Exclusive Interview: Naveen Andrews on Diana

When Princess Diana was killed in an automobile accident in 1997, the media reported on the paparazzi chasing her car and her relationship with Dodi Fayed. I hadn’t heard of Diana’s relationship with Dr. Hasnat Khan until I saw the new movie about her final years. Diana portrays Princess Diana (Naomi Watts) in the last two years of her life, with some attention to the fatal accident, but it centers on her relationship with Khan (Naveen Andrews). After her separation from Prince Charles, it was difficult for Diana to have a normal relationship, and Khan felt the pressure from the tabloid intrusion on their day to day lives. We got to speak with Andrews by phone about his role in the film, which opens Friday.


CraveOnline: I had never heard of Hasnat Khan. I only heard of Dodi Fayed. Were you familiar with Hasnat?

Naveen Andrews: I had never heard of Hasnat either prior to actually reading the script. I had no idea about this episode in Diana’s life or the relationship at all.


It was nice to see that their first date was as awkward as all of our own.

[Laughs] That’s probably my favorite bit in the movie really where when they do have that opening date, it’s almost like a sense of comfort really. They obviously enjoy each other’s company and there’s that very powerful connection that they feel, but they’re almost like kids, the awkwardness and the nervousness I guess.


I definitely got that. Naomi had to be so exacting in her performance because we know Diana. Did you have a little more freedom in portraying Hasnat?

In the sense that there’s very little film of him. There’s film that exists, but what we have is him closer to how he is now. He was always a heavy person so I did have to put on I think like 20 pounds. I’m 160 lbs. in the movie as opposed to my normal weight which is around 140/142. Physically, he was a very different man to me personally, but I guess what was important to me was to meet people who knew him from that time, who had worked with him in his capacity as a heart surgeon and try and get as much information as possible. That information was not easily forthcoming. He was, how can I put it, let’s say extremely self-contained, almost to a fault, very private sort of person at that time. In terms of freedom to create a role, certainly a lot more than Naomi because obviously her character was internationally known. There’s a huge difference there.


Was Hasnat available to you?

No. We knew that we was at a hospital in Essex which is just outside of London, on the borders of London. We did talk about going down there, me and Naomi, to meet him and with hindsight that was probably not the best idea so we didn’t do that.


Are you saying you regret not meeting him?

No, I’m saying with hindsight, if we were to meet him, we couldn’t surprise him. It would have to be with his consent. I would have loved to have met him but it would have been down to him to initiate the meeting, or at least be willing to do it. You can’t force somebody to meet you if they don’t want to.


Do you know if he was aware the movie was being made?

Yes, he was. He was absolutely aware of what was going on. He was kept informed a bit through Kate Snell who wrote the book, Diana – Her Last Love, who I met. She told me that he was aware it was being made. We sort of took that as a tacit acceptance or acknowledgement of things. He didn’t actively oppose it.


Via Kate and her book and the screenplay, do you know what aspects of the character we see in the movie come from the real Hasnat? The way he describes operating, when he says, “The operation performs you,” do we know if that came from his real philosophy on surgery?

All I know is that what I was able to glean from the people I knew was that there was almost an aesthetic about what he did. There was something almost spiritual about his vocation in the way that he practiced it. The idea of being a healer, the idea of a public servant was extremely important to him. But, the ability to practice his vocation was what overrode maybe everything else in his life. That was a stumbling block for him in his relationship with Diana, in that his ability to practice in his vocation would have been irrevocably compromised. At least he felt that way. Others might not. I personally don’t but I think he felt that way.


Is the thought that they would have reunited if Diana had lived?

I personally think yes, if she’d come back from Paris that they definitely would have seen each other again. Where it would have gone, of course, is anybody’s guess. I mean, that’s a hypothesis, isn’t it? The relationship certainly would have continued, in my opinion, but those issues that came up between them, that are there in the movie, stumbling blocks if you like, the intrusions of the outside world, would still have been there, wouldn’t they? How they would have dealt with them as a couple is anybody’s guess really.