What makes up a person? Are we just a sum of our memories? What is left if you take away our memories? These were the questions preoccupying writer S (Steve) J Watson as he looked for material for his debut novel. A former NHS clinical scientist, Watson had won a place on a writing course at the Faber & Faber creative writing academy in London in January 2009 and was scanning the obituary pages of the newspapers in search of ideas for characters.
"One of the obituaries I read was of a man called Henry Molaison", Watson reveals. "He was known as Patient HM for most of his adult life. He had had severe amnesia as a result of an operation he'd had to try and cure him of his epilepsy. Aged 26, they had removed those parts of his brain they thought were responsible. What they hadn't known was that those parts of his brain were also responsible for forming new memories. He died aged 86".
This sparked a mental image, which became the opening scene of the book and is now the opening scene of the film. "I imagined him getting up and seeing his reflection in the mirror", Watson describes. "He expected to see a young man and instead sees someone in his 70s or 80s. This triggered the idea of a woman meeting her own reflection and seeing someone very different from the person she is expecting".
Watson's novel Before I Go To Sleep has been sold to more than 30 countries. It reached number seven on the US bestseller list, the highest position for a debut novel by a British author since J. K. Rowling.
Award-winning UK director Rowan Joffé has now adapted Before I Go To Sleep into a major new feature film for Ridley Scott's Scott Free London. The film is co-produced and fully financed by Los Angeles-based Millennium Films. Early development was backed by StudioCanal.
Academy-Award winner Nicole Kidman stars as Christine, a woman who wakes every day remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past, until one day new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.
Two-time Academy-Award winner Colin Firth stars as Ben, the husband she no longer knows. Acclaimed UK actor Mark Strong plays Dr Nasch, the man who may or may not be helping her to regain her memory.
"What's great about this story is that you are never sure whether you are watching a movie about a woman who, as a result of a brain injury, misconstrues the world around her and believes she is the victim of a conspiracy", says Joffé. "Or a thriller in which a character with amnesia is being exploited for some nefarious ends by the men around her and she needs to figure out what, who and why quickly or she'll be in jeopardy".
The film is concerned with the universal themes of identity, love and loss, confronting them within a gripping thriller format.
"A woman wakes up, she doesn't recognise the man lying next to her", says producer Liza Marshall. "As she rushes to pick up her clothes she looks in the mirror and she's 40. She thinks she's 27, but she's 40. She looks at the wall and it's covered with notes that say, 'this is your husband'. The man wakes up and says, 'I'm your husband'". All of this happens on the first page of the book and of the first two pages of the script. Then you're in and you're hooked."
A tip-off from a friend in the publishing world first alerted producer Liza Marshall to an exciting new book, which had just been delivered. It was early 2010 and Marshall, the head of film and TV at Scott Free London, the UK production company owned by Ridley Scott, managed to get hold of a proof copy of the book called Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson.
"It was completely brilliant", recalls Marshall, who was previously head of drama at UK broadcaster Channel 4. "I read it in one sitting".
Marshall got hold of Watson's email "through slight subterfuge" as the film rights to the book were already attracting much interest. She wrote to tell him Scott Free London wanted to option his book.
While at Channel 4, Marshall had worked on two critically acclaimed projects with UK director Rowan Joffé. They were his directorial debut Secret Life and The Shooting Of Thomas Hurndall, for which Joffé had won a BAFTA award for best fiction director. Joffé had since written and directed a bold take on Brighton Rock and written an original thriller called The American, which was directed by Anton Corbjn and starred George Clooney. Marshall had been looking for a new project on which they could collaborate and believed Joffé would be perfect to both write the adaptation and direct a feature version of Before I Go To Sleep.
Joffé first read Watson's novel while on holiday in Portugal. "I read Steve's book by the pool, pretty much in one sitting", Joffé recalls. "I was so enthused I started telling the story to my wife. I then became aware various other members of my family had stopped splashing about in the pool and were all listening to the story. From that moment on I got the bug and felt I absolutely had to make this".
The filmmaker also felt a personal connection to the story as his mother had suffered amnesia following a brain haemorrhage 10 years earlier. "I remember walking into her hospital room and her not recognising who I was", says Joffé.
Marshall and Joffé convinced Watson they were the best team to transform his book into film. It then took them a year to reach a draft script with which both Marshall and Joffé were happy.
One of the biggest challenges of taking the written story to the screen was how to portray the diary in which Christine writes. Much of the dynamism of Watson's novel takes place within Christine as she struggles to comprehend the emotional impact of her always-new reality. Marshall describes the breakthrough moment when they realised it should become a video diary.
"Suddenly the script came alive. It became an even better part for an actress because you've got acting inside the camera and acting to the camera and it's such an intense part to play.
"We always thought it was Christine's film", Marshall continues. "We're understanding what it must be like to wake up every morning and not remember who you are. You think you are 27 but actually you are 40. Half your life has gone by without you knowing it. How distressing and discombobulating that must be".
Watson was happy not to be involved in the film adaptation process. "This is Rowan's vision", he explains. "I'm excited by seeing what someone else can bring to it and seeing a different take on the material. It's like revisiting an old friend who has moved on a little and changed".
The role of Christine is a demanding one as the character is in every scene and voyages through tremendous highs and lows. To keep the audience engaged by the character, it was imperative to attract a high-calibre actress to the role.
Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman had tracked the project from an early stage after reading Joffé's script.
"From the minute I read the script it got under my skin", says Kidman. "That's such a good thing, because with characters and particularly with something that's sparse like this, it's still very gripping. The book itself has been such a huge hit, so now when I say to people, "Oh I did the film of Before I Go To Sleep", they say, 'Oh, my God, I can't wait to see that.'"
"She absolutely loved it", confirms Marshall of Kidman's passion for the project. "She pursued us for the part and was committed to Christine from the beginning. She's absolutely perfect and I have always admired her as an actress. She's incredibly brave and chooses such interesting parts. Playing Christine, you are immediately sympathetic towards her and her dilemma. You want to find out why she has got like this".
Christine is compelling as she is a character in search of her character and Kidman captures Christine's vulnerability perfectly. "What's so fascinating about Nicole's performance is how quiet it is and how much is going on around her eyes and in the expressions of her face", says Joffé. "She will go through myriad expressions in a few seconds. The movie has a lot of close-ups to get the audience as close to Christine's experience as possible".
This is the second time Kidman has worked with her co-star Colin Firth. She was delighted to have him join the project having just completed Railway Man together.
"For me, I get to play opposite one of the greatest actors in the world, so I'm always like, offer Colin everything!" she laughs. "I just love working with him. He's so easy, he's extremely nuanced and yet he's a listener. When you're in a scene with him, he listens and he responds; that's the greatest acting, because you never know what's going to happen in a scene and you have to be willing to dance together and move and not have a plan. For some reason, Colin and I just click on that level. I enjoy him. He's so funny, he's got that very dry English wit. But on camera there's some pretty brutal things and some pretty scary things and there's some stuff that he has to do that was upsetting, but was necessary for the movie and necessary for it to have that weight and that believability".
Kidman's co-stars, Colin Firth, who plays Christine's husband Ben and Mark Strong, who plays Dr Nasch, praise the actress's phenomenal technique.
"The way Nicole works is chasteningly authentic", reveals Firth. "I feel like I have to be at the top of my game. I can't lie. I can't be lazy about it. If I try to sell her a bill of goods in a scene and it's not true, I'll see it in her face. I'll lose her. I've got to convince her".
The two actors used a degree of improvisation in their scenes together. "The writing is a series of options, of possibilities", is how Firth describes how the two actors approached the script. "It's rather like a jazz theme. You have your melody and you realise that according to what your colleagues are doing you a might have to take that down a different route".
The two actors worked with Joffé on the script at Firth's home and over Skype with Kidman. "As a writer-director it's a fantastic experience when an actor engages with a screenplay to the extent they want to bring stuff to it", says Joffé. "It's a challenge too because you don't want the script to become overly detailed or fussy. But I think we did strike that balance".
Kidman, known for her comprehensive research and character preparation admits that she took on the subject of amnesia with a commitment that meant she read everything she could to get as full a picture as possible about this complex and still widely unfathomed condition.
"I studied it all", she says. "In a film I can't stand it when there's big holes and I can't stand it when there's uncertainty about whether it's a real medical condition or a state of mind. I wanted to make sure that this was a real condition. I watched a number of documentaries where people that do have this psychogenic amnesia. The idea of actually having this is horrifying. Someone described it as like losing their soul, because you lose your identity, you lose actually what you are and that's really chilling and it's also sad.
"There are questions about it in terms of psychology and psychiatry, as to whether it actually does exist, but I truly believe it does exist. When you see these people, it does exist. It's a part of the brain that really shuts down.
"Most of my research was to do with the condition, so that it was plausible, so that I myself could feel it and believe it, which is how I have to do every character: if I can't feel it and believe it, I'm hopeless".
A key contribution from Firth is the wiper board in Ben and Christine's kitchen which tells Christine where items such as aspirin and sanitary towels are kept and what allergies she has. The nature of the relationship between Christine and her husband Ben, who has to introduce himself and their life to her every single day, is the cornerstone of the film.
"We find out about it as we go along", says Firth of how he and Kidman created their extremely complex relationship in front of the camera. "That's a sign of an interesting story and good writing. It's all very well making decisions before you come in but then you find, 'this woman is in a worse state than I thought. I've underestimated what this might take. I have to use the other tools I wasn't expecting to bring to the table. I've got to be more soothing than I thought'. For instance, there were moments when the impulse would be to go to Christine and to hold her, to reassure her. But to her, Ben is a complete stranger. I would go to approach Nicole and she would look nervous about it and I think, well, Christine is not ready for that. So the scene suddenly takes on a different complexion".
Kidman's organic approach to the material fitted well with how Mark Strong likes to work. "As you do the scene again and again you find little moments and nuances that get incorporated into the next take", Strong explains. "That's how you build it".
Working with major stars and juggling their busy schedules can present a director with a challenge. "If an actor agrees to be in your movie, how much time you're going to get with them before the cameras roll is not always clear and definitely not always easy", Joffé states. " But Nicole was always really accessible and we would talk on Skype at least once a week. She's a really assiduous actor. She prepares, she does her homework, learns her lines well in advance. She read the script with a fine-toothed comb, making a case for getting rid of particular words she didn't like. We didn't always agree, but that's part of the fun".
Watson is thrilled Kidman and Firth inhabit the characters of Christine and Ben. "When I heard it was Nicole Kidman and later Colin Firth, I though they were perfect", he novelist says. "Although in both cases these two were different from the characters as I saw them as I was writing them, I could totally see how they would work and how they would become those characters".
How do you carry on loving someone who doesn't love you? Who has to be introduced to you every day and that you hope might love you by the end of the day?
"It's a massive task for him", says Firth of Ben, the husband who made the decision to check his wife out of the hospital where she was being treated for her amnesia and care for her at home. "To decide to be the sole carer for somebody for whom every waking moment is a crisis. It's immensely trying to him, to breaking point".
Joffé and Marshall were eager to cast a likeable actor who would elicit sympathy from audiences who might otherwise suspect Ben's motives. "He's a very warm, loving man who is putting up with this woman every morning", says Marshall. "He has to talk her through her life. There is a certain type of man who can and wants to do that".
Firth was at the top of Joffé's wish list. "I had a fantasy about Colin Firth playing Ben but I thought we'll never get him because he'd just won two Oscars in a row. I'm still amazed and grateful that we did".
A pivotal moment in the film is when Christine discovers she and Ben had a child and he hasn't been telling her about it. The affability Firth brings to the role allows audiences to accept Ben's explanation for this.
"It seems a terrible cruelty to hide something as crucial as this", Firth agrees. "Until you hear what he has to say about it. He says, 'I have to do this every day. Am I really going to take you through that heartbreak every single day of your life? This is a question of what I can handle as well. So today is a day when you found out about it and it casts suspicion on me and makes me look like a liar.'"
The audience is firmly in Christine's fragmented and fragile world and our scepticisms and presumptions change as Christine's do. To her - and to us - everyone is both trusted and untrustworthy, including Dr Nasch, played by Mark Strong. His character changes the dynamic of Christine's world and provides a new direction for the story to take.
"He's her lifeline", says Marshall. "When he first phones her, she initially does not know whether she can trust him or not and doesn't know whether he is who he says he is. Gradually she feels she can trust him and he's a decent character".
Faced with the duality of such a character, Strong played him straight down the line. "You have to be direct and play the character you have developed", Strong says of his process. "You have to allow the film and the audience's perception to alter. You can't really guide them as that's cheating in a way. Music, the choice of shots and the magic of film allow that to be honed by the director. Rowan has decided which moments will lead the audience to believe whether he is trustworthy or not".
The mere casting of Strong as a sympathetic character upends our expectations. "What's interesting about Mark's performance is that you won't have seen Mark Strong like this in any other Mark Strong piece", says Joffé. "He's doing something different. We like him a lot".
Joffé assembled a crew of experienced heads of department, most of whom he had wanted to work with for many years. "The important thing a director can do is assemble the best talent", says Joffé. "My job is to put the most talented people in the right positions and let them get on with it. The only thing I have that nobody else has is that I know the story better than anybody. I know it even better than the actors because they are more focussed on their parts".
Joffé was inspired by European rather than Hollywood thrillers, in particular the work of Belgian auteurs Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. He wanted to create a world that felt natural and real. He worked closely with director of photography Ben Davis, whose credits include Layer Cake, Stardust and Kick-Ass to build a palette of Christine's world that avoided superfluity.
"We didn't want it to become too thought-out, too introspective because we didn't want to lose the audience", explains Davis. "I wanted the audience to really believe it".
Much of the film was shot on a handheld camera, a device that allows us to follow a character through their world and immediately places us within Christine's subjective experience.
"I wanted the camera to feel like it was a little kid holding Christine's hand", Joffé explains. "Everywhere she goes, we go. We always feel like a little kid looking at mum, trying to figure if she is happy or sad. That dynamic between the camera and the actor is where a lot of the chemistry in cinema happens".
The cinematographer mapped out each scene very carefully, including the weather, deliberately disorienting us. "Each day has a different weather pattern", he points out. "We decided early on what the day would be like and a lot of it we wanted to be counter-intuitive. If it's a day where there's more threat we created a sunny day. For the happier days, we went the other way.
"The film is about the repetition of her day so you need some of that repetition with the camera angles", Davis continues. "But we wanted some of that repetition to show subtle differences each waking day".
For the dream sequences, Joffé was influenced by the movies of Harmony Korine and also the Coen Brothers, particularly Barton Fink. "There is some surreal photography and Ben Davis and I had a lot of fun working with that", Joffé says. "I loved working with Ben, He's so co-operative and willing and it was a real collaboration. The skill it takes to deliver something this stylish is overwhelming".
The production design team worked hard to subtly portray the torpor in which Christine is living and used a washed-out palette of greens and browns. The paintings of Edward Hopper and Algernon Newton provided inspiration, as well as photographs of the actress Christina Ricci and Kidman herself by Annie Leibowitz. Joffé told the team to take their lead stylistically from Alfred Hitchcock's films, particularly Spellbound and Dial M For Murder. The lighting was kept as natural as possible.
Production designer Kave Quinn, who collaborated with Danny Boyle on Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary and costume designer Michele Clapton, the costume designer for the hit TV series Game Of Thrones, worked particularly closely together. "We wanted to try and make the greens in my set balance out the earth colours Michele was bringing in", Quinn explains. "Michele gave me an idea of what colours she was going to use and I had those swatches next to me to make sure it all worked. Christine blends in with the set and as she gains confidence she starts to stand out a bit more".
Clapton was working to an interesting brief: Christine is a woman not in charge of her own clothes. Rather, she is bound by the choices of her husband. Christine's clothes reflect Ben's personality rather than her own.
"They are supposed to look like they have been put together by someone who's said, 'that matches that and that matches that and there's the shoes'. But not put together in the way a woman would". Clapton explains. "The shirts are always un-tucked. There's no belt and no earrings. It's pared down to the bare minimum".
Firth underlines the extent of the control Ben necessarily has over Christine. "Ben in some ways has to create her", he muses. "It's not just what she wears on the outside, it's also the underwear. Michele is quite careful to make sure she's sexy on the inside but not too eye-catching on the outside. The underwear is a little more adventurous as that's just for him".
The oddity of Christine's wardrobe is brought sharply into focus when she meets with her old friend Claire, played by Anne-Marie Duff. In the present day Claire is much more elegantly dressed than Christine. "Christine is not really concerned with how she looks because she has a bigger question to ask than 'How do I look?' which is 'Who the hell am I?' and 'What's going on?" says Joffé.
Before I Go To Sleep subverts the Hollywood glamour of both Kidman and Firth. "It is part of the fun to make them not how we usually see them", says Clapton. "They as actors bring something of that along. They assume the role and if the costumes are right, they don't look odd on them, or they look odd in the right way. Colin's character is quite smart and tight and together so everything is very considered which isn't something that is very alien to Colin. He wears suits very well".
As Dr Nasch, Strong's wardrobe provides a contrast with Ben's. "We wanted Nasch to be a little softer and more causal than Ben", Strong explains. "I have a kind of soft knitted tie and a moleskin jacket which is very soft. We decided what we wanted for him was a bit more of an academic flavour, rather than a medical or business flavour".
As the world of Before I Go Sleep moved from the printed page into the visual medium of cinema, the team had fun with the locations and used them to play into Christine's and our, sense of dislocation. The book is set in London but the film transfers the story to somewhere vague and much more isolated to reflect Christine's state of mind. The house itself is very much a character in the film.
"When we were working in pre-production, we talked a lot about the kind of house they should live in", Marshall explains. "In the book it's a Victorian terraced house in Crouch End. As I read the book, I thought that wasn't very cinematic. With Rowan, we looked at every architectural style in London, from big white stucco houses in Notting Hill to tower blocks in Borough. We finally found this fantastic, late 1960s house, just outside of London. What drew us to the house was that we could be anywhere".
The filmmakers were naturally keen to make a globally appealing film and not something that simply reflect contemporary London. Finding a house that looked as if it could be located anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere was part of that. There were aesthetic reasons too. "I wanted a house that felt anodyne, antiseptic and sterile. Their house is like a hotel room", says Joffé. "Setting it in the suburbs disenfranchises her from any community. There are no neighbours, she can't walk to a local high street and woods surround the house. There is a princess-locked-in-a-castle feel to it".
The 1960s style of architecture had further advantages. "The beauty of these houses is that they have a lot of look-throughs and knock-throughs", says Quinn. "It's almost like a goldfish bowl, so Ben can keep an eye on Christine. He's keeping her like a doll".
The exterior of the house was shot in Surrey, southwest of London. Further location shoots took place around London with location manager Jason Wheeler intent on finding unusual shots of London.
"What Christine sees when she ventures away from the house was very much part of the brief", says Wheeler. "There is a sense of isolation when she's walking through a park or walking down the road. She still feels on her own. What she sees and the parts of London she sees are not obvious. She doesn't see Big Ben, for example, or anywhere very recognisable. That's not what this story is about".
The film's one identifiable location comes in the last quarter of the film and involves Duff's character Claire. "The scene is set in Greenwich Park, around Greenwich Observatory, overlooking the City of London", says Joffé. "There's a real sense Christine has come home, geographically and psychologically. She is reuniting with an old friend and putting together the final pieces, or so she thinks, of the jigsaw".
Every other location is unfamiliar. When Christine is in a car, it is raining outside, when she is in an office, the windows are steamed up. "I tried to keep the film as claustrophobic as possible", Joffé explains. "There are no really big wide shots until she has a bit of perspective on her own life. She really only knows what's going on on that day, apart from the device of the video diary, which allows her to know what's happened on previous days that she has recorded. Her visibility is low, until the end of the movie".
The Greenwich Park scene, which finally places the film in London, is also Joffé's way of honouring the book. "I have a huge creative debt to the book", the filmmaker says.
Three weeks of interiors took place at Twickenham Studios in West London. Production sound mixer Simon Hayes was thrilled to shoot at Twickenham. "It's one of the best soundstages in London", he enthuses. "We're really benefitting from how quiet it is here because we can really capture these intimate performances on the stage and enhance these crisp, intimate interiors".
Shooting at Twickenham also gave Joffé the ability to move the camera in a way he could not have done on location. "I can take a wall out, I can take a ceiling off, I can get a camera 350 feet away from my actors and put a long lens on", says Joffé of shooting on a set.
Stories with plot twists present a very specific challenge as they rely on the story functioning well on two levels, the ostensible story and the actual story. "Normally what happens in the actual story has got to be really dramatic because when you reveal it, the audience has got to go 'Oh my God'", says Joffé. "But the ostensible story must be dramatic too. It has to disguise the fact there's something else going on. So the red herring must be a really vivid red or the audience won't be interested. And as you are spending the body of the film telling the ostensible story, it had better be dramatic, in and of itself".
The merry-go-round of semi-memories and flashbacks that is Christine's character made the job of editor Melanie Oliver particularly interesting.
"Where do we start and how do we get to the end without it feeling like we've told the story many, many times?" says Oliver, whose most recent credits include Les Miserables and Anna Karenina. "It's been a wonderful exercise of pockets of information and then we have to erase them and then we have to sort of jolt the memory again. We've been playing with sound and music quite a lot as a form of recall".
"It's just really hard to find great thrillers, for me it was such a strong thriller", says Nicole Kidman. "There are so few good thrillers. It's probably my favourite film genre and I'd been looking and looking. I made a film years ago called The Others and it's one of my favourite films that I've made and so I've been looking for something that has the same sort of twists and turns and thrills and this had that".
Kidman admits she's a huge fan of writer-directors. There's a flexibitlity she admires in their ability to rewrite the script as the physical process of performing the role takes shape.
"He's got a vision for it", Kidman says of Joffé. "He knows it like the back of his hand and you can ask him a question and he has the answer. Particularly with something like this, which was so complicated. It was great to be able to go to Rowan and say, "Well, hold on." because this really is heady stuff. I needed to be able to say to him and so did Colin, that this movie can be a head spin. Luckily, Rowan had intensively graphed and mapped it. He always had the answer and that was such a relief and I'd say to him, Thank God, I can lean on you".
Before I Go To Sleep is also a very emotional story, about a woman who grieves for her son anew each day. "A lot of thrillers are cerebral", Joffé suggests. "They rely on jeopardy and don't carve out really emotional territory to do with grief, loss, marriage and love. This story does. It works in its own right. Nicole and Colin give amazing performances just dealing with those emotions".
The production team worked hard to not give the plot twists away. "You don't notice, for example, that it's only two people in the photographs on the photo wall Ben has put together", says Quinn. "That way it's done is a combination of different places and locations. You would never notice until towards the end of the film".
Of course, the book's multi-million readers come to the film knowing what is going to happen. As a great reader herself, producer Liza Marshall is hopeful the film has captured the Christine in people's heads. "I know how frustrating it can be to see a film and it doesn't capture the essence of the book. I think we've captured the spirit and tone of it".
Just as Watson wrote Before I Go To Sleep to entertain people, hoping it would provoke further thought in readers too, as an audience we enjoy a similar experience - followed by a shiver.
"When I read Rowan's script, I saw it as a really exciting thriller", says Watson. "And when the credits roll, there's lots to think about there as well: 'What would I do in that situation? Would I react differently? What makes me who I am?'"
For Nicole Kidman, the film offers an emotional base, which she argues, is all too rare.
"It's a genre picture, but I feel it's got so much more texture than that", she says. "I would hope that it's a mixture. There's the ride - which a thriller has to deliver on - and I hope there are a couple of moments that are really big gasps, or screams. But I'm interested much more in psychological thrillers than I am in straight horror thrillers, even though I'll go see horror films because I'm a horror fan.
"I'm not sure how many horror films I'd want to make, but the psychological thriller for me, is one of the greatest film genres, if you can achieve it. Don't Look Now, is one of my all time favourite movies, which I've watched maybe twenty times, so I would hope I would get to do a couple of really great psychological thrillers in my career. I would hope this is one of them".
For Joffé, the film is about the mysteriousness of life. "As humans, we don't have all the answers" says the director. "That's what's so profoundly entertaining about this film. We are locked in a very subjective experience as human beings, constantly trying to get to the truth and we never get there. This movie is about that and it's about the fun of the process and the adventure of it".
Nicole Kidman (Christine) first came to the attention of American audiences with her critically acclaimed performance in Phillip Noyce's 1989 psychological thriller Dead Calm. She has since become an internationally recognised, award-winning actress known for her range and versatility. In 2003, Kidman won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award and a Berlin Silver Bear for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry's The Hours. In 2002, she was honoured with her first Oscar nomination for her performance in Baz Luhrmann's musical, Moulin Rouge! For that role and her performance in Alejandro Amenabar's, The Others, she received dual 2002 Golden Globe nominations, winning for Best Actress in a Musical.
Kidman was awarded her initial Golden Globe for her role in Gus Van Sant's To Die For and has been nominated three additional times: for her performances in Jonathan Glazer's Birth, Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain and Robert Benton's Billy Bathgate. In 2010, Kidman starred in Rabbit Hole, directed by John Cameron Mitchell, for which she received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress. Kidman's most recent projects include Lee Daniel's The Paperboy, for which her performance has earned her a Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nomination; Chan-wook Park's Stoker; and the forthcoming Jonathan Teplitzky's The Railway Man and Grace of Monaco directed by Oliver Dahan.
Kidman's additional film credits include: Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding; The Golden Compass directed by Chris Weitz; Dennis Dugan's Just Go with It; Rob Marshall's film adaptation of the musical Nine; Baz Luhrmann's Australia; Steven Shainberg's Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; Pollack's The Interpreter; Nora Ephron's Bewitched; Robert Benton's The Human Stain; Lars von Trier's Dogville; Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut; Jez Butterworth's Birthday Girl; Mimi Leder's The Peacemaker; Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady; Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever; Harold Becker's Malice and Ron Howard's Far and Away. In television, Kidman was recently seen in the HBO film Hemingway & Gellhorn, for which her performance earned her an Emmy, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nomination.
Colin Firth (Ben)- Veteran actor of film, television and stage, Colin Firth earned an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, British Independent Film Award, Critics' Choice Award and his second consecutive BAFTA Award in 2011 for his performance as King George VI in Tom Hooper's The King's Speech. Firth also won the BAFTA Award in 2010 and the Volpi Cup for 'Best Actor' at the 2009 Venice Film Festival for his performance in Tom Ford's A Single Man. Firth's other most notable screen credits to date include: Shakespeare in Love directed by John Madden, Anthony Minghella's The English Patient, Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Phyllida Lloyd's Mamma Mia!, Beeban Kildron's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Peter Webber's Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Firth's past screen credits include: Anand Tucker's When Did You Last See Your Father?, Stephan Elliott's Easy Virtue, Michael Winterbottom's Genova, Oliver Parker's The Importance of Being Earnest, Nanny McPhee directed by Kirk Jones, A Thousand Acres directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, Hugh Hudson's My Life So Far, Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch and the title role in Milos Forman's Valmont. On the small screen, Firth is infamous for his breakout role as Mr. Darcy in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice directed by Simon Langton, for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor and the National Television Award for Most Popular Actor.
Mark Strong (Dr Nasch) - One of today's most compelling and charismatic actors, Mark Strong will soon be seen in Nae Caranfil's Closer to the Moon and his other most notable screen credits include: Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, RocknRolla and Revolver; Ridley Scott's Robin Hood and Body of Lies, Tom Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass and Stardust.
Strong's other film credits to date include Eran Creevy's Welcome to the Punch, Nick Murphy's Blood, Jean-Jacques Annaud's Black Gold, Andrew Stanton's John Carter, Jean-Marc Vallée's The Young Victoria, Pete Travis' Endgame; Vicente Amorim's Good, Danny Boyle's Sunshine and Stephen Gaghan's Syriana, Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist; David Evans' Fever Pitch and The Eagle directed by Kevin Macdona/ld. His other telefilm and miniseries credits include Our Friends in the North, directed by Simon Cellan Jones and Stuart Urban; Pete Travis' The Jury and Henry VIII; Roger Michell's The Buddha of Suburbia; Danny Boyle's Screenplay episode Not Even God Is Wise Enough and for directors David Drury and Tom Hooper, respectively, Prime Suspect 3 and Prime Suspect 6.
Anne-Marie Duff (Claire) has won industry and critical plaudits for her work in film and television and on stage. Her memorable portrayal of John Lennon's mother Julia in Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy earned her many prestigious accolades, including the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress, the British Independent Film Award (BIFA) and a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Among Ms. Duff's other notable features are Lenny Abrahamson's Garage, for which she received an Irish Film and Television Award (IFTA) nomination for Best Supporting Actress; Peter Mullan's award-winning The Magdalene Sisters; Michael Hoffman's The Last Station and Is Anybody There? directed by John Crowley.
One of her best-known roles is as Fiona in the original U.K. television series version of Shameless, for which she won an IFTA Award and received two BAFTA Award nominations. Ms. Duff was again a BAFTA nominee for her performance as Elizabeth I in Coky Giedroyc's miniseries The Virgin Queen. Ms. Duff starred as the legendary Margot Fonteyn in the BBC telefilm Margot, directed by Otto Bathurst. Her other notable telefilm and miniseries work include Joe Wright's The Last King (a.k.a. Charles II: The Power & The Passion); Giacomo Campiotti's Doctor Zhivago; Aisling Walsh's Sinners; Parade's End, directed by Susanna White and most recently, the BAFTA nominated, The Accused, created by Jimmy McGovern and directed by David Blair.