22 April, 2024
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Judi Dench slams ‘cruelly unjust, damaging’ Crown story lines


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British acting royalty Dame Judi Dench has weighed into the controversy surrounding the upcoming series of The Crown.

In a letter to Britain’s Times newspaper published on Wednesday, the Oscar-winning actress urged Netflix to add a disclaimer to its smash-hit royals drama when the keenly anticipated fifth series drops in November.

“The closer the drama comes to our present times, the more freely it seems willing to blur the lines between historical accuracy and crude sensationalism,” Dench said.

“Given some of the wounding suggestions apparently contained in the new series – that King Charles plotted for his mother to abdicate, for example, or once suggested his mother’s parenting was so deficient that she might have deserved a jail sentence – this is both cruelly unjust to the individuals and damaging to the institution they represent.”

Dench was referring to an episode in the new series of The Crown that apparently features a scene that depicts then British PM Sir John Major and then-Prince Charles (now the King) discussing potentially overthrowing the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Mr Major has already blasted it as “nothing other than damaging and malicious fiction”.

“A barrel load of nonsense peddled for no other reason than to provide maximum – and entirely false – dramatic impact,” his office said in a statement.

Netflix said this week The Crown had always been a “fictionalised drama”, but have resisted calls to run a disclaimer at the start of each episode.

“We have always presented The Crown as a drama and we have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events,” the streaming service said in 2020.

“As a result we have no plans, and see no need, to add a disclaimer.”

But Dench urged producers to think again.

“The time has come for Netflix to reconsider – for the sake of a family and a nation so recently bereaved, as a mark of respect to a sovereign who served her people so dutifully for 70 years, and to preserve their own reputation in the eyes of their British subscribers,” she wrote.

The Crown producers have also sparked the anger of the Prince of Wales over plans to recreate parts of his mother’s bombshell 1995 BBC interview.

Prince William believes Netflix is profiteering from the controversial interview about the messy break-up of the marriage of Princess Diana and Charles – in which she famously declared “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”.

Prince William said it brought him “indescribable sadness” that the interview had significantly contributed to the “fear, paranoia and isolation” his mother felt in the final years of her life.

His brother, Prince Harry, has called the interview part of “a culture of exploitation and unethical practices” that contributed to Diana’s death.

This week, Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, also spoke out. He told Britain’s Lorraine morning TV show that producers should be “honest with the consumer”, and a warning was needed on each episode.

“I think it would help The Crown an enormous amount if at the beginning of each episode it stated that ‘this isn’t true but it is based around some real events,’” he said.

“Because then everyone would understand it’s a drama for drama’s sake.”

Earl Spencer said The Crown was a “globally significant series”.

“For any movie that does this, you know, it’s playing fast and loose with history without saying that . . . You just have to be honest with the consumer,” he said.

“I worry people do think that this is gospel, and that’s unfair. If we buy something in the supermarket we can look on the packet and see what we are getting.”

But Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, who takes over as Princess Diana in the upcoming fifth series, has defended the show.

“[Show creator] Peter [Morgan] and the entire crew of this job do their utmost to really handle everything with such sensitivity and truth and complexity, as do actors,” she told Entertainment Weekly.

“The amount of research and care and conversations and dialogue that happen over, from a viewer’s perspective, something probably that you would never ever notice is just immense.

“From that very first meeting [with] Peter, I knew that I’d entered into this space where this was taken seriously [in] a deeply caring way. So that’s my experience of the show.”

The fifth series of The Crown drops on November 9.

-with agencies

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