How The Crown gets Princess Diana’s “Panorama” interview with Martin Bashir right

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The portrayal of Princess Diana’s famous interview with Martin Bashir, shown on the BBC weekly news programme panorama in 1995 and in which Diana revealed the misery of her royal life and exposed the appearances of her failed marriage is the beating heart of the fifth series of The crown.

As in real life, everything else leads to and flows from this extraordinary moment in television history.

In the key section of the interview, much of which was re-enacted, Diana spoke sharply about her husband’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.

Aware of her status as a former lover and resuming the relationship in 1986, she said, adding, “I was in no position to do anything about it.”

Bashir went on to investigate a series of questions, and when he asked Diana what the ‘effect’ of her husband’s infidelity was on her, Diana replied, ‘Pretty devastating. Rampant bulimia, when you can have rampant bulimia, and just feeling like you’re no good at anything and useless and hopeless and you’ve failed in every way… With a husband who loved someone else.”

The devastating decline continued as Diana said: “Friends on my husband’s side were implying that I was again unstable and ill and should be put into some sort of home to get better. I was almost embarrassed… There’s no better way to dismantle a personality than to isolate it.”

“Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

— Princess Diana

However, it was when Bashir asked, “Do you think that Ms. Parker Bowles was a factor in the failure of your marriage?” that Diana delivered the fateful line the interview might be best known for: “Well, there were three of us in that marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

The absolutely faithful reproduction of parts of the interview itself is an act of public relations by that of the crown Creator Peter Morgan as the Royal Family managed to remove the interview from the public record.

The BBC bowed to royal demands last year that the interview should never be shown again, pulled from online channels and not licensed for reuse by other broadcasters, after an investigation found interviewer Martin Bashir lied and Diana showed fake documents, to secure the interview. (One can still access transcripts fairly easily.)

But Morgan’s meticulous restaging of Diana’s greatest moment, coupled with his unequivocal portrayal of Bashir as a ruthless, cynical manipulator, skillfully and implicitly refutes the royal claim that Bashir’s deceptions undo anything Diana said in the interview.

The crownshows with admirable aplomb what the royal family will not condone: that two things can be right at the same time – yes, Martin Bashir (played by Prasanna Puwanarajah) behaved abominably to secure the interview, but also that Princess Diana (Elizbeth Debicki ) felt a number of things about her treatment by her then-husband and the royal family.

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana at Kensington Palace for the TV show panorama.

Pool Photo/Corbis via Getty

It’s interesting to speculate whether the character of Martin Bashir would have been drawn differently if the show had aired before the BBC released the results of a 2021 investigation into the interview.

This investigation found that Bashir had deceived Diana and her brother with forged documents to assuage their fears that she was being followed, watched and otherwise spied on. While the establishment has long claimed Diana was infatuated and paranoid, The crown makes it clear that her fears were justified (as many observers have now discovered).

Yet almost from the moment we meet Bashir, he appears in an unflattering light.

Within minutes of being first introduced to the BBC’s rising star, he’s standing over a graphic designer’s shoulder, instructing the designer on what he wants to appear on a fake bank statement. We then see him rather shamelessly presenting the fake bank statements to Diana’s brother and then to Diana herself.

Bashir is the only character in The crown who is drawn as a one-dimensional villain. The oily ball of slime’s only redeeming quality is that he’s an effective reporter, “one of our best,” as his editor describes him.


Prasanna Puwanarajah as Martin Bashir in The crown.

Courtesy of Netflix

Even the character of Prince Charles speaks more for him as this cynical manipulator, who in one scene emphasizes his Pakistani heritage, which he previously dismissed after Diana decided it was an auspicious sign that she should work with him because she fell in love with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.

However, it’s in the staging of the interview itself in Episode 8, interspersed with cutaways of the rest of the family watching it The crown really excellent.

The royal family have argued, an argument apparently accepted by the BBC, that the duplicitous manner in which Bashir received the interview invalidated it and it no longer existed. The suppression was so successful that the interview can no longer be licensed for reproduction and has disappeared from platforms like YouTube. The BBC has vowed it will never be shown on the BBC again.

There is no doubt that Bashir used underhanded methods to secure the interview with Diana. There is also no doubt that Diana meant every word of what she said. First of all, you can imagine that her husband was an asshole who cheated on her throughout their marriage.

Much of what she said in the interview were points she had previously made on tapes she smuggled out to Andrew Morton for his book. Diana’s true storyas Morton himself pointed out in an interview with The Daily Beast.

Given how excellent this episode is, when the BBC and the royals are going to try to root out the original show – without reference to which it’s actually impossible to tell Diana’s story accurately – can’t we just let Peter Morgan handle the whole thing? please? Something along the lines of Morgan’s grandiose verbatim play, Frost/Nixonperhaps?

The BBC’s cowardly toady-licking at the royals’ feet means for millions of viewers, that of the crown version of this interview will be the only one you will ever know.

So it’s a good job that they absolutely nailed it. How The Crown gets Princess Diana’s “Panorama” interview with Martin Bashir right

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