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PARKER, DAVID: Diana & Me

GETTING THE OK FROM AA
Making a film, even a romantic comedy like Diana and Me, can have its horrific moments, as director David Parker reveals to ANDREW L. URBAN.

Londonís tallest, most elaborate crane had been hired to carry the camera for an aerial shot that seems to take us over Buckingham Palace to an expressway coming in from the airport, where our heroine and her boyfriend are stranded in a broken down car. The scene is set up, and David Parker is calling the shot like a field marshall, barking into his walkie talkie. The AA (Britainís NRMA or VAC equivalent) van is parked in front of the broken down Subaru. But there is a problem: the AA man is unhappy, as Parker sees from a distance.

The first assistant director informs him by walkie talkie that the AA man is unhappy because AA vans never park in FRONT of the broken down vehicle. Parker wanted him to walk from the back of his car to the bonnet of the Subaru. No way. Parker agrees to the change, but also decides that he wants a different car Ė like the British made Vauxhall used by one of the crew - as the broken down vehicle.

"It was chaos"

Once again, the AA man is unhappy and is preparing to drive away. Parker learns that this time itís the make of the vehicle that has upset him. In the script, it was a Subaru. Parker is nonplussed, and the sun is setting dangerously low, while the traffic is getting dangerously busy as peak hour approaches.

The hidden agenda was finally revealed when Parker learnt that the AA has a deal with the makers of Vauxhall: every new Vauxhall owner gets a free AA membership. And they donít like to portray Vauxhalls broken down.

"It was chaos," Parker says, smiling in retrospect. He wasnít smiling much at the time.

But at least his relationship with his actors was smoother: "they were terrific and very supportive of what I wanted to do," says Parker of Toni Collette and Dominic West. Parker dismisses rumours that Collette was difficult to work with; "We respected each otherís views. That doesnít mean we didnít argue, but she rightly defended her character, and I defended my vision."

"Parker worked with writer Matt Ford for six weeks on how to take into account the real events that would make the film acceptable"

Diana and Me, about an Australian girl who shares a name and birthdate (10 years earlier) with Diana, the Princess of Wales, and is rather obsessed with her royal namesake. She wins a trip to London with a chance to meet her namesake, only to be pushed out the way by a paparazzo.

Shooting wrapped in December 1996, and post production was completed at Easter 1997, with release planned for late August. Dianaís tragic death threw the plans into limbo, and Parker worked with writer Matt Ford for six weeks on how to take into account the real events that would make the film acceptable, without seeming to exploit the event or to display bad taste.

"The Diana character was originally older, 'more like Shirley Valentine.'"

What they came up with simple yet effective: the film begins with new footage shot in October 1997, in which Diana is laying flowers at the gates of Kensington Palace in loving memory of Princess Diana, making the rest of the film a flahsback.

At the end of the film, we return to the scene, as she and the photographer sadly, slowly walk away, their lives having changed.

Parker, who worked with Ford for 18 months on the script, says the Diana character was originally older, "more like Shirley Valentine."

Shooting in London was difficult, but rewarding. Of the locations used, most striking was the one used for the White Ball that Elton John throws for invited celebrities. The sensational interiors were shot in Londonís Royal Society of Engineers building, which Parker regards as "really beautiful".

Parker, who was once a photographer himself, had a profound impact on the final screenplay, and his producer Matt Carroll believes the film has a "bloody good chance" of being a success. "Americans will understand the story, theyíre familiar with obsession about celebrities and how that obsession can lead to funny situations."

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"They were terrific and very supportive of what I wanted to do,"


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Read Paul Fischer's interview with
TONI COLLETTE


"We respected each otherís views."


"Americans will understand the story, theyíre familiar with obsession about celebrities and how that obsession can lead to funny situations."







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