The true story of Mario Brenna: Italian photographer who made $5million from pics of Diana

He’s called the way his story is shown on The Crown ‘absurd and completely invented’

One of the people mentioned in season six of The Crown as having a huge role in the story of Diana and Dodi is a man called Mario Brenna, an Italian photographer.

His career peaked when he took the famous pictures of Diana and Dodi on a yacht in Sardinia, which blew their relationship public, whilst Dodi already had a fianceé.

In The Crown we’re introduced to two types of photographer: Duncan Muir, a traditional photographer who does everything by the book, and Mario Brenna, who works the paparazzi circuit.

The Crown, Netflix

via Netflix

Who is Italian photographer, Mario Brenna?

Italian photographer and paparazzo Mario Brenna rose in his career for his work with luxury fashion houses such as Versace, and for taking photographs of Mediterranean high society.

His career peaked in 1997, when he took pictures of Dodi on a yacht with Diana. At the time he was 40 and based in Monaco, and how those photos came about is slightly different to what happened on The Crown.

In the show Brenna is hired by Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, but in reality Mario took the infamous picture because he happened to be in the right place at the right time – he had been working on an assignment nearby and spotted the boat.

Brenna said he had a “great stroke of luck” when he approached Diana’s yacht on a fast moving inflatable boat after mistaking a blonde woman making a telephone call on its upper deck for an old acquaintance.

During an appearance on an Italian talk show, he revealed he spent three days observing the couple on their trip. He also said he had no idea of how famous and important the shot would go on to become. Mario went on to become one of the most well-known paparazzo of his generation.

The Los Angeles Times reported Brenna earned up to $5million for world rights to the image of Diana and Dodi kissing. Among those who paid top bucks, The Sunday Mirror reportedly paid approximately £250k for the British rights, Paris-Match paid 1million francs American tabloid The Globe paid $200k.

Mario Brenna in real life, Italian photographer

The real Mario Brenna as he took the 1997 picture, via Massimo Sestini/Shutterstock

What is Mario Brenna up to now?

Recently, Mario Brenna has been speaking out against The Crown, calling the allegations he was hired by Mohamed Al-Fayed “absurd and completely invented.” There was another theory that Diana and Dodi’s location was leaked to Brenna, which he has also dismissed as rubbish.

According to The New York Times, today Mario Brenna lives near Lake Como, in Italy, where he said he’s photographed celebrities including George Clooney, Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé.

Part one of The Crown season six is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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