Kristen Stewart is having a moment. Quite literally since at the very minute of writing, her name is trending on Twitter. That’s because the former franchise star, who’s mostly chosen to keep a low profile for the better part of a decade, has just appeared in the first teaser trailer for Neon’s Spencer. And with the reveal of Stewart breaking down into tears with an English accent, crying as and for Princess Diana, her transition to an apparent awards contender is complete.
The film, which is helmed by Jackie director Pablo Larraín, comes saddled out of the gate with as much fascination and curiosity as, well, Larraín’s previous biopic about Jackie Kennedy. That movie earned star Natalie Portman a slew of nominations, including Best Actress at the Oscars, and Spencer takes a similar tact by imagining Diana Spencer’s life during the final days of her marriage to Prince Charles over their Christmas holiday.
The trailer is already generating buzz due to the sight of Stewart affecting a credible English accent. For audiences mostly familiar with Stewart from her time as a star of the Twilight Saga, the sight of her playing one of the most famous public figures of the 20th century, and one at the nexus of modern British history, is likely jarring. However, it is part and parcel for Stewart’s transition into continued serious and respected work over the last decade.
Not unlike fellow Twilight alum Robert Pattinson, Stewart has spent years eschewing the kind of blockbuster entertainment that made her a household name, particularly after the troubled production of Snow White and the Huntsman. Since 2012, she has favored the kind of indie darlings and arthouse fare which gave her an early start. Notably this included fantastic work in a pair of Olivier Assayas movies, Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper. While those type of films were the darlings of the international film festival circuit, they were also too unusual and offbeat for typically more conventional awards season voters’ tastes (although she did win the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Supporting Actress for Clouds).
Preferring intimate dramas over Hollywood spectacles, she’s had arguably more success than her occasional brush up with studio IP like in 2019’s Charlie’s Angels. While that movie didn’t take, last year’s Hulu release of the LGBTQ Christmas dramedy, Happiest Season, was the streaming hit of the holidays.
With Spencer Stewart is making perhaps her most visible stab at mainstream prestige with a film that has the high expectation, and suspicion, which accompanies all things royal related. After all, Naomi Watts starred in a painfully conventional Princess Diana movie less than a decade ago via Diana (2013), and the only nominations that received were Razzies.
Spencer appears poised to take a more unconventional approach in essaying Diana, zeroing in on several crucial days that changed the course of her life, much as how Larraín narrowed his focus on the future Jackie Onassis to the worst moment of her life: the days after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Awards season voters tend to be swayed by such an approach in biopics; and the glossy new teaser, which debuts ahead of the film’s world premieres at the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals, indicate Neon and Stewart hope Spencer will do much the same. Of course we’ll find out when the movie is screened for both audiences and the press at those events whether Stewart has brought Diana back to life.