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Jessica Chastain: Should she play Princess Diana?
Casting the rising star of The Help as the iconic royal could be an inspired choice — even though Chastain is American and looks nothing like Diana
 
Jessica Chastain, who will portray Princess Diana in an upcoming biopic, has been one of the standout stars of 2011, delighting critics with her turns in "The Help" and "Tree of Life."
Jessica Chastain, who will portray Princess Diana in an upcoming biopic, has been one of the standout stars of 2011, delighting critics with her turns in "The Help" and "Tree of Life."
Danny Martindale/Getty Images, Photo B.D.V./CORBIS

Jessica Chastain has had a busy summer. The actress has appeared in six films since May, most notably opposite Brad Pitt in Tree of Life, and as the big-hearted Celia Foote in The Help. Both roles are already generating plenty of awards buzz. Chastain is quickly seizing that momentum, booking roles in Guillermo del Toro's upcoming horror film, and opposite Tom Cruise in the big-budget sci-fi flick Horizons. And now, it's been announced that she'll play Princess Diana in Caught in Flight, the first feature-length biopic of the late icon. The film will center on Diana's passionate love affair with heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Kahn, which began in 1995, after her divorce from Prince Charles, and ended before her death in 1997. Reportedly, Diana won't be portrayed in a "particularly favorable light," as she's shown, for instance, stalking the doctor after he ends the relationship. Given the controversial subject matter, the lack of resemblance between the two women, and the fact that Chastain isn't British, is this casting choice a risk?

The Brits will not be pleased: Chastain will get a ton of negative press in the U.K. for taking on this role, says S.T. VanAirsdale at Movieline. Though the talented Chastain is wholly capable of playing Diana, she's unlikely to appease a nation where Diana is such a precious figure that no film depiction will live up to expectations. And that the princess is being played by an American makes it even worse. Expect this one to get ugly.
"The British surely won't mind Jessica Chastain playing an adulterous Princess Di"

But Chastain is very, very good: Chastain and this film will surely be thrust under the microscope, says Katey Rich at Cinema Blend. And while critics can argue that Chastain doesn't look like Diana, or "that a British actress should play the part," the astonishingly diverse resume the actress has built up this past year suggests that she's more than capable of tackling a role "so tricky and iconic." Have some faith.
"Jessica Chastain playing Princess Diana in Caught in Flight"

Either way, it's a huge career move: This casting proves that Jessica Chastain has arrived on the A-list, says Michael Arbeiter at Hollywood. Her career "has virtually just begun," and she's already being given a massive opportunity usually reserved for veteran actors: Portraying a modern icon in "the most sacred of all films… the biopic." Princess Diana "is just about as significant a figure as you can get." Regardless of how this film is received, there are clearly more "good things to come" from the rising star.
"Jessica Chastain cast as Princess Diana in Caught in Flight biopic"

 

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