A royal enragement: Uncovering the deception of “Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement”

(Photo by Abby Cook)

A queen, a princess, a magic nanny, a nanny running away from Nazis; Julie Andrews has played many roles. Never did I think liar would be added to this list.

In the 2004 classic “Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement,” Andrews plays Queen Clarisse Renaldi of Genovia. The film is a work of contemporary feminist pedagogy as Princess Mia Thermopolis, played by Anne Hathaway, proves that she can rule as an independent woman

For the past 14 years since the movie has premiered every time I watch it (which is at least once every three months), I am delighted by the rom-com aesthetic, the hilarious cast of royal staff and most importantly the iconic princess sleepover scene. As great as it is, this is the scene in question. The scene features about 20 young princesses sliding on mattresses down a metal slide with a hump in the middle.

Notably, all of the princesses that ride down the slide do it laying down as this seems the safest. Yet, when it becomes time for Andrews to take the big plunge she apparently does it standing up.  Andrews has claimed in interviews with D23 “the Official Disney Fan Club” that she did that stunt herself but the evidence shows otherwise. Now every time I get 60 minutes into the movie I am distracted by wondering if Andrews really rode down the 20-foot mattress slide while standing up.

The moment was captured at three angles: a wide shot of Julie starting at the top of the slide, a closeup of her face gliding past the camera, and another wide shot from behind, which highlights her flowy hooded cloak. Each of these shots leaves ample room for a stunt double. With the 2004 camera equipment, the first wide shot does not provide enough detail to identify the face. The second shot clearly shows Andrews’ face, but the actual slide is not in it at all which means it could have easily been filmed separately. The third shot is only from behind and Andrews’ entire body is covered by her fairy godmother-inspired cloak.

Finally, it important to note the dismount. At the end of the third shot, the mattress stops at an angle, and the Queen still standing with her back to the camera. There is a cut and Andrews is shown turning around on a mattress which has been straightened on the floor. Clearly, some amount of adjusting happened between the end of the slide and Andrews directly revealing her identity.

I want to believe that Julie Andrews is capable of anything and this would not be the first time she has reportedly completed her own stunts— in an interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” she told the story filming the scene where she descends from the clouds in the 1964 “Mary Poppins”— however, based on the footage provided it is impossible to conclude that she completed the mattress slide. This is not something to be ashamed of. Virtually every Avenger, all of the “Harry Potter” kids, and even Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill” had stunt doubles.

Ultimately either the failure of the camera operators and editors of “Princess Diaries 2,” or a lie from Julie Andrews has unnecessarily tainted one of the film’s best scenes. Maybe if something was done differently in this one moment the movie would still be on Netflix today.