Keeley Hawes based Shakespeare royal role on Princess Diana


Keeley in The Hollow Crown (BBC Pictures)

Actress Keeley Hawes has revealed she based her recent Shakespearean TV character on Diana, Princess of Wales.

She stars as Elizabeth Woodville, the commoner Queen of King Edward IV, in The Hollow Crown: The War Of The Roses.

The BBC Two title encompasses the three films celebrating Shakespeare this year, consisting of Henry VI (in two parts) and then Richard III, which is broken up into two three-hour films.

She told the Radio Times she was a "Shakespeare virgin" before she started working on The Hollow Crown.

She said: "I didn't grow up reading Shakespeare and my family certainly weren't in the habit of going to see the plays in the theatre.

"I was really frightened of it, frightened of the words and of that whole world. But it's a box I had to tick. I couldn't get away with not doing Shakespeare any longer."

Big name stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Dame Judi Dench star in The Hollow Crown (BBC/Carnival Film & Television Ltd/Robert Viglasky)

The cast of the films also includes seasoned hands who have tackled the famous bard's works numerous times, including Dame Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugh Bonneville.

Describing her character, she said: "I started reading about the real-life Elizabeth and I decided to see my character as a sort of Princess Diana figure.

"Elizabeth is incredibly bright and able - far ahead of her game politically - but she is looked down on by the royal family because she's been married before."

Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville (BBC/Carnival Film & Television Ltd/Robert Viglasky)

Director Dominic Cooke hailed Keeley's performance as being "as good as anybody", and he credited Shakespeare as being the original inventor of the soap opera.

He said: "Shakespeare invented soap opera with Henry VI, too.

"It's that basic soap progression: two families, tension within them, families in conflict. The play is more than that, of course, but it was a huge commercial success for Shakespeare, which is why he wrote sequels."

The full interview is in this week's Radio Times.