Who Is Khalid Abdalla, the Actor The Crown Cast to Play Princess Diana's Boyfriend Dodi Fayed?
Netflix's Emmy-winning fictionalization of the British monarchy's recent history announced on Thursday via Variety that it has cast Khalid Abdalla to play Dodi Fayed, the Egyptian billionaire scion who was romantically involved with Diana in her final months. The couple died together, along with their driver, in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
Abdalla, 39, is a British actor best known for the Oscar-nominated 2006 film United 93. He's also appeared in The Kite Runner, Green Zone, Assassin's Creed and Amazon Prime's serialized adaptation of the teen assassin story Hanna.
Though Glasgow-born, the actor grew up in London and was studied English literature Queens' College, Cambridge. Before his 2005 onscreen debut in the British spy drama Spooks, cut his teeth as a theater actor around the same time as The Town's Rebecca Hall and Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens. In November 2010, Abdalla was awarded special recognition for achievements in cinema at the Cairo International Film Festival.
Like Diana's boyfriend, the actor is of Egyptian descent, though his parents were anti-regime activists who emigrated to the U.K. before his birth. In 2011, following in the activism of his parents, he joined the protests against dictator Hosni Mubarak in Cairo's Tahrir Square and was even featured on CNN speaking with Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer.
After Mubarak's fall, Abdalla co-founded the Mosireen Collective, a group of independent activist filmmakers who share footage that challenge state-run propaganda and train future filmmakers to carry on the group's mission.
Also in 2011, Abdalla married actor and cinematographer Cressida Trew, his longtime love and scene partner — they shared the Judges' Award for Acting at the National Student Drama Festival in 2007, and worked together (he in front of the camera, she behind it) on 2013's The Square.
For The Crown, Abdalla will be acting opposite Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, who has taken on the role of Diana in season 5. The princess was played in season 4 by Golden Globe winner Emma Corrin, who shared scenes with Emmy winner Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles (Dominic West assumes the role of the Prince of Wales for season 5).
The Crown began filming its upcoming, penultimate season this summer. Though details are scarce, Diana and Charles' contentious public split is certain to be pivotal to the new episodes. And Abdalla's casting signals Diana's whirlwind romance with Dodi, 42, will be examined.
Diana, 36, met the playboy film producer — the son of billionaire Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed (who'll be played in The Crown by Oslo's Salim Daw) — after her July 1997 breakup with Pakistani surgeon and cardiologist Hasnat Khan.
During their brief time together, Diana even brought along 15-year-old Prince William and 12-year-old Prince Harry to spend time with Dodi, though many questioned the romance, with Diana: the Intimate Portrait biographer Judy Wade biographer Judy Wade telling PEOPLE "Dodi became Diana's distraction."
After soaking up the August sun in St. Tropez, the pair were on the last leg of their summer travels when they flew to Paris. In the early morning hours of August 31, they were fleeing the paparazzi at high speed when driver Henri Paul crashed his Mercedes-Benz in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel.
Dodi and Henri Paul were declared dead at the scene around 1 a.m. local time, and Diana's death was confirmed around 4 a.m.. Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was the only survivor.
A year later, Rees-Jones told The Telegraph, "If I could have died and those three survived, I would have done it. If I could have done something ... I go mad thinking about 'if onlys.'"
The Crown seasons 1–4 are streaming now on Netflix.