The controversial fly-on-the-wall documentary series featuring the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for Netflix has been postponed until next year, following the widespread backlash over The Crown.
Harry and Meghan had been working on the series as part of their rumoured $100 million (£88million) deal with the streaming giant.
But with The Crown accused of fabricating a ‘hurtful’ smear against King Charles by depicting him secretly plotting to oust the Queen, Netflix has now pushed it back.
The documentary had been expected in December, following the fifth season of The Crown. A source told Hollywood news website Deadline: ‘They’re rattled at Netflix, and they blinked first and decided to postpone the documentary.’
The decision to halt the documentary series comes just weeks after the Sussexes were reportedly ‘at odds’ with the production staff about making ‘extensive edits’.
The series is a co-production between Netflix and Archewell Productions. Both were contacted for comment last night.
It comes as the streaming giant is said to be ‘spooked’ by the outrage that some storylines in The Crown have caused – even before it has been broadcast next month.
Netflix, which spends £11.5 million per episode on the show, which is one of its biggest global hits, will cover the years from 1991 to 1997, and will include details of Diana’s Panorama interview in 1995, in Series Five.
King Charles, played by Dominic West, is the dominant figure in the drama. He is shown lobbying Prime Minister John Major in a bizarre attempt to force his mother’s abdication.
It also depicts Charles bitterly arguing with Diana as their divorce looms, and romancing Camilla, now Queen Consort, including a dramatisation of the notorious ‘tampongate’ phone call.
A production source said that media outrage over inaccuracies – and the lack of sensitivity in airing the series so close to the death of the Queen – is ‘spooking’ the broadcaster.
The source said: ‘The show has never been about sensationalism but it has also always been a drama. For the first years it seemed that everyone was happy to tolerate it.’
Harry and Meghan had been working on the series as part of their rumoured $100 million (£88million) deal with the streaming giant. Pictured: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are filmed hugging Team United Kingdom competitor Lisa Johnston at the Invictus Games athletics events in the Netherlands in April
The controversial fly-on-the-wall documentary series featuring the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for Netflix has been postponed until next year, following the widespread backlash over The Crown. Pictured: Harry and Meghan attend Global Citizen Live in New York in September last year
The documentary about the Sussexes (pictured left greeting royal mourners at Windsor following the Queen’s death last month) had been expected in December, following the fifth season of The Crown. A source told Hollywood news website Deadline: ‘They’re rattled at Netflix, and they blinked first and decided to postpone the documentary.’ The decision to halt the documentary series comes just weeks after the Sussexes (pictured right at the Invictus Games in April) were reportedly ‘at odds’ with the production staff about making ‘extensive edits’.
King Charles, played by Dominic West (pictured as Charles in the new season), is the dominant figure in the drama. He is shown lobbying Prime Minister John Major in a bizarre attempt to force his mother’s abdication
It comes after it was reported earlier this month how the Duke and Duchess were ‘at odds’ with the production staff on their Netflix docuseries because the ‘panicked’ couple want to make ‘such extensive edits’ that the team believe the project could be ‘shelved indefinitely’.
It was previously expected that the production would be aired in December, following the fifth season of The Crown on November 9, according to entertainment news site Page Six.
Jemima Goldsmith withdrew The Crown contributions after ‘realising Diana’s story would not be told respectful’
By Ephraim Hardcastle for the Daily Mail
Jemima Goldsmith will be subjecting The Crown’s forthcoming depiction of Princess Diana’s disintegrating marriage to forensic scrutiny.
Jemima Goldsmith will be subjecting The Crown’s forthcoming depiction of Princess Diana ‘s disintegrating marriage to forensic scrutiny
Jemima, a close friend of the late princess, was offered a ‘co-writing’ credit by ex-boyfriend and creator of the Netflix drama, Peter Morgan, after helping him with private recollections.
She says: ‘When I realised that the Diana storyline would not necessarily be told as respectfully or compassionately as I had hoped, I requested that all my contributions be removed from the series and I declined a credit.’
However, sources claimed that the couple want to make edits to the series, which would possibly delay its release until later in 2023.
The couple are, according to Page Six, reportedly key to ‘downplay much of what they have said about King Charles III, Queen Consort Camilla, and the Prince and Princess of Wales’.
Insiders reportedly told the publication that the couple are ‘having second thoughts’ on the project.
‘Harry and Meghan are panicked about trying to tone down even the most basic language. But it’s their story, from their own mouths,’ one Netflix source told the website earlier this month.
Another said: ‘They’ve made significant requests to walk back content they themselves have provided — to the extent that some Netflix staff believe, if granted, it will effectively shelve the project indefinitely.’
However the source added that the streaming platform was ‘standing by the filmmakers’ who want to keep the content in the project, and that it will still be ‘going forward.’
Last month, one Hollywood industry source said the couple were facing doubts about the series following the Queen’s death.
They said: ‘A lot of conversations are happening. I hear that Harry and Meghan want the series to be held until next year, they want to stall.
‘I wonder if the show could even be dead in the water at this point, do Harry and Meghan just want to shelve this thing?,’ they added.
A Netflix insider also claimed: ‘Netflix has been keen to have the show ready to stream for December. There’s a lot of pressure on (Netflix CEO) Ted Sarandos, who has the relationship with Harry and Meghan, to get this show finished.’
It comes as Netflix is facing fury over plans to dramatise Princess Diana’s final moments in its new season of The Crown.
The hit series, which has repeatedly been accused of blurring the lines between fact and fiction, is reportedly set to cover the hours before the royal’s tragic death in Paris in August 1997.
Season five will be released next month – just weeks after the death of the Queen. The show is already facing criticism over other storylines set to feature in the new series, including depicting the then Prince Charles as a disloyal schemer who plotted against his mother and Prince Philip ‘pursuing an affair’ with his close friend Penny Knatchbull.
Netflix is facing fury over plans to dramatise Princess Diana’s final moments before her tragic death in Paris in its new season of The Crown. Pictured: Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in The Crown, season five
It is claimed the hit series will cover the days and even hours before Princess Diana’s (pictured left: At a gala event in London in 1997) tragic death during her ill-fated trip to the French capital in August 1997. According to The Sun , even crew members are concerned in relation to the scenes depicting the lead-up to Diana’s death, with one reportedly saying: ‘It feels as though a line is being crossed.’ Pictured right: Actor Dominic West as Prince Charles and actress Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana while filming the new series of The Crown
Netflix insists Diana’s death, in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel (pictured: The Flame of Freedom statue above the Pont de l’Alma) in central Paris, will not be recreated during the new series
The new series of the royal drama, which has repeatedly been accused of blurring the lines between fact and fiction, is due to be released next month – just weeks after the death of the Queen. Pictured: Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II during the new season of The Crown
One source close to Prince William (pictured with Prince Harry during the unveiling of a statue commemorating their mother last year) last night told the paper that they expect the Prince of Wales will be angered by Netflix’s move to reproduce his mother’s final days for entertainment purposes
William Shawcross, the Queen Mother’s official biographer, branded the series ‘odious’ and ‘deliberately hurtful’ over an apparently invented scene where Charles tells the Queen she should be ‘thrown… into jail’ for being a ‘bad mother’.
Last night, Netflix risked adding fuel to the fire by refusing to add a disclaimer to the series stating that the scenes, branded ‘malicious’ by one royal expert, are not fact but fiction.
Meanwhile, according to The Sun, even crew members are concerned in relation to the scenes depicting the lead-up to Diana’s death, with one reportedly saying: ‘It feels as though a line is being crossed.’
One source close to Prince William last night told the paper that they expect the Prince of Wales will be angered by Netflix’s move to reproduce his mother’s final days for entertainment purposes.
Prince William’s fury as Netflix is accused of profiteering by re-enacting his mother Diana’s BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir in new series of The Crown
Prince William thinks Netflix is profiteering by re-enacting his mother Diana’s BBC Panorama interview, palace sources have said.
The streaming giant will recreate excerpts of Diana’s 1995 encounter with journalist Martin Bashir for the fifth series of The Crown.
A source told The Telegraph that the Prince of Wales made his feelings ‘very clear’ and a depiction in the show would be ‘met in the way you would expect’.
They added it was understandable that he was angered about the ‘dramatisation of it for financial gain’.
An independent inquiry found that Bashir deceived Diana to get the interview, seen by more than 20million viewers, and then lied to BBC managers.
He got a BBC graphic artist to produce fake bank statements that appeared to show payments by a newspaper group to an ex-member of staff of Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother.
The inquiry said this was to gain the Earl’s confidence so he would introduce Bashir to Diana.
It is thought the interview contributed to her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996 – a year prior to her fatal car crash in the Tunnel de l’Alma in Paris.
Series five of The Crown opens in 1991, and a key plotline is the deteriorating relationship between Charles, played by Dominic West, and Diana, portrayed by The Night Manager’s Elizabeth Debicki.
It is understood that Netflix, which has cast Prasanna Puwanarajah in the role of Bashir, will show how the discredited reporter persuaded Diana to give the interview by playing on her paranoia.
But to tell the story, it will recreate what an insider called ‘snippets’ from Diana’s Panorama appearance.
However, any reference to the interview, even if critical of Bashir, is likely to be greeted with dismay in Buckingham Palace.
Netflix insists Diana’s death, in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in central Paris, will not be recreated in the new series.
But one set source reportedly told The Sun: ‘To be going back to Paris and turning Diana’s final days and hours into a drama feels very uncomfortable.
‘The show always tried to present a fictional version of royal history with as much sensitivity as possible. But lately, as things get closer to the present day, it feels harder to strike that balance.’
The Crown, created and written by Peter Morgan, has been a hit for Netflix since it was first released in 2016. But a source told the Daily Mail yesterday that Morgan had become increasingly ‘uncomfortable’ as the series of The Crown edged closer to the present day.
They said: ‘The truth is that it was easier to write the earlier series because, firstly, there is a wealth of historical documentation, plus a consensus over more of what happened, and you can be more broad brush dramatically and people don’t find it hurtful.
‘Peter is always trying to get to the truth. There is always reams and reams of research. However, people are more loose-lipped about Princess Margaret 50 years ago than John Major in 1991.
‘Peter is very aware of all of it and it is a struggle. He insisted on announcing that series five would be the last, even though Netflix didn’t want to announce it. It didn’t want to kill the golden goose.
‘Then, a few months, later he had changed his mind and he said that he was writing series six. But this will be it. He won’t go any further towards the present day. It’s already uncomfortable enough.’
The source added: ‘He is quite traumatised by the criticism. He has not done anything to be sensational. The show would be a different show if he sought the sensational.
‘He has not sought to trash the reputation of the Royal Family – I mean, he accepted a CBE. I think we can all accept that’s not going to turn into a knighthood.’
The storyline where Charles plots to oust his mother was branded a ‘barrel-load of malicious nonsense’ by former prime minister Sir John Major as those close to the new monarch called for a boycott.
Critics argue the show should carry a warning that the ‘false, unfair and deeply wounding’ scenes are fiction, which not all viewers realise.
Yet The Crown has confirmed that series five will air from November 9 without a disclaimer.
Meanwhile, the Queen Mother’s official biographer called the series ‘odious’ and ‘deliberately hurtful’.
Mr Shawcross, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, said that the programme is ‘filled with lies and half-truths encased in lace and velvet’.
He also accused creator Peter Morgan of organising ‘a campaign to abuse’ the monarchy and ‘to destroy by lies a vital institution’.
Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries said that it was only fair that the show regularly displays such a warning, as is common with other programmes.
The Tory MP added: ‘If a programme is purely fiction as this series of The Crown obviously is, in the name of fairness and transparency it should clearly state so.
‘It’s quite bizarre that it would feature people who are alive today but are bound by protocol and unable to rebut false impressions and invented scenarios, knowing that many viewers would believe them to be real.’
Royal insiders have previously described the programme as ‘trolling on a Hollywood scale’, and last night no one was said to have been dissuaded from that view.
But Buckingham Palace has not formally commented on the row as it is believed officials want to rise above the fray with dignity. A spokesman for the series said: ‘The Crown has always been presented as a drama based on historical events.
‘Series Five is a fictional dramatisation, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors during a significant decade for the Royal Family – one that has already been scrutinised and well-documented by journalists, biographers and historians.’
The new series, set in the 1990s, opens with Charles – then the Prince of Wales – lobbying then prime minister Sir John in a bizarre attempt to force the Queen’s abdication.
The new series, set in the 1990s, opens with Charles – then the Prince of Wales – lobbying Prime Minister John Major in a bizarre attempt to force the Queen’s abdication. Pictured: Charles and John Major together in 1994
The prince, played by West, actively briefs against the Queen, whom he believes is out of touch.
But Sir John told The Mail on Sunday that the meeting did not happen and the ‘improper subject’ was never discussed. His office said that not one scene is ‘accurate in any way’, adding: ‘They are fiction, pure and simple.
‘They should be seen 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.’
In another scene, Charles says: ‘If we were an ordinary family and social services came to visit they would have thrown us into care and you [the Queen] into jail.’
While the new series was written at least a year before the Queen died and filming completed months ago, the timing of its release may lead to criticism.
Sources close to the Palace have said the Queen’s death just six weeks ago makes the scenes particularly hurtful.
How Netflix drama The Crown twists truth time after time: Royal historian IAN LLOYD separates fiction from fact…
By IAN LLOYD for THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
How far have The Crown’s storylines strayed from reality? Royal historian Ian Lloyd separates fiction from fact…
THE CROWN VERSION
In a private audience with Prime Minister John Major in 1991, Prince Charles argues for a change of monarch, saying it would be dangerous to ignore a newspaper poll showing the public prefers him to his mother.
This is utter nonsense. Charles would never have lobbied for the Queen to abdicate, as he knew very well that his mother had made a solemn oath to serve for the whole of her life.
THE CROWN VERSION The Queen (played in the new series by Imelda Staunton, right) orders John Major to pay for repairs to the Royal Yacht Britannia out of public funds, even though he is worried that in a recession it might backfire on both of them.
In their exchange, Charles hints that the monarchy should follow the lead of the Conservative Party which a year earlier had ousted Mrs Thatcher in favour of the younger Major (Pictured Johnny Lee Miller and Dominic West as John Major and the then Prince of Wales)
Pure drama. The Queen loved the Royal Yacht but was stoic about its future. In 1997 Defence Secretary Michael Portillo announced that Britannia would be replaced ‘because we believe a Royal Yacht is an important national asset.’
THE CROWN VERSION
In the Royal stables, Charles confronts the Queen about the failed marriages of her children. He tells her: ‘If we were an ordinary family and social services came, they’d have thrown us into care and you into jail.’
Any suggestion Charles would have been so vile to the Queen is malicious fiction. There was friction, but this is going too far.
Charles confronts the Queen about the failed marriages of her children in the show but this never happened. Pictured: Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II and Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh)
THE CROWN VERSION
The Queen Mother asks her daughter not to make her ‘annus horribilis’ speech, in case people think that ‘their Queen is depressed’.
When the Queen spoke of her ‘annus horribilis’ during a lunch on November 24, 1992, her voice was still croaky from the smoke inhalation she suffered during the fire at Windsor Castle. In fact, the Queen Mother was supportive. She wrote a warm note in February, telling her daughter: ‘My Darling Lilibet… I do hope that you feel rested and relaxed after all the ghastly happenings of last (& this) year.’
THE CROWN VERSION
John Major tells his wife Norma: ‘The senior royals seem deluded and out of touch, the junior royals feckless, entitled and lost. It cannot help but affect the stability of the country and it feels it’s all about to erupt on my watch.’
John Major remained a staunch supporter of the Royal Family throughout his tenure and a close friend of the Queen. I very much doubt he ever believed the monarchy was about to crumble.
- Ian Lloyd is the author of The Queen: 70 Chapters In The Life Of Elizabeth II