Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ begins its final run with four episodes that are largely focused on the final weeks of Princess Diana. The season begins with Diana and Dodi’s meeting and the beginning of their whirlwind romance, which became the talk of the town after their pictures on a boat together made a splash on the front page of the newspapers all over the world. The photograph was an important turning point in Diana and Dodi’s story, the repercussions of which were felt weeks later when the couple died in a tragic accident. Mario Brenna, who took the photograph, had his life changed in the aftermath. SPOILERS AHEAD
Who is Mario Brenna?
Before Mario Brenna became a celebrity in his own right by clicking the pictures of the beloved princess, he worked with fashion houses like Versace. He photographed models and celebrities and also dabbled in clicking pictures of people in high society. As the celebrity culture picked pace, Brenna realized the importance of getting exclusive pictures, which paid a lot of money.
Brenna took Diana and Dodi’s picture on August 4, 1997, which was published on August 10, about three weeks before the princess died. It was taken in Sardinia, where the couple had been spending leisure time on the yacht. Brenna had been around the area, working on some other assignment, when he reportedly chanced upon the opportunity that would change his life.
The picture was taken from a telephoto lens from about 500 yards and was not a clear one. It was so blurry that it took the journalists a bit of time to confirm that it was Diana, after all. The swimsuit she was wearing at the time was used for the confirmation, based on the fact that she’d previously worn it before in some other photo. Brenna took the picture to Jason Fraser, a British photographer, who had also clicked several of Diana’s photos over the years, especially during her brief relationship with Dodi Fayed.
When it was confirmed that the picture was really Diana’s, a bidding war ensued, where everyone tried to outbid the other. Eventually, the Sunday Mirror won the rights and published it under the title “The Kiss,” even though it was actually the couple hugging. At the time of the photo’s publication, Diana was in Bosnia, advocating for the victims of landmines, but no one paid attention to that.
Reportedly, the Sunday Mirror paid about £ 250,000 to win the rights to the picture, with other tabloids paying about £ 100,000 to run it in their print. It was also reported that the Globe paid $200,000 for the exclusive rights to the photos in North America, with several other publications offering up different sums to get publication rights. According to the LA Times, Brenna earned about $5 million from the sale of the photos.
Where is Mario Brenna Today?
Now in his late 60s, Mario Brenna lives a quiet life away from the media limelight. Having spent so many years chasing after celebrities, Brenna knows how toxic it can get for the subjects of the photograph. After Diana’s pictures, he too became comparatively well-known, but instead of milling this fame for something more, he chose to value his privacy and refrained from talking about his personal life at all. As a result, no information is available about his family and his current whereabouts, though it can be assumed that he lives somewhere in Italy. At the time he clicked Diana and Dodi’s pictures, he was living in Monaco.
Brenna has rarely come out to give interviews, especially when it comes to Diana, but he did talk about it in an interview in 2017 with an Italian news program. He confirmed that it was a surprise for him to have stumbled upon Diana and Dodi in Sardinia, and he followed their journey from there to Corsica and other places. Before taking the pictures, he spent a few days observing them. Because there were no other photographers around at the time, Brenna didn’t want to get into any altercation with Diana’s security.
In another instance, Brenna dispelled the rumors that he was tipped off by Diana herself, which is how he found them. He has also confessed that at the time he took the picture, he didn’t realize what a splash it would make. The pictures taken by Brenna became even more important after the news about him making millions from it came to light. This is said to have motivated other photographers to get the photos that would pay well. Brenna admits that the photo changed his life, but when he heard about Diana’s death and realized the role the paparazzi might have played in it, he was “struck hard.”
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