Diana film's cruel lies about our love, by Hasnat Khan: Doctor nicknamed 'Mr Wonderful' by the Princess attacks new movie... and reveals an intriguing insight into their affair
Princess Diana's lover Hasnat Khan has criticised a big-budget movie about their romance, as ‘completely wrong’ – and says he will never watch it.
In a rare interview, Dr Khan is scathing about a trailer for the film, Diana, and gives an insight into his close personal life with the Princess of Wales.
Speaking days before the release of the film, starring Naomi Watts and Naveen Andrews, the cardiologist also denied claims by the producer that the movie had his ‘tacit acceptance’.
He said: ‘It is a complete lie. I have never given any approval.’
Dr Khan, 54, nicknamed Mr Wonderful by the Princess, and her lover for two years, said he had received a number of approaches from the filmmakers and the author of the book the movie is based on seeking his co-operation, but had rebuffed them.
The heart surgeon, who for the past 16 years has maintained a dignified silence over the intimate details of his relationship with Diana, made his remarks in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday. ‘I don’t see this movie doing well at all,’ he said.
‘It is based on gossip and Diana’s friends talking about a relationship that they didn’t know much about, and some of my relatives who didn’t know much about it either. It is all based on hypotheses and gossip.’
The movie claims to chart the Princess’s romance with Dr Khan, which broke down shortly before her death alongside Dodi Fayed in a car crash on a Paris underpass on August 31, 1997.
It will premiere at Leicester Square in London’s West End on September 5 before going on general release in October.
Dr Khan said he had seen a still image from the film, while he was doing an online search, showing the actors playing him [Andrews] and Diana [Watts] side by side at the hospital where they met. It convinced him the movie would badly misrepresent their relationship.
He said: ‘I could tell immediately those were never our mannerisms at all, with [my] hands folded behind the back and all that.
‘You could tell from that picture that it is all just presumed about how we would behave with each other, and they have got it completely wrong.
‘There wasn’t any hierarchy in our relationship. She wasn’t a Princess and I wasn’t a doctor.
‘We were friends, and normal people stand like friends with each other. That one still picture told me a lot about how they will portray things in the film and I can see [it] is wrong.’
The relationship broke down weeks before her death, with Dr Khan unable to commit to marriage and saying he could not handle the media intrusion.
He told The Mail on Sunday last year it was the ‘non-progression’ of the relationship that led to Diana’s decision to end it in the summer of 1997. ‘Even after two years, the relationship wasn’t leading to a meaningful progression or conclusion and that was the main stress on both of us,’ he said.
Another of Diana’s friends, Rosa Monckton, said she was convinced the Princess’s relationship with Dodi Fayed in the last weeks of her life was little more than an attempt to make jealous the man she truly loved – Dr Khan.
However, despite being clearly angered by the film, Dr Khan retains his characteristic calmness and good humour, bellowing with laughter when asked about whether he had any intention of watching it.
‘A friend asked me the other day if I would sneak into a cinema to see the film. But there is no way I will watch it,’ he said. ‘There’s no way I am going to go anywhere near it, not now or ever.
‘Most of it is going to be based on gossip, and if I watched it I would be sitting there saying, “That’s wrong, that’s wrong, that’s not right” every second. I couldn’t put myself through that. It would be absolutely terrible.’
The film is based on Kate Snell’s 2001 book Diana: Her Last Love and both the author and the filmmakers have been anxious to win Dr Khan’s endorsement.
In an interview in The Mail on Sunday’s Event magazine last week, the film’s producer Robert Bernstein said: ‘Kate Snell has met Hasnat two or three times and they got on very well.
‘He trusted her to the extent that he allowed her to meet his family and his friends and it’s through that relationship that we were able to move forward, and we’re confident that there is a sort of tacit acceptance from his family and Hasnat that what we are doing is OK.’
But Dr Khan rubbished the claim: ‘It is a complete lie. I haven’t spoken to anyone involved in that movie. I have never given any approval for it. I have never met or talked or written to Bernstein and I have never given any approval in a direct or indirect manner.’
Dr Khan said he met Snell once in the late 1990s when she approached him at the Royal Brompton Hospital, West London, as she worked on her book about Diana’s romance with him.
‘I only had one meeting with Kate Snell. That was it,’ he said. ‘It must have been towards the end of the 1990s. This lady who I didn’t know came to Brompton Hospital and I had coffee with her in the coffee shop.
‘She said she was planning to write a book, and I told her I had nothing to say to her at all.
‘Then she said to me, “Can I talk to your relatives and friends?”
‘I said if you are asking for my permission, I will not say go and speak to them, but I remember distinctly saying, “If you want to and if they agree, I can’t do anything about it”. I said, “I will not give you their addresses and phone numbers, but if you get in touch with them, I can’t stop you seeing them. It is up to them.” That is how I left it.
‘I have never read the book to this day. I really don’t know how she got her information because even my very close friends didn’t know what was going on between me and the Princess.’
Dr Khan said he later learned that his uncle in Stratford-upon-Avon had given Snell a video of his grandmother’s visit to Kensington Palace, where she had tea with Princess Diana, and pictures from the video were used in the book.
‘My uncle didn’t ask me before giving it to her but he was quite upset afterwards and he called me. He said, “We gave her the video and she used the pictures without our approval or consent.”
‘He was quite upset but I said, “I can’t do anything about it. It’s your property and you gave it to her without my consent or knowledge.” ’
Snell and the filmmakers wrote a series of letters to Dr Khan in the run-up to the film’s release seeking his co-operation.
‘She [Snell] wrote to me quite a lot recently telling me about the movie and saying she wanted to get the record straight. The film company has written to me too. I haven’t replied to any of those letters and I haven’t spoken to anyone involved in the film,’ he said.
In a letter sent to Dr Khan in September 2011, Snell said she had been hired by Ecosse Films as a consultant and that both she and the filmmaker were ‘dedicated to ensuring that the relationship is depicted as truthfully as possible and with discretion’.
In another letter, sent in January last year, she says the film would not portray Princess Diana in a negative light as some early media reports about the project suggested.
She wrote that it would concentrate on ‘the good work performed by Diana between 1995 and 1997, the personal happiness she found during this time, and the important role that you, and her relationship with you, played in her life’. Dr Khan did not respond to either letter.
Dr Khan, who is a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Basildon University Hospital, Essex, stopped buying newspapers shortly after the Princess’s death, saying he was upset by the constant untruths and speculation. Last year he was told by police involved in the Operation Weeting phone hacking investigation that his mobile may have been hacked in 2007 by the News of the World – an experience he said left him feeling violated.
Police have since told him that a second tabloid newspaper may also have hacked his mobile phone, Dr Khan said. The police investigation into both phone hacking incidents is continuing.
The surgeon – who is single again after an arranged marriage to the 29-year-old daughter of an Afghan noble family in 2006 ended in divorce after 18 months – said of Princess Diana’s early death: ‘There are a hundred could-have-beens.
‘She (Diana) could be living very happily and married and having more kids, with me or with someone else. It could have led in that direction. I try not to think about these things. I can’t change anything now.’
Every year on the anniversary of the Princess’s death, Dr Khan goes away, often to his home town in Pakistan, to stop being reminded of the tragedy.
With that anniversary six days away and the film due to be premiered the following week, Dr Khan plans to take extended leave in September.
He intends to travel and quietly concentrate on fundraising and planning for a charity heart hospital he will set up in Jhelum – realising part of a dream he once shared with Princess Diana.
He said they talked of moving to Pakistan, where Dr Khan intended to set up a heart hospital while the Princess planned to work with women’s charities.
What remains intact from their plans is nearing reality. A heart unit at the Abdul Razzaq Welfare Trust Hospital in Badlot village, near Jhelum, is due to open early next year.
There, some of the children from poor families, who queue outside his parents’ home for help every time he visits, will be treated for free.
Patients will include many children in an area of Pakistan where rheumatic fever is extremely common, leaving many youngsters with narrowed arteries to the heart, which can become fatal if untreated.
Waiting lists for treatment at the nearest heart hospital are two years long, even for the few families who can afford surgery. Most parents have no choice but to watch their children weaken and die.
Dr Khan plans to take unpaid leave – a sabbatical of 12 to 18 months –from Basildon to work at the hospital but believes he may stay for good if the project is a success.
Talking of the project, which has struggled against delays and lack of funding, he said: ‘Diana would have been involved in this – absolutely. It wouldn’t have mattered whether we were together or not.
‘I think this hospital would be ten years old by now if she were alive. But it’s never too late.’
There was no response yesterday to calls and emails by The Mail on Sunday to author Kate Snell and to Robert Bernstein at the offices of Ecosse Films in London.