Real-life married stars Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly were “perfect” for the role as man and wife in the new film 'Creation', its director said.
As Bettany led guests down the red carpet at the premiere in London last night, director Jon Amiel, said the couple “brought to the screen an absolutely unforced sense of a life shared”.
The film follows evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin as he works on his groundbreaking 1859 book 'On The Origin of Species'.
It shows Darwin’s struggle to come to terms with the death of his 10-year-old daughter, Annie, played by 'The Wire' star Dominic West’s daughter Martha, and to reconcile his doubts with the beliefs of his devotedly religious wife Emma.
Amiel said Bettany was the “first and only idea for this role” because of his physical resemblance to Darwin and his effortless ability to “convey the language of ideas”.
Speaking of working with a real-life married couple in Bettany and Connelly, he said: “It would have been difficult if it was the wrong husband-and-wife team. This was the right husband-and-wife team.
“Both were perfect for the roles in different ways. When you watch these two courageous and talented actors explore this very intimate marriage in a state of crisis you see something extraordinary on screen.”
Bettany said it was “peculiarly easy” to get in character to portray a father’s grief.
“I spend the whole time imagining terrible things happening to my children and wanting to save them from them.”
Then he added: “It was peculiarly easy to get upset about a child dying.”
Martha West, 10, who makes her film debut in 'Creation' said she was “very excited to be at the premiere”.
Darwin’s great-great grandson, Randal Keynes, whose book, 'Annie’s Book', inspired the film, said it was “wonderful” to see the work translated to the big screen.
Keynes, who spent years researching the naturalist, said: “The most surprising thing I found out about him was just how important his love for his wife and children was throughout his life and how they influenced his ideas about human nature.”
Last week producer Jeremy Thomas reportedly claimed the film had failed to get a distributor in the US. Keynes said last night that the business had a sense that Darwin is “trouble”.
“It’s because he is trouble that he is so valuable to us. He’s giving us challenging ideas.”
He added: “I very much hope it will get a distribution in the States and that everyone who is interested, whether they believe in evolution or the Bible, will see the film and take in what it explains.”
Amiel added that he looked forward to “engaging in hearty and healthy debate with the creationists who choose to see the film”.
Other celebrities on the red carpet included Derek Jacobi, Natascha McElhone, Martin Freeman, and Harry Potter actor Freddie Stroma.