she was,” says Streep (63), who trumped Michelle Williams to land her third Oscar this year.