Billy Joel is cheering on the Netflix series "The Crown" for recreating Princess Diana's real-life choreographed dance to his hit "Uptown Girl," which she performed for a ballet gala in 1985.
"Yes, it's True!" applauded the Long Island music legend's Facebook account, of the scene that appeared in this fourth season's penultimate episode, "Avalanche." "December 23 1985, The Royal Opera House in London: Princess Diana had a vision to surprise Prince Charles at a lavish private show for supporters and friends of the Royal Ballet's holiday celebration. The Princess asked choreographer Wayne Sleep to choreograph a dance to her favorite song, Billy Joel's 'Uptown Girl.' "
The scene, featuring Emma Corrin as Diana and Jay Webb as acclaimed dancer-choreographer Sleep, restages the dance the duo did at the annual Friends of Covent Garden gala in London. Diana envisioned it as a surprise Christmas present for her husband, Prince Charles (Josh O'Connor). While "The Crown" re-imagines it as a birthday present for the prince, who in actuality turned 37 over a month before, Sleep recalls the scene was otherwise true to life.
He and Diana had met years earlier and bonded over a mutual love of dance, and the princess approached him with her plan to perform together at the private event for supporters of the Royal Ballet. "It was all top secret," he told the UK newspaper The Guardian in 2017. When the two met to release the planned routine, she already had chosen the music for it: "Uptown Girl," a No. 3 hit for Joel in 1983.
"There was a music video that went with the song and she must've seen the video," Sleep told New York magazine earlier this month. "There's a lovely lady with a hat — she's very chic and gets out of a car," he said, referring to supermodel and Joel's future wife, Bridgehampton's Christie Brinkley. "Diana knew she could play that role of sophistication."
At the gala, Sleep had danced solo first. "There was a big round of applause and I thought, 'You ain't seen nothing yet,' " he told The Guardian. Then, as he related to CBS' "48 Hours" in 2017, Diana strode onto the stage "and then stopped, looked at the audience, beautifully, and there was a gasp from the audience of 2,500 people who took an intake of breath all at the same time — they were speechless! … And she was on fire," he recalled of their 3 1/2-minute duet — unrecorded except for photos by the Royal Opera House's photographer.
"We wanted to be faithful to the moment — there's no footage of the original performance, but there's lots of still imagery," "The Crown" music supervisor Sarah Bridge told The New York Times. "It's quite an iconic moment in terms of Diana's royal journey. Billy Joel has been in touch, I believe, with Netflix to ask if he can use the scene on his socials — he's so over the moon about it!"
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW