Princess Diana was with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed at the time of her death in 1997. While much of the attention surrounding the events of that night was focused on Diana, many of Fayed’s family and friends have pushed for the man they loved to be remembered, too.
Fayed lived a life that few of us can even imagine. Born into immense power and luxury, he weathered the separation of his parents at a young age and learned to navigate the upper echelons of society as a teen in London (via Town & Country). While he and Diana first met one another while she was still married to Prince Charles, the two wouldn’t reconnect until a decade later — and Fayed spent much of that time dating many of Hollywood’s biggest names, pursuing a career in entertainment, and getting married, divorced, and engaged to other women (per The Guardian).
Despite his family’s high profile, there’s not much known about Fayed. No interviews with him seem to exist, and his friends only began speaking out about what he was like a full two decades after he passed away. Now that Netflix has announced that Fayed will be portrayed in Season 5 of "The Crown," there’s a renewed interest in exploring who Fayed was. Here’s a look at the man Diana dated and what his life was like.
Dodi Fayed was born into a wealthy, well-connected family
Dodi Fayed was the first child born to Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of mega luxury department store Harrods. Dodi’s father was also the owner of the Fulham football team and the Ritz in Paris, France — the last place where Princess Diana and Dodi were seen alive. His mother was Mohamed’s first wife, and her own family was well connected; her brother was a major weapons dealer and her father was the personal doctor of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul Aziz, according to Town & Country.
Dodi spent his time in France and Egypt when he was young, as his family owned homes in several locations. He went to school at Switzerland’s Le Rosey school and had a brief stint at British military school Sandhurst, where a friend of his later said Dodi endured intense bullying. Dodi’s best friend Andrew Wainrib explained to the Daily Mail that some of the bullying was racist in origin, saying, "He was bullied almost every day because he was a short Arab, it was a thing and it was always two on one, three on one."
Per the Independent, Dodi moved to London at the age of 15 and was enlisted as a junior officer in the United Arab Emirates air force, an arrangement that came about in conjunction with Mohamed’s business deals in Dubai.
Dodi Fayed left his military career to work on movies
Despite his military background, training, and education, Dodi Fayed ended up leaving the service fairly early in his career in pursuit of a decidedly more glitzy career in entertainment. As the Daily Mail notes, Fayed had a desire to move out from under the shadow of his father and had the financial backing to do so, as he reportedly received $100,000 a month from his family as a young adult.
Fayed’s career in Hollywood was quite successful. His production company Allied Stars backed six major films, including the Oscar-winning 1981 movie "Chariots of Fire," and Dodi was a producer on both Dustin Hoffman’s "Hook" and Demi Moore’s "The Scarlet Letter" (via the Daily Mail).
The Independent noted that financing movies wasn’t all Fayed got up to in Hollywood. He reportedly leased several homes that could only be described as luxurious, and he entertained numerous big-name friends, including actress Farrah Fawcett and actor Robert Downey, Jr. His friend Andrew Wainrib recalled to the Daily Mail that Fayed was also fond of flying his celebrity friends around the world in chartered jets, and that he was even approached about investing in a line of high-end jets that featured "gold-plated everything."
Dodi Fayed was often described as charming
With all that power and excess behind him, it’s not a surprise that many of his friends have described Dodi Fayed as charming. His ex-wife of only eight months, Suzanne Gregard, had nothing but positive things to tell the Independent about Fayed following his death. She told the publication, "He was so romantic and thoughtful, and didn’t take things too seriously." His friend Dominick Dunne echoed Gregard’s sentiments, explaining, "Whatever else he was, he was a nice guy. There was something very gentle about him."
Friend Andrew Wainrib has offered another version of who Fayed was when it came to groups of people he knew, explaining that Fayed seemed to use money to control the social situations he was in. Wainrib told the Daily Mail that when Fayed was out with friends, he was in charge. He said, "To Dodi it was a show. It was his brand, he wanted people to know he was the guy that made things happen."
Wainrib went on to add that Tony Montana, the character from "Scarface," was a personal favorite of Fayed’s, and he often used the name as an alias when checking into hotels while on trips. He also said that his friend seemed to enjoy building a public persona that had a degree of mystery to it, explaining, "He liked to play it cool, he liked to be the mysterious character, there was definitely a certain allure to that."
Dodi Fayed reportedly dated quite a few famous people before Princess Diana
With all that charm and access to the highest highs of Hollywood, it’s likely not a surprise that Dodi Fayed dated famous women before he met Princess Diana. He reportedly had a brief relationship with Julia Roberts following their time working together on "Hook," and his other famous girlfriends are said to include Tina Sinatra, daughter of Frank Sinatra and Nancy Barbato, and former model Tracey Lynn (per the Independent).
Mark Fleischman wrote in his book "Inside Studio 54" that Fayed reportedly had a bit of a dark side to him during his Hollywood years and regularly engaged in wild nights out that included plenty of drugs and excess. As the former owner of the infamous club, Fleischman wrote, "Dodi loved Quaaludes, good quality coke and hot women and he always had plenty of those" (per the Daily Mail).
Dodi Fayed met Princess Diana in 1986 while she was still married
Though their relationship didn’t kick off for more than a decade after meeting, Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana were actually first introduced at a polo match all the way back in 1986. As related by the Independent, his father’s polo team was matched up against Prince Charles’ team at Windsor, and Fayed was on-hand for the event.
The pair reconnected after a charity event attended by Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed. Mohamed reportedly connected with Diana and offered up one of his homes as a holiday retreat for both her and her two sons; Diana took him up on the offer, and the threesome were re-introduced to Dodi after he joined everyone on the trip. The vacation was pretty lavish, and The Guardian noted that everyone stayed on board Mohamed’s yacht, the Jonikal. After the boys returned home to London, Diana and Dodi took their own trip on the Jonikal to the south of France.
A bodyguard assigned to Dodi and Diana on the trip told The Sun that the princess appeared to be having a wonderful time, and that she began each morning by walking out and looking to see how many photographers were tailing the couple. He said, despite the attention, it was clear that Diana was quite happy, noting, "She made no effort to hide. You never saw her looking glum."
Dodi Fayed was reportedly engaged to someone else when he started seeing Diana
While Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana’s relationship progressed pretty quickly, with The Sun noting that the two were vacationing together only a month after meeting again, it seems that Fayed was actually in a serious relationship when he and Diana kicked things off. In the days that followed the deaths of Fayed and Diana, former model Kelly Fisher revealed that she and Fayed were planning to get married and that he ended things with her only two days before the wedding.
Fisher told The Sun that she was even in the same area as Diana and Fayed during their trip, claiming to have been on board another yacht owned by the Fayed family. She detailed the emotional struggle she faced after first finding out Fayed and Diana were together and then learning of his passing only weeks later. She said that experience was a surreal double-whammy, explaining, "I was heartbroken to see the pictures of Diana and Dodi together. But the most heartbroken I ever, ever was — ever — was when he died. That was too much for me. It was incredibly difficult."
However, Fayed’s ex-wife, Suzanne Gregard, has stated that she doesn’t believe Fisher’s side of the story, especially as she reportedly spoke to Fisher about the relationship directly herself. After Fayed’s death, Gregard told the Irish Times, "Kelly told me, ‘I’ve broken up with him, I’ve had enough.’"
Dodi Fayed reportedly bought Princess Diana an engagement ring
One detail that makes the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed especially tragic is the rumor, which has been backed up by Dodi’s father Mohamed Al-Fayed, that Dodi had bought an engagement ring for Diana and that he planned to propose on their trip to Paris. As published by the Express, after the pair died, a search of the apartment they had stayed in revealed both a diamond ring and a receipt for an engagement ring. The ring was even reportedly engraved with the words "Dis-moi Oui," or "Tell me yes."
However, Diana’s friend Lady Annabel Goldsmith also spoke to the publication about her friend’s relationship, claiming that there’s no way Diana would have said yes. Goldsmith said that after she asked Diana whether or not she planned to do something sudden, such as elope with Dodi, Diana replied, "I would need marriage like a rash on my face."
However, Mohamed Al-Fayed has claimed that the pair were engaged at the time of their deaths, telling the Irish Times that the two were hoping to live in Paris following the news. Mohamed also said that Diana was reportedly calling Dodi’s name as she was dying, asking, "Where is Dodi, where is Dodi?"
Dodi Fayed’s father told him not to leave Paris the night he died
In another tragic twist, Mohamed Al-Fayed reportedly told Dodi Fayed not to leave Paris the night that he and Princess Diana died. As noted by The Guardian, Dodi was not known for going against his father’s wishes, but chose to on that night in 1997. The publication asserted that Dodi made a quick decision to use the back exit of the pair’s hotel instead of the front due to the crowds gathering outside, and that decision caused a ripple effect that culminated in the tragic crash.
The problem was that any and every change of plan had to be signed, sealed, and delivered by Mohamed, not by Dodi. The Guardian noted that both Dodi and his security team threatened to report one another to Mohamed, a claim that was backed up by Dodi’s former head of security Kes Wingfield. He told the paper, "We used the threat we’d have to ring London — as in ring the Boss — and he said there was no need as it had been okayed by Mr. Mohamed."
While being interrogated during the official investigation into the car crash, Mohamed told authorities that he never told Dodi to leave. His order, in fact, had been to stay in place in Paris until another plan could be worked out (per The Guardian).
Khalid Abdalla will portray Dodi Fayed on The Crown
The wildly popular original Netflix series "The Crown" is known for putting nearly every personal detail about the British royal family on blast, and when the production team announced that Dodi Fayed had been cast, interest in Princess Diana’s last partner swelled. Variety revealed that Dodi will be portrayed by Khalid Abdalla, who starred in "The Kite Runner." Abdalla will play Dodi opposite Elizabeth Debicki’s Princess Diana.
After the news was announced in September 2021, Abdalla tweeted his excitement about taking on the role and all the research it would require. He wrote, "Sharp intake of breath, for so much to discover. I can’t wait. It’s a pleasure & honour to be joining everyone on @TheCrownNetflix."
Per Variety, Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, will be portrayed on the show by actor Salim Daw. The publication noted that the casting appears to make it clear that at least parts of the fifth season of "The Crown" will focus heavily on Princess Diana’s final years before her death.