18 Nov 2020

NZ director on making latest season of The Crown

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 3:10 pm on 18 November 2020

In series four of The Crown three the lives of three women dominate the story; Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth.

Kiwi director Jessica Hobbs directed three episodes of the popular TV series and told Jesse Mulligan that telling the stories of people in recent history presented specific challenges.

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles in Season 4 of The Crown

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles in Season 4 of The Crown Photo: Netflix

“First and foremost, we’re a drama, and we are trying to tell a story through these well-known historical characters, but there was a lot that wasn’t known behind closed doors that gives us certain freedoms.”

Emma Corrin, 24, who plays Princess Diana would have been a toddler when Diana died and yet got a taste of the attention surrounding the princess while filming in London, Hobbs says.

“We were filming outside the Savoy one night and she had to get out of taxi on her own and within seconds of us being there the streets were just packed with press and public, and they were screaming Diana …. you realise there is still a kind of palpable feeling for this person in the world.”

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth Photo: Screenshot

Corrin’s portrayal spans Diana as a naïve teenager through to emergence as a major international figure.

“We looked at shifts in physicality, how she was when she was young, when she started to present in a very squared up much more direct look as she got older.”

Hobbs says finding the truth in each scene is the key to The Crown’s success.

“You have to focus on the moment they are playing in each scene, if you start to try and go on a broader scale it just can overwhelm.”

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher Photo: Screenshot

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher casts a long shadow over the decade, and Hobbs says Gillian Anderson’s portrayal of her is “outstanding”.

“She was brilliant to work with, highly intelligent, very, very committed and really wanted to get under the skin of her understanding of what Thatcher was.

“When you’re looking back at videos of her and thinking, wow that really is how she chose to speak.”

Hobbs directed episodes depicting Thatcher’s political demise, she says.

“Which made me very happy on a personal level!”

Helena Bonham Carter has portrayed Princess Margaret in three series of The Crown.

“I love Helena so much, she has that combination of bravery and strength and vulnerability. She expresses things so truthfully while saying so little.

“I just think she’s an immensely talented actor, she’s also a complete joy to work with, she is funny and irreverent and very sharp.”

Helena Bonham Carter

Helena Bonham Carter Photo: Screenshot

Hobbs believes season 4 will challenge how people think about Diana and the Royal Family.

“I think it will open up a lot of discussion about what could have been done differently, what we could learn from the behaviours and set ways of institutions trying to control or harness individuals, that’s a constant struggle in our democratic societies.

“It was quite a feminist perspective that Peter [Morgan] took, he really wanted it to be about these three women in contrast and conflict with each other.

“He took the fact that Britain for that ten-year period had two women in the lead and this young, very unexpected ingenue who came through and took the world by storm and what that did to each other and British society at the time is really interesting to observe.”

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