PW: What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier?
J. Randy Taraborrelli: I was most surprised by how tormented Grace Kelly's life was, both before and after she married Prince Rainier. Though many people saw her as a glamorous celebrity who got anything she wanted, she actually struggled through most of her life. When you look at what she had achieved up until the time she met the prince, it's difficult to imagine that she decided to marry him. She was an Academy Award—winning actress at the height of her career who gave it all up for a man she thought she loved. It was a tremendous sacrifice and one that, at different times along the way, she deeply regretted.
PW: What's the most common misperception about Princess Grace?
JRT: That the real Grace was similar to her on-screen persona: cold, distant and formal. In truth, Grace was a woman who saw the power that her beauty and sex appeal had on others—and she used it to her advantage. She had always craved approval from her father, and that led her, I believe, to try to find validation from many men along the way. Once in Hollywood, she discovered just how influential her sexuality could be. At a time when women were far less liberal-minded with their sexuality, Grace really was unapologetic about her ability to make men swoon.
PW: Didn't the results of her whirlwind marriage surprise her?
JRT: She had visited Monaco only once before moving there, and that was for, perhaps, 30 minutes when she first met Rainier! She had been an independent woman used to making her own choices about life. Once in Monaco, not only did she have a husband who was opinionated and rigid, she also had her subjects, the people of Monaco, who, ironically, ruled her in many ways. It was a principality that expected much of their princess, and Grace felt that pressure.
PW: How did Grace evolve into Princess Grace?
JRT: At first, she resisted embracing her new life as a royal. She had worked so hard to create the Hollywood image with which America had fallen in love, she was hesitant to dispose of it. When she finally accepted that her career as a movie star was over, she began the second stage of her reign—then with more commitment to her responsibilities as princess, and with much more peace.
PW: There are differing theories on how she died. Which do you believe?
JRT: I spent a great deal of time researching the car accident and I now understand why so many people still believe Princess Stephanie was driving the car. I outlined the chain of events that occurred that weekend, the arguments Grace and Rainier had with Stephanie over her wanting to drop out of college and become a race car driver. I think you have to read the book to really form an opinion. I was surprised to learn that the palace orchestrated a cover-up of certain details that would most certainly have cleared Stephanie in the court of public opinion, had everyone just been more honest.
PW: At the time of her death, was Grace happy?
JRT: She had always been a woman used to making her own choices, and when she finally began to accept the life she had chosen for herself, that's when she found peace in it. I think it's a universal story, especially during these difficult times when people are really examining their lives. We all have certain regrets. We all find ourselves in imperfect circumstances. As I wrote in the book, sometimes, the real challenge of living has to do with making a life that seems to no longer work... work. The secret is to not succumb to our regrets, but to rise above them, and then get on with things. Which is exactly what Princess Grace eventually did with her own life.