Oscar 2021: Biopics and Fact-Based Movies–Spencer by Pablo Larrain, Starring Kirsten Stewart

Hollywood biopics and fact-based movies have always been Oscar favorites.

The directors, whether they’ve spun stories of individuals or events, they are also refracting the past to reveal present truth.

From Pablo Larraín to Reinaldo Marcus Green, Aaron Sorkin to Ridley Scott to Lin-Manuel Miranda, this year’s directors examine history’s pull in making pictures such as
“Spencer,” “King Richard,” “Being the Ricardos,” “Tick, Tick … Boom!” and “House of Gucci.”

Sometimes filmmakers hew to the facts but, as Booker Prizewinning novelist Mantel stated: “facts are not truth.”

So filmmakers compress and shift the sequencer of events in order to deliver a more compelling narrative–closer approximation of the truth,

“Spencer is described by director Larraín as “true fiction.” As with his fantastical biopic “Jackie,” which scored Natalie Portman an Oscar nom for portraying Jacqueline Kennedy, this drama positions Kristen Stewart as a lead actress contender for radiating authenticity as Princess Diana.

As Larraín noted, the films overlap in that “everything is related to a human situation that is fragile, full of pain and panic, and also chance to heal.”

As with “Jackie,” Larraín tightens the focus. “Spencer” happens over three days in 1991 at Sandringham Castle where the royal family gathers to celebrate Christmas.

“Minimizing the amount of time increases the amount of freedom you have. We’re not trying to say who Diana was, but make an exercise of memory and identity and humanity,” he adds. The script is a fable, not a documentary.

The director acknowledges the temptation to mimic historical characters. That obsession with an accent, or a physicality “can be dangerous,” Larraín says. “Kristen was able to capture Diana’s spirit and create her own version of Diana. … It feels like the truth, human and fragile. You believe she’s broken; when she’s healed, it’s beautiful to see.”

Larraín told Stewart up front: “We’re going to be very close to the camera. Once you’re close and let time pass, there’s a moment that viewers will be with her so long, so intensely that you create a connection and a relationship with the audience.” He adds, “There’s a glass between audience and character. And you have to break that glass.”