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Royal disharmony to become grist for NBC drama mill


Royal scandals aren't just for tabloids anymore -- at least that's what NBC is hoping.

The network is sinking big bucks into the development of movies and miniseries based on the supposedly shattered lives of Princess Diana and the Duchess of York.

A dramatization of the fast-selling biography "Diana: Her True Story" by Andrew Morton will become a four-hour miniseries, tentatively scheduled to air during the next May sweeps. The executive producer for the project is Martin Poll, whose feature film credits include the 1968 multiple Oscar nominee "The Lion in Winter" and the weirder and less successful "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea."

Unless you've been visiting outer space for several weeks, you're probably familiar with Mr. Morton's book, which became front-page news in London with its revelations of several apparent suicide attempts by Princess Diana during the earlier years of her miserably unhappy marriage to Prince Charles, the future king of England.

According to Mr. Morton, poor Di threw herself down a flight of stairs when she was three months pregnant, tried to slit her wrists with a vegetable parer and overdosed on pain killers. The alleged suicide attempts supposedly happened several years ago. The royal marriage is said to be calmer but no more happy today.

Other revelations by Mr. Morton include Diana's alleged bout with the eating disorder bulimia and her uncomfortable relationship with her royal in-laws.

In England, a country of devoted royal watchers, Mr. Morton's book is the No. 1 best seller, and the author is considered the leading authority on the Windsor family. Although Buckingham Palace is said to be understandably upset by the latest round of negative publicity, the publisher of the book has pointed out that none of the information has been denied.

In the United States, where people insist they don't give a hoot about royalty, "Diana" is selling almost as briskly. Now in its sixth printing since its American release on June 16, the book has sold nearly 500,000 copies. Whether there will be similar interest when the miniseries airs next spring is anybody's guess.

The other unhappy royals, Prince Andrew and the former Sarah Ferguson, will be the subject of the tackily titled "The Royal Divorce," scheduled to air on NBC this fall. If there is a royal reconciliation, as has been rumored but seems unlikely, this one could bite the dust.

Mr. Poll also will serve as executive producer of "Royal Divorce," TC and Mr. Morton will serve as a consultant on the script, which is being written by Stephen Zito ("Glitz" and "Midnight Caller").

The movie about the Yorks, according to an NBC press release, will chronicle the duchess' courtship and marriage, as well as her eventual ostracism by the royal family.

No casting was announced for either production, although "Royal Divorce" will have to be cast soon if it is going to be #F finished in time for a fall broadcast.

In the mid-1980s, two networks aired competing movies on the courtship and marriage of Diana and Charles. Both did well in the ratings, so we can probably expect to see another royal project or two in the works on the alleged disintegration of their union.

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