ABC revisits 'Story of Diana' in two-part documentary

 
By Jay Bobbin
Zap2it
Posted8/6/2017 7:00 AM
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  • ABC marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death with the two-part documentary "The Story of Diana."

    ABC marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death with the two-part documentary "The Story of Diana." Associated Press

With so many specials on the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death, a same-themed four-hour program needs something different.

ABC's "The Story of Diana" has that as its centerpiece -- a U.S.-exclusive interview with her brother Charles, 9th Earl Spencer -- as it airs Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 9 and 10. Made in association with People Magazine, the documentary also includes comments from others who were close to "the people's princess" including Sir Richard Branson, her friends Lana Marks and Wayne Sleep, and Prince Charles' cousin India Hicks. Helping make certain the royal wedding is covered is Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed Diana's gown.

"We began at the beginning," says Emmy-winning, ESPN-veteran executive producer Maura Mandt, "learning everything we could about Diana and looking for folks who could speak about her knowledgeably and eloquently from a first-person perspective."

Much of the actual interviewing for "The Story of Diana" was done by producer Rebecca Gitlitz, who explains that she and her colleagues told Charles Spencer that "we wanted to tell a very honest story of (Diana's) life, and that we wanted to honor her life and her legacy. His vision was very much in line with ours, and I think he really trusted that we would tell the story that sometimes gets lost."

Charles Spencer remembers his sister Princess Diana in "The Story of Diana," airing over two nights on ABC.
Charles Spencer remembers his sister Princess Diana in "The Story of Diana," airing over two nights on ABC. - Courtesy of ABC

Both ABC News -- represented in interviews by Elizabeth Vargas and Chris Connelly -- and People, with editor-in-chef Jess Cagle also participating on camera, contribute substantial archival material to "The Story of Diana." However, there's also plenty of fresh footage, Mandt reports: "We put the resources into going to London and going to France and talking to the people who have stories that haven't been included. Many of the folks who are going to be in this documentary, you haven't seen."

Clearly, the fatal car accident in a Paris tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997, has to play a significant role in any thorough Diana documentary. Mandt notes that her project's take on it highlights "the world's connection and reaction, and the sort of global mourning that happened, when she died. It's not an investigatory show on her death, though."

ABC marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death with the two-part documentary "The Story of Diana." The documentary explores her wedding to Prince Charles as well as the years after the breakup of their marriage.
ABC marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death with the two-part documentary "The Story of Diana." The documentary explores her wedding to Prince Charles as well as the years after the breakup of their marriage. - Associated Press

Besides the Diana specials shown by such rival networks as CBS, NBC and HBO, the makers of "The Story of Diana" also had an earlier ABC special -- last May's "The Last 100 Days of Diana" -- to consider.

Mandt maintains that with "a four-hour, two-night event, we already have opportunities for more detail and more depth than other specials that have been done. We were very aware that with the anniversary, there was going to be heightened interest and other productions, so our goal was to do something that would stand out."

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