Other than Stephen Frears‘s excellent The Queen, the world has yet to see a major biopic about the late Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales and mother of Prince William, the future King of England. The Queen dealt with the aftermath of her tragic auto-accident death in 1997 and featured Diana in archival footage.

Various projects dealing with the life of the beloved princess have been bandied about for a few years – with names like Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightly and Charlize Theron all variously attached to portray Diana – until solid word came down that Downfall and The Invasion director Oliver Hirschbiegel would be helming Caught in Flight.

This project focuses on Diana’s affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan and originally had current It Girl (and very talented actress) Jessica Chastain attached to portray the princess, but new reports confirm that Naomi Watts will be taking over the role. [Deadline]

Ecosse Films – the project’s financial backer – released a press release earlier today with this quote from Watts, who is filming The Impossible with Ewan McGregor:

‘It is such an honour to be able to play this iconic role – Princess Diana was loved across the world, and I look forward to rising to the challenge of playing her on screen.’

While both actresses are nearly dead ringers for Diana, Watts has far more experience and presence than Chastain although the latter projects a chilly yet sweet distance, which is fitting for such a scrutinized and complicated public figure as the “People’s Princess.” Still, Watts is a consummate pro and a routinely underrated talent.

Hirschbiegel, whose brilliant Downfall is quite likely going down in history as the greatest movie about Hitler ever made, has dipped his toe into the Hollywood whirlpool with his Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake (which I liked, but no one else seemed to), but this project will have a lot of light focused on it. Given the talent involved, it sounds like Diana’s story is in good and respectful hands.

What do you think about Naomi Watts taking over the role? Would you prefer Chastain?

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