“They didn’t want us delving into her private life,” said Russell, who returned to Monaco in the summer of 1982 to meet with the princess. “We sat in the palace garden for about 90 minutes discussing the project. I told her it was not our intention to dredge up any dirt, but to tell her fairytale story.”
As Kelly read the script, Russell recalls her response.
“She started acting out the part in front of me and I could see she was warming up to the idea. She would read a section and say ‘oh that’s not exactly what happened.’ She kept a copy of the script and made some suggestions, with the palace eventually giving the movie their blessing.”
Then, just a few weeks before filming was set to begin, Kelly suffered a stroke on September 13, 1982, while driving on a mountain road, plunging her car down the side and dying the following day.
“I was devastated,” said Ladd. “I’d been preparing for the role for months and had saturated myself with books about her, interviewing people who knew her, and watching her films. Although I only met her once, I felt I had lost someone really close and didn’t want to continue with the movie.”
To their surprise, several months later Ladd and Russell, who was executive producing the film, received encouraging news from Monaco.
“They wanted us to proceed because they knew we would treat the story with dignity,” Ladd recalled. “So I eventually saw my way through it as a celebration of her life.”
While the film glossed over some aspects of Kelly’s Hollywood life, “few people realized how she struggled to overcome her father’s objection to her career choice as an actress,” Ladd said. “And after that struggle, what incredible strength she must have had to give it all up for marriage. That’s the story we wanted to tell.”