Nicole Kidman visits King’s to research Rosalind Franklin play

Academy Award-winning actor visits archives and old laboratories where the famous British scientist worked

August 29, 2015
Some believe Rosalind Franklin's contribution towards the understanding of DNA was not properly acknowledged at the time

Actor Nicole Kidman has visited a university’s archives to research her upcoming role as the DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin.

Kidman, who stars as Franklin in a new West End play titled Photograph 51, visited the archives at King’s College London earlier this month to view historical items relating to the DNA research that took place at the college in the 1950s.

Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler, which opens at the Noel Coward Theatre on 5 September, tells the story of Rosalind Franklin and the race to unlock the secret of DNA at King’s and the University of Cambridge.

During Kidman’s visit to King’s as part of rehearsals, the Oscar-winning actor and other cast members were shown the Philips micro camera used by Franklin and fellow scientist Raymond Gosling to take Photograph 51 in 1952, a data source later used to confirm the double helix shape of DNA, as well as letters between Maurice Wilkins, Francis Crick and James Watson.

The trio later shared a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962 for their work on DNA four years after Franklin’s death from cancer at the age of 37.

Kidman was also shown the old laboratories underneath the Strand Quad used by Franklin, Wilkins and Gosling.


Brian Sutton, professor of molecular biophysics at King’s, who answered questions about Franklin and her work, said that the cast and crew were “clearly excited to be able to handle the original X-ray camera and see the original Photograph 51”.

“I was happy to be able to answer their questions about the work at King’s and the contributions of both Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins to the discovery of the structure of DNA,” he said.

Michael Grandage, the play’s director, said that it was a “huge privilege to be given access to the extraordinary archives at King’s and to view Photograph 51 itself, where our story begins”.

“The experience was invaluable to us all as we prepare to bring Rosalind Franklin’s story to the stage,” he added.

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