Martin Bashir: 5 Things To Know About The Reporter At The Center Of Princess Diana’s Infamous ‘Panorama’ Interview

Season 5 of 'The Crown' will showcase major moments in Princess Diana's life before her death, including her controversial interview with BBC journalist Martin Bashir.

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Image Credit: David Fisher/Shutterstock

Martin Bashir shot to fame after he interviewed Princess Diana about her failed marriage to Prince Charles (now King Charles) and her turbulent life as a member of the royal family. The now-infamous interview aired on BBC’s Panorama on November 20, 1995, and was watched by over 23 million people in the UK. Initially, Martin, 59, was praised for his sit-down chat with Diana, who died two years later in a car accident in Paris. But Martin has since lost all credibility after an investigation discovered that he used “deceitful behavior” to get Diana to do the interview.

Martin and Diana’s interview will play out on season 5 of The Crown, which arrives on Netflix Nov. 9. British actor Prasanna Puwanarajah plays Martin, while Elizabeth Debicki takes over for the role of Princess Diana. Below, we rounded up everything you need to know about Martin.

Martin Bashir
Martin Bashir in London on November 12, 2019 (Photo: David Fisher/Shutterstock)

1. He became a household name for interviewing Princess Diana.

Martin was a fairly unknown reporter for the BBC before his interview with Diana. Martin, who was 32 years old at the time, conducted the interview in Diana’s sitting room in Kensington Palace. He got Diana to open up about the dissolution of her marriage to Charles. She memorably said that there were “three people” in their marriage, which was in reference to the affair between Charles and his now-wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, 75. Diana also confirmed her extramarital affair with army captain James Hewitt, and she opened up about her struggles with bulimia.

2. His interview with Diana became a scandal.

The Panorama interview created worldwide headlines and many feared it could mean the end of the British monarchy. Lord John Dyson oversaw an inquiry into Martin’s interview, which found that Martin broke editorial guidelines and ethical rules to get Diana to agree to the interview, including falsified bank statements.

Martin Bashir
Martin Bashir interviewed Princess Diana on November 20, 1995 (Photo: TSC/Capital Pictures / MEGA)

The inquiry into the interview was completed for a six month period, which cost the BBC $2 million USD to complete. The 127 report found that Martin “commissioned fake bank statements” that showed payments between the publisher of UK newspaper The Sun to a former employee of Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, in an effort to convince Diana she was being spied on. The statements were given to Diana’s brother, who in turn set up a meeting with Diana and Martin to secure the the interview. The action was also in “breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines in 1993, the inquiry noted. The public broadcaster apologized on May 2021, as did Bashir, who stepped down at the BBC shortly after.

“This is the second time that I have willingly fully co-operated with an investigation into events more than 25 years ago. I apologised then, and I do so again now, over the fact that I asked for bank statements to be mocked up,” Martin said in a statement published by Deadline. “It was a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret. But I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently,” he also said. Diana’s sons Prince Harry and Prince William also released statements after the findings from the investigation were released.

The Crown
Prasanna Puwanarajah as Martin Bashir in Season 5 of The Crown (Photo: Keith Bernstein/Netflix)

3. He interviewed Michael Jackson for a documentary.

Martin presented the 2003 ITV documentary Living with Michael Jackson, where he interviewed Michael Jackson from May 2002 to January 2003. Michael opened up about his family, plastic surgery, and his relationships with his children. Michael later complained about how Martin depicted him in the interview, according to Sky News.

4. He’s battled health issues.

Martin has been facing health issues over the past few years. He was reportedly doing “seriously unwell” after he contracted COVID-19 in October 2020. Martin reportedly underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery later that year. In May 2021, he stepped down from his role as BBC News’ religion editor because of health issues, according to Deadline. It’s worth noting his exit came amidst the inquiry into his Princess Diana interview.

5. Prasanna Puwanarajah is playing Martin in ‘The Crown’.

Prasanna Puwanarajah, 41, is playing Martin in the fifth season of The Crown. He actually previously portrayed Martin in the 2013 film Diana, where Naomi Watts played the late Princess of Wales. Martin and Diana’s interview will be a major moment in the new season of the Netflix show.

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