The Crown: Season 4 Behind The Scenes Stories That Raise Eyebrows
The Crown season 4 is the biggest premiere of November 2020! What was so notorious about the audition for Princess Diana? What was it about Gillian Anderson that scared Olivia Colman? What song did the cast like to dance to? And the main question is, how do you say ‘yes’ in the Queen’s language? Let’s go behind the scenes of The Crown!
Benjamin Caron, the director and the executive producer of the show, said Emma Corrin’s audition was notorious! While auditioning for Camilla, a casting director brought Emma in to read for Diana. Corrin read through some lines with Ben. Then he turned to one of the producers, and asked: “Can I? Can I tell her?”
After receiving the consent, he kneeled and asked Corrin: “Will you be our Diana?” “It was so intense!” - Emma confessed. Josh O’Connor, who played Charles, confirmed that it really was that dramatic, comparing it to the climactic moments of the X-Factor show.
On her way back home Emma Corrin played the theme music from The Crown in her car to feel the moment fully and when she arrived she managed to keep the news a secret for like...15 seconds.
By the way, Emma and Josh became good friends during the shooting, which definitely benefited the portrayal of Diana and Charles’ relationship in season 4. Olivia Colman remembered when Emma Corrin first appeared in "Diana's" wig, it freaked everyone out! That's how much Corrin looked like Diana.
What about Olivia’s opinion on the other newbie - Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher? “She really just became her.” - said the actress. “When she was in it [the character], it was really spooky. Especially if the light was behind her a bit, I would go 'Whaaat? It’s Thatcher?'”
For Gillian playing the Iron Lady was quite a challenge! "I don’t think I’ve ever taken on a role that presented so much pressure," Still, she took the part without hesitation and to her joy was accepted into the cast easily: “From the moment I joined the team I was completely welcomed into the mix.” So, how did the cast get into the challenging roles they had the courage to take on?
SOUNDS AND MOVES
The entire cast had to learn what they called the Royal or the Queen’s language - the poshest on Earth - according to Josh O’Connor. Helena Bonham Carter states it can be obtained by not moving your upper lip when you speak. Olivia Colman even taught Stephen Colbert to pronounce the Queen’s ‘yes’ - just say ‘ears’. O’Connor’s shortcut to Prince Charles' vocals was to speak through his teeth.
As for Diana, Corrin noticed that Lady Di tended to lower her intonation at the end of each phrase. This pattern made her speech sound very sweet, sincere, and a bit sad at the same time.
The young actors competed to see whether Emma could sound more like Charles and if Josh could sound like Diana, and Emma totally beat him! Though Josh worked out a perfect Diana-like ‘Alright” with a nod on the side. Gillian Anderson stressed that finding Thatcher’s voice was crucial:
“I think there was a certain day I felt like I had released her vocally in front of somebody else. And it felt like she showed up in a room for the first time,” the actress shared.
The actress was talking on an exhale, holding her upper teeth over her lower lip a little bit - at least that’s what she taught Stephen Colbert. Anderson added that Thatcher’s physicality is also what everybody remembers her for: she had a very particular way of walking, for instance, she pumped her arm.
Polly Bennett - the cast’s coach on physicality - did a thorough job with Anderson: “We had worked out little systems for her to put on her heavy earrings or work with her hands to make her very valid points.” Olivia Colman was deeply impressed by her colleague’s work:
“The voice and the movement, and the way she did those incredibly low ironic curtsies. She just did it so beautifully and brilliantly - I sort of can’t picture anyone else doing it,” - the actress said.
Every actor had to grasp their character’s mannerisms and try them on. One of Diana’s was the nod on the side. Charles’ was direct, targeted movements. Josh O’Connor also noticed Charles' hand motions when he arrives somewhere. The Crown had another coach - an advisor on royal protocol, who worked for the royal household for 33 years.
He insists on the importance of details, which helps the show to be authentic. Like the stamps on envelopes on a writing desk which had Olivia Colman’s face on them. But enough with the details - let’s move on to the part of the show that’s been making everyone’s jaws drop and sigh in amazement.
These are genuine pieces of art! The costume department was the biggest department of the show, and also a favorite of the director Jessica Hobbs. She marked that the designer Amy Roberts approached the costumes with the brain of a director. Therefore all the clothing was made not only for the looks, but to tell the story of The Crown just like the characters who wear them.
Margaret Thatcher sticks out of the royal family when she’s around them with her saturated colored outfits. Her blue costume with patriotic-colored adornments points to the militaristic moment in the story development. The shoulders of her jackets get bigger closer to the end, marking her growing into the Iron Lady image.
Princess Margaret’s inner trials are shown through intense colors, which according to the director Hobbs, are “like a bruise deepening over time.” Amy Roberts focused on the terrific irritation mixed with sadness found in Margaret:
“Lovely plain dark skirt and then that splash, splash of anger. I don’t know why I feel it just sums her up,” she said.
The development of Diana’s outfit mirrors her way from “the slightly more innocent Diana” to being pulled into the royal family and an increasingly toxic marriage. Talking about marriage, the culmination of her wardrobe was the wedding dress with a 25-foot train and a 153-yard veil.
It took 600 hours and about 10 people to create it. David and Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed the original dress, consulted the show and gave the base for a further transformation specifically for Corrin. Diana’s wardrobe includes an original Valentino dress and 1980s Givenchy suits.
"In the Christmas scene, Diana is the only one in black," says Sid Roberts, head buyer and assistant costume designer. "She’s always the antithesis and we highlight that through her clothes.”
Sid also loved dressing Princess Anne, played by Erin Doherty, as she was fond of her scarves and tweed. Josh really liked the beautifully cut suits of Prince Charles and confessed he would gladly keep four of the five he was lucky to wear on set. “I didn’t know that was something that I’ve wanted before I played Charles,” the actor shared.
As for her majesty the Queen, Olivia Colman sighed in delight about… the buttons, paying symbolic reverence to Amy and Sid’s attention to details. So, what’s been happening with her behind the scenes?
Well, the Academy Award-winning actress, who received a Golden Globe award for playing Queen Elizabeth II in the previous season, felt relief when Ben - the director - stopped playing the theme music for The Crown every time before her scenes! He did it before to put her in the mood, but she was like “Stop it! I’m just an actor, I don’t need to...You know?”
The series creator, Peter Morgan, said during the shooting that she was doing much better this season. “Of course! We’ve had time to sit with it and stop over-thinking everything." - Colman replied and added “This is our second time around, so we’ve lived with these characters."
Bonham Carter managed to come up with one thing Colman was strict about, which she finds amusing - Colman remembered all the etiquette rules! “And the good thing about being Margaret," - the actress added, - "was she broke all the rules anyways. So I didn’t necessarily have to listen”.
Emma Corrin felt that the Queen was meant to be horrible to Diana and thought: “How can I do this? [Olivia is] so nice, the least intimidating person in the world, and she’s got a lovely maternal energy on set.” But at the flick of a switch Colman got into her character, which terrified Emma so much that no acting was required on her side.
Gillian Anderson remembers that the chemistry on set between Colman and herself was nothing like the estranged relationship between their characters. “Olivia is a very chatty, bubbly, fun personality. She made it fun,” Gillian said. When you listen to the cast’s feedback on shooting season 4, you get the feeling that everything was enjoyable and that together they were just a ...
FAMILY ON SET
Josh O’Connor said fondly that the crew bonded a lot more this year, largely thanks to Emma Corrin. The newbie became known for her “6 o’clock thing”. Everybody noticed that around 6 pm every day she got into “that sort of hyperactive state”, like all the energy that had been boiling up during the day just exploded in her!
Emma and Josh hung around a lot together, and shared some weird and hilarious moments! Like when they were both sitting in their make-up chairs, Corrin and the make-up artists became obsessed with popping Josh’s spots.
The youngsters were the ones to finally set up a Whatsapp group for the cast. Now they text each other all the time and recently have got into voice notes. Gillian Anderson is the most active on the group. Helena, too. And Tobias is awful - the worst, actually! Erin is not great either.
The cast took turns playing music in the make-up van. Helena was dubbed to be the worst DJ! Olivia remembers them all sitting in a row and texting each other: “What the .... is this?” It was too bizarre and really unexpected for 7 in the morning. They also could have played the game of five for hours. And the winner wasn’t allowed to smile!
Corrin remembers that the best time was when they had those days of shooting all together. Those family scenes were quite rare, so at the end of the day she felt like she had a perfect family Christmas. They even sang along and danced to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” - did you get the hint?
As for the Queen of the last two seasons, Olivia declared that it will be one of the most beautiful experiences of her working life: “It’s a long job which I wasn't used to. But actually everyday I was happy to wake up and go to work. It was heavenly every day.”
Yes, despite the immense love we feel for the actors who made us feel so much with the latest season of The Crown, we have to say goodbye to many of them.
“I’m gonna miss this cast SO much,” - said Jessica Hobbs. - “They were just a really great bunch of human beings. I mean, they loved each other! It was so much fun to be in a room with them.”
Emma Corrin feels sorry that the cast didn’t have the chance to put a closure to their work on the season because of the quarantine restrictions. It just feels like “your ex is moving on.”