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Jonny Greenwood, Kristen Stewart

Jonny Greenwood likens Pablo Larraín’s Diana biopic to a ‘horror film’

The Radiohead musician says that his Spencer soundtrack also aims to reflect the late princess’ ‘chaotic’ life

Earlier this week (September 3), it was announced that Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack for Pablo Larraín’s upcoming Princess Diana biopic, Spencer, is set to be released via Mercury KX. Ahead of the release, the Radiohead musician has discussed how he introduced “anarchy and chaos” into the instrumental score, to reflect the late princess’ “chaotic and colourful” life.

By now, Greenwood has a few major scores under his belt, having worked with Paul Thomas Anderson on several films – including There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice, and Phantom Thread – and Lynne Ramsay, on the Joaquin Phoenix-starring hitman thriller You Were Never Really Here. Even nine soundtracks into his career as a film composer, however, he maintains that he’s “still doing it wrong, really”.

“I still present directors with hours of music which need to be fitted into scenes lasting a few minutes long at most,” he tells NME in a recent interview. “I haven’t done a car chase, and I rarely have to make music that ducks out of the way for dialogue. That’s real composing.”

In terms of the music that he presented to Pablo Larraín, he says that the aim was “to emphasise how chaotic and colourful Princess Diana was, in amongst all that baroque tradition”, adding: “It’s what the film does too.”

“I suggested we get a baroque orchestra in,” he goes on, “so I wrote music in that regular royal style, with kettle drums, trumpets, harpsichords and pipe organs.” However, to capture the chaos, he also substituted the orchestra with free jazz players. 

“They could play those instruments, but we had it mutate into a free jazz performance,” he says. “That said, at first they were too restricted by the chords. It was like they were trying to improvise to the theme from Antiques Roadshow. The key was to still sound vaguely baroque, while leaving enough space for true anarchy and chaos.”

Elsewhere, Greenwood has similarly commented on the unconventional approach of Larraín’s biopic, which follows Kristen Stewart’s Diana over a long weekend at Sandringham in the Christmas holidays, as her marriage to Prince Charles breaks down. Speaking to PA, he says that the film is “darker and stranger” than most films about the royals.

“You feel straight away that this is not as easy a viewing experience as something like The Crown,” he adds, citing the “claustrophobic” camera movement. “It’s just doing something different.”

“It’s a bit like a horror film in a way. There are all these sinister servants loitering under stairs and there is this feeling of paranoia and oppression. The music was meant to enhance that.”

Spencer premiered at Venice Film Festival (September 3) and is set to be released in US cinemas on November 5. The release date for Greenwood’s soundtrack is yet to be announced. In other Radiohead news, Thom Yorke recently addressed the band’s “embarrassing” numbers on TikTok, joking about the lack of engagement since they launched an account on the platform back in April.