Entertainment & Arts

Nicole Kidman pays tribute to father in Photograph 51

Nicole Kidman Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Australian actress said she spent a lot of time in laboratories as a girl because of her father's scientific work

Nicole Kidman says her new West End stage role as a scientist is a way of "acknowledging" the work of her biochemist father who died last year.

The Oscar-winning star plays pioneering British scientist Rosalind Franklin in the play Photograph 51.

Franklin was the only woman involved in the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953, but only received recognition years after her death.

The play, by Anna Ziegler, opens at the Noel Coward Theatre next week.

Speaking at the theatre in London on Monday, Kidman said that 12 September - the date of the play's final preview performance - will be the first anniversary of her father Dr Antony Kidman's death.

"This is my way of acknowledging him but also acknowledging the people in science who quietly do things and aren't acknowledged a lot of the time.

"He knew I was going to do this. I like to think he'll still be somewhere offering support."

Kidman recalled how as a child she spent time with her sister playing in laboratories with "test tubes and microscopes" while her father worked.

She said that it had been "really emotional" being back on stage at Saturday's first preview. According to press reports, she received a standing ovation and was greeted by more than 100 fans at the stage door.

It is her first stage role since she appeared in David Hare's The Blue Room at the Donmar Warehouse in 1998. Her performance was famously described as "pure theatrical Viagra".

"I think nerves get more as you get older. I would love to say they get less, but they don't," Kidman said. "My heart was pounding and that rush of adrenaline is an extreme feeling.

"Getting out there on the stage is the big thing, but once I was out there it was unbelievable."

Kidman said that Franklin, who died aged 37 from ovarian cancer in 1958, had made a "massive contribution" with her work on DNA. She said it was "an injustice" that she wasn't recognised at the time.

Image copyright Marc Brenner
Image caption Nicole Kidman visited King's College archives as part of her research and held the original Photograph 51

Photograph 51 refers to an X-ray diffraction image of DNA taken in 1952 during Franklin's research with Maurice Wilkins (played on stage by Stephen Campbell Moore) at King's College, London.

Franklin's work was continued by Francis Crick and James Watson, who published their discovery about the molecular structure of DNA in 1953.

Watson, Crick and Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962, four years after Franklin's death.

The play Photograph 51 reunites Kidman with director Michael Grandage, with whom she recently shot the forthcoming feature film Genius.

Grandage told the BBC that Kidman was a "fearless" actor who was perfect for the role.

He described Franklin as somebody who "history had left behind".

"She's a character that needs a big hearing. Who better to give her that than Nicole Kidman?"

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