THE Night Manager star Elizabeth Debicki has been cast as Princess Diana in the final two series of The Crown.
She’ll be seen playing the royal in the fifth and sixth season of the Netflix show, which will include Di’s tragic death in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
Elizabeth, 29, is the same age the princess was in 1990, the year that the drama picks up the Windsors’ story – and enters one of their most turbulent periods.
With her chiselled features, piercing blue eyes and short blonde hair, she’s the spitting image of the late icon. And online observers have frequently commented that she’d be an ideal choice to play her in biopics.
At 6ft 3ins, the famously tall actor would have towered over the 5ft 10ins Queen of Hearts, but as she was announced for the part, she acknowledged it was a giant role to tackle.
Elizabeth said: “Princess Diana’s spirit, her words and her actions live in the hearts of so many.
“It is my privilege and honour to be joining this masterful series, which has had me absolutely hooked from episode one.”
Elizabeth was one of the famous actors who’d been rumoured to be in the running for the part in series four, along with Oscar-nominee Florence Pugh, 24, Saoirse Ronan, 26, and Sophie Turner, 24.
But the show’s creators said she was perfect for the role in every way.
A show insider said: “Season five and six will see Diana emerging as an effortless icon with superstar quality but yet still retaining that fragility.
“The role requires a fearless actor to bring truth to this beloved yet complex icon. Elizabeth had that perfect combination of megawatt star quality and vulnerability.
“She was an instant hit – when Elizabeth walked into the room producers were immediately struck by a sheer force of personality and energy and they knew they had found the perfect Diana for the final chapters of The Crown.
“As well as having the acting ability to tackle such a challenging role, the obvious similarities between Elizabeth and Diana in terms of appearance also made her a natural choice.”
The role of the younger Diana, who marries Prince Charles in 1981 and endures a troubled marriage, went to unknown actress Emma Corrin, 24.
She’ll appear for the first time in the much-anticipated fourth series of The Crown when it returns to Netflix this autumn with Josh O’Connor, 30, reprising his role as Prince Charles, 71.
Elizabeth will arrive in the fifth series, which will cover the Nineties when Charles and Di split up and eventually divorced in 1996.
It was also when the princess gave her bombshell 1995 interview about her “crowded” marriage to Panorama, when Charles was having an affair with the then Camilla Parker-Bowles, now 73.
The Crown represents a long-awaited return to television for Elizabeth, who lives mostly in Los Angeles and has carved out a career in Hollywood.
She made her acting breakthrough opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann film, The Great Gatsby in 2013. She also starred in Guy Ritchie’s spy film, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in 2015.
The Australian actress is best known to British audiences as Jed Marshall, the lover of reviled arms dealer Richard Roper, played by Hugh Laurie, in 2016 TV drama, The Night Manager.
She’s remembered for the sex scene in the BBC1 thriller with heroic lead character Jonathan Pine, played by Tom Hiddleston, who famously flashed his pert buns.
Elizabeth says she had no idea it had become such a phenomenon because she was out of the country when the sex scene aired. Also, as she was pinned to a wall she couldn’t see his buttocks were on display so much.
She said: “What was interesting was we sort of shot that scene quite quickly, and I sort of didn’t really realise that that was going on in the scene, you know?
“I was shooting a film in Atlanta and because I wasn’t here I had no idea the effect it was having.
“I didn’t realise that the now-famous Tom’s bottom scene was screening that night and I was actually, the next morning, doing radio interviews for it and someone brought it up.”
But it wasn’t the only time she stripped off in The Night Manager. As well as one memorable scene where she goes swimming naked, she also had to be filmed in bed with her sinister sugar daddy, Richard.
She said: “There were lots of love scenes. But not a single one of them felt gratuitous. The idea of a powerful older man with a much younger woman on his arm could feel like a cliché, but here I don’t think it does.
‘Yes, people will ask themselves, “Why are Jed and Roper together? Is it just a sex thing?” But, strangely, what Hugh and I discovered while playing the roles was that these two people really love each other.”
After gaining greater fame on TV, Elizabeth went back to Hollywood to star in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 2017 and in Steve McQueen’s Widows in 2018 with Oscar winner Viola Davis last year.
But despite her growing profile, the unmarried actor hasn’t been linked to anyone romantically, and remains fiercely guarded about her private life.
Once asked about her love life in an interview she replied: “Have I got a boyfriend-slash-girlfriend? I don’t want to say anything. I’m really private.
“I feel like the thing I want out in the world is my work and I’ve always believed, and it’s the way I approach my work, that me and the work are separate.”
Which is part of the reason why she isn’t on any social media, unlike other celebrities who are constantly posting pictures on Instagram and their views on Twitter.
She said: “I think that people with social media can blur it so beautifully, and I respect that, but it’s not really how I am and I just want the work to speak and people to receive it the way they will without anything influencing it.
“I don’t have social media or anything like that, which was a choice. I think you just have to keep some things for yourself too in this business.”
Debicki is the oldest of three children and was born in France to parents who were ballet dancers. Her father was Polish and her mother was Australian.The family relocated to the suburbs of Melbourne when she was five and she immediately stopped speaking French.
She said: “It was probably the beginning of my acting career. I wanted to fit in and I wouldn’t speak the language any more. My parents were appalled. Can you imagine? You have a little child who’s bilingual and then one day goes, ‘Nope.’”
Her unusual height, which has literally seen her stand head and shoulders above other actors going for the same roles, is a family trait.
She said: “My younger sister is also very tall and my little brother, who is just 17, is 6ft 6in, so we’re the Amazonian Family.
“It’s not easy to be a super-tall woman in Hollywood. But there are times when it works in my favour.
“In The Night Manager, for example, both of my co-stars, Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston, are also well over 6ft and it was lovely to look a co-star in the eye and not have them standing on an apple box.
“I can’t remember the last time I met someone who was taller than me.”
Filming The Crown will see her return to the UK, a place which she’s increasingly seen as a second home, partly because she has relations that come from here.
In an interview in the UK , she said: “They’re all up in the north. I do also like working here and when I started doing films alot of things were shooting here.
“I spent a lot of time here after I finished drama school and it feels very homey to me. And I’m the hugest Bake Off fan ever, since years and years ago – I love Mary Berry deeply.”
Even though making The Crown will see her take on the role of a lifetime, Elizabeth isn’t the sort of person to make any assumptions about what it will do to her career.
She said: “I think it’s only with hindsight that you understand what was a turning point.
“The thing about a career is when you look back, you think, ‘What an interesting path. I could never have seen that job coming around the corner.’”