Part ghost story, part psychological thriller, part heart-wrenching love story, CREATION is the powerful story of Charles Darwin and the single most explosive idea in history. Directed by Jon Amiel (The Core, Entrapment, Copycat, Sommersby) from a screenplay by John Collee (Master and the Commander: The Far Side of the World, Happy Feet), CREATION is based upon Randal Keynes' book, 'Annie's Box', about the life of his great great grandfather, the world's pre-eminent scientist, Charles Darwin.
Charles Darwin is played by British actor Paul Bettany (Inkheart, The Da Vinci Code, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, A Beautiful Mind), and his wife Emma Darwin is played by his real-life partner Jennifer Connelly (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Blood Diamond, A Beautiful Mind, Requiem For a Dream).
They are joined on screen by British stalwarts Jeremy Northam (Dean Spanley, Gosford Park), Toby Jones (Frost/Nixon, W, Infamous) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Other Boleyn Girl, Atonement, Amazing Grace). Martha West makes her feature film debut in the pivotal role of Annie Darwin.
Darwin's great, still controversial, book 'On the Origin of Species' depicts nature as a battleground. In CREATION the battleground is a man's heart. Torn between his love for his deeply religious wife and his own growing belief in a world where God has no place, Darwin finds himself caught in a struggle between faith and reason, love and truth. This is not the grey-bearded old man that most imagine when they think of Darwin. The Darwin we meet in CREATION is a young, vibrant father, husband, and friend, whose mental and physical health gradually buckles under the weight of guilt and grief for a lost child.
Ultimately it is the ghost of Annie, his adored ten-year-old daughter, who leads Darwin out of darkness to reconnect with his wife and family. Only then is he able to create the book that changed the world. Told in a dazzling collage of scenes from the past and present, laced with stories of exotic animals and the dark dreams of a troubled mind CREATION is a film that will provoke, entertain and ultimately deeply move you.
No single researcher since Darwin has matched his bearing on the natural and social sciences, from his theories of evolution and their impact on religion and politics through to cultural relations and philosophy. Over 125 years since his death, his work is still an inspiration in a world that continues to be shaped by his ideas.
The world will be celebrating Charles Darwin in 2009, the year marking the bicentenary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous work, 'On the Origin of Species - By Means of Natural Selection'. This was an explosive book published at a time when church underpinned society and Man was believed to be God's separate and most precious creation. It proposed a logical explanation for the diversity of species including the evolution of man, and was to forever change the way we view mankind and our place in the world, sparking controversy and debate that still rages today, even with the scientific evidence that now exists, such as DNA research and genetics.
2009 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Galapagos National Park. Darwin spent five weeks during his voyage as a naturalist on the H.M.S. Beagle visiting the archipelago of volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador. The observations and findings he made there shaped his ideas and set the foundations for the theory of evolution he would work on for more than 20 years.
Darwin is a handsome man in his early forties who lives a quiet life in an idyllic English village. He is a brilliant and deeply emotional man, devoted to his wife and children, but clearly distanced from them. When we first meet the family, the void between Darwin and his wife Emma seems to engulf the children. Their chaotic house is full of shadows and secrets.
Only when Darwin retreats to his study and begins to discuss his day with his daughter Annie, a precocious and inquisitive ten year old, do we see him come to life. But when Emma comes in to find Darwin alone, we realise he has been talking to a ghost. Not an apparition, but the vibrant spirit of Darwin's favourite child who died several years earlier.
The story moves back and forth through Annie's short life and the years following her death. Not only does a portrait of a deeply connected father-daughter relationship emerge, so does Darwin's magnificent theory. Annie's death sharpens Darwin's conviction that natural laws have nothing to do with divine intervention. To his contemporaries, this is an idea so dangerous it seems to threaten the existence of God. In a box in Darwin's study, we discover the manuscript of 'On The Origin Of Species'.
Darwin makes a poignant pilgrimage to the hotel in Malvern where Annie died whilst receiving treatment. The journey marks a change in him, and he is finally able to share his grief with Emma. The couple reconnect at last. Emma is both shocked by her husband's views and in love all over again with his passion and intellect. Darwin decides that Emma must make the decision about publishing his work. After reading the manuscript, she quietly returns it to him addressed to a publisher in London. For both of the Darwins, love takes priority over belief.
Darwin walks down the lane, holding the package. The postman arrives. Darwin falters, almost letting him go empty-handed. The postman rides away, unaware of the time-bomb he's carrying out into the world. As Darwin walks home, a little girl skips happily alongside him.
FROM PAGE TO SCREEN
His love for his wife, his observations of his children, his friendships with gardeners, schoolteachers and pigeon fanciers, his fears about death, revolution, bankruptcy, inbreeding... all these things found their way into his theory. He was the most inclusive of thinkers.
Randal Keynes, 'Annie's Box'
The idea for CREATION first sprang to life when screenwriter John Collee mentioned to his friend, director Jon Amiel, a book he had read called 'Annie's Box'. Written by Randal Keynes about his great great grandfather Charles Darwin, it is a personal account of the renowned Victorian scientist. Amiel was similarly inspired by this story of a family man who deeply loved his children, who cared passionately about his religious wife and potentially destroying a society built on the foundations of the church, that he delayed publishing what was to be the most explosive idea in history.
For Collee, the book "Is extraordinary. It's a picture of a man trying to live a creative life with his family swirling around him, there's politics, there's religion, it's 'of the moment'. What interested me was what he suffered along the way to finally achieve an aura of unassailable gravitas. He was deeply in love with a woman who disagreed profoundly with his theory. He cherished his children and saw three of them die. He suffered horribly from a lifelong illness that may or may not have been psychosomatic. He studied to be a parson and wrote the book which killed God. I wanted to write about this man."
Together, Amiel and Collee knew they wanted to bring the relatively unknown story of who Darwin was as a man to the big screen. Darwin's career spanned fifty of his seventy-three years, and as they did not want to make a conventional biopic, they knew they needed to focus on a particular period in his life. Randal Keynes' biography gave them the heart of the script; that Darwin's work and his family life were inseparable.
As Amiel explains, "We wanted to make a film that was an intense visual and emotional journey through the heart of darkness of this man. We decided very quickly that the ghost of his dead daughter Annie, who died when she was ten, would be an important character. We decided to tell the story in a non-linear way, moving rapidly between past and present, between fantasy and reality, between nightmare and anecdote. Once we had these ideas, I became passionate about Charles Darwin's story because I could see a way of telling a story about a man that deeply, deeply interested and moved me."
In many ways, Darwin's life was shaped by loss, from the early demise of his mother, to the deaths of three of his young children, and the gradual loss of his religious faith. It was decided the focus of the film would be the time in his life when he lost his beloved daughter Annie, through to his struggle to write his seminal work 'On the Origin of Species'. This book set out Darwin's theory that man was the product of nature and evolution rather than God. It was to have an immeasurable impact on science, religion, politics and society from the moment it was published in 1859. It is Darwin's most famous book and has never gone out of print.
Amiel took the project to Recorded Picture Company, the British independent production company owned by esteemed Academy Award winning producer Jeremy Thomas. The unconventional approach with which Amiel and Collee proposed telling the story of Darwin and his explosive idea greatly appealed to Thomas. This led to him optioning Randal Keynes' book and commissioning Collee to write a screenplay.
As Thomas recounts, "It's a combination of the story, which works very much on an emotional level when you know who and what is significant to Charles Darwin. Secondly he's writing a book, arguably the greatest story ever told, and nobody can deny it's one of the most important pieces of writing ever written. The book he wrote is still vital today, which is extraordinary to me, that it continues on as a controversial item. It was combination of thoughts, and the belief that Jon Amiel could make a wonderful film. I thought it could be a very moving and emotional film, but also interesting."
As author Randal Keynes recalls when he was asked to discuss taking his book 'Annie's Box' from page to screen, "I met with John Collee, Jon Amiel and Jeremy Thomas and was excited at once when I realised how good a company RPC is, and their filmmaking standards. Then I realised John had written the script for Master and Commander, a wonderful film with a proto-Darwin figure as the ship's doctor, who plays an important part. It was obvious that this was going to be a very special film, carefully authentic but also, I think most importantly, imaginative."
CREATION is not only a film about a man of science it is about a family. It is about how a family survives huge loss and the reverberations of this on the foundations of a marriage. It is about how a man unable to cope with the death of his daughter finds himself unable to write his ground-breaking theories for fear of causing his wife pain and destroying the God she so fervently believes in. It is about a man so racked with anxiety over his work that he suffers years of pain with mysterious bouts of illness.
As Thomas reveals, "John Collee's compelling script tells the remarkable story behind Darwin's revolutionary theory, and the foundation of a book that changed the world. We think of Darwin as an old man with a grey beard, but the reality of our story is very different. In CREATION the Darwin we see is a troubled character who knows his ideas will trigger a profound change of balance in the status quo, and it makes him ill."
For Keynes, the deftness of Collee's screenwriting talent in adapting his biographical material to create the story we see on screen gave new life to the story of his great great grandfather, "When I read the script, I expected it to wander off the path of absolute historical truth in one or two places, and I was happy for it to do so because this enables the scriptwriter, director and producer to make more of the film than can be evidenced from surviving documents and other material. They had a freedom that I did not have when I wrote my factual biography. They made very good use of it because they brought out truths about Darwin, Emma, Hooker and the whole story, that I could only imagine, that I could only guess at."
FROM CASTING TO DESIGN
From the outset, the filmmakers knew they wanted British actor Paul Bettany to play Charles Darwin. Our most familiar image of Darwin is of a balding old man with a long grey beard, but the film captures him in middle age after the loss of his adored ten-year-old daughter, Annie. In the years following her untimely death, Darwin was left bereft and struggling with his faith. This inner turmoil, along with his inability to put pen to paper and write his manuscript on the evolution of species for fear of destroying his marriage, all conspired to make him ill. Read more
Charles Darwin was Randal Keynes great great grandfather. His grandmother Margaret, was the daughter of George, the second son of Charles and Emma Darwin. His grandmother often told him as a young child about Down House where she had visited her grandparents as a child. As Keynes recalls, "I learnt later that Darwin, her grandfather, was famous. She told me of her memories of coming to the house after he had died, when old Mrs Darwin was living here in her fourteen years of widowhood. My grandmother told me about the house and her grandmother, and this gave me a very special feeling of personal closeness to the great man, his wife and their granddaughter." Read more
CHARLES DARWIN - FAMILY LIFE AND WORK
On 12th February 1809 Robert Darwin, a physician and the son of Erasmus Darwin, a leading intellectual of 18th century England, and his wife Susannah Wedgwood, daughter of the china manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood, welcomed their son Charles Darwin into the world. The family were well-connected and wealthy. Susannah sadly died when Charles Darwin was eight, and he was raised by his older sisters. Aged sixteen, Darwin began to study for a medical career at Edinburgh University but did not complete his studies. Instead he went on to Cambridge University where he studied divinity, and began to develop his keen interest in natural science. Read more
THE FILMING LOCATIONS AND THE ANIMALS
CREATION, a film with a dazzling collage of scenes from the past and present, laced with stories of exotic animals, was filmed at a number of spectacular locations across the UK. Principal photography commenced in Cornwall, South West England, which provided a number of key locations. The North coast was the setting for the scenes of Darwin and his family on the beach, which were filmed on a windy day at Northcott Mouth, and further along the coast the unusual coastal landscape of Welcombe Mouth stood in for the rugged terrain of Tierra del Fuego. The scenes aboard the H.M.S. Beagle were recreated upon tall ships at Charlestown Harbour, a working port in St Austell in South East Cornwall.Read more
CHARLES DARWIN: SELECT CHRONOLOGY (1809-1882)
12 February 1809 Charles Robert Darwin is born at Mount House, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
1825 Aged 16, Darwin briefly enrols at Edinburgh University to study medicine. He does not finish his medical studies and goes on to Cambridge University to study divinity and begins to develop a keen interest in natural science
1831 Aged 22, Darwin boards the H.M.S. Beagle in the role of a naturalist on a five-year voyage. The journey includes a five-week visit to the Galapagos Islands where he collects specimens and plants, plus different species of mocking birds and finches
1836 Darwin arrives back in Great Britain
1838 Charles Darwin marries Emma Wedgwood
Darwin begins researching his theory that species transmute and evolve in order to survive in greater depth
March 1841 Charles and Emma's first daughter, Ann (Annie) Elizabeth, is born following the birth of their first child, William. They go on to have eight more children during their marriage. Of the ten Darwin children, seven survive to adulthood
1842 The Darwin family move to Down House, Downe Village, Kent
April 1851 Aged 10, Annie Darwin passes away from an unknown illness
Summer 1858 Darwin receives a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace with an essay discussing a similar theory to his, 'The Tendencies of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from their Original Type'
1 July 1858 Papers by both naturalists are jointly presented to the Linnean Society in London
24 November 1859 'On the Origin of Species - By Means of Natural Selection' published by John Murray. The book causes much furore, especially within the Church
19 April 1882 Charles Robert Darwin dies, aged 73, at his family home, Down House, Downe, Kent.
He receives a state funeral and is buried at Westminster Abbey
Jon Amiel (Director)
The British director, Jon Amiel, graduated from Cambridge University, where he studied English literature. He ran the Oxford and Cambridge Shakespeare Company, which frequently toured the United States, and subsequently became literary manager for the Hampstead Theatre Company and began directing there before moving on to direct for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Amiel joined the BBC as a story editor before starting to direct for television. His film The Silent Twins, based on the true story of twin girls who invented their own language to cut themselves off from the rest of the world, was the BBC selection for entry at the Locarno and Montreal Festivals and is still regularly shown on television.
In 1986 he directed all six episodes of the multi award-winning drama series The Singing Detective which has come to be regarded as one of the greatest dramas ever made for television.
Amiel's feature film debut Queen of Hearts opened at the Cannes Film Festival, and was named Best First Film at the Montreal Film Festival and won the Best British Feature Film Award at the Birmingham Festival. Tune in Tomorrow, based on the novel 'Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter' by Mario Vargas Llosa, and starring Barbara Hershey and Keanu Reeves, was his American film debut and won the Prix Publique at the Deauville Film Festival.
Amongst his feature film credits are The Core with Hilary Swank & Aaron Eckart, Entrapment with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, The Man Who Knew Too Little with Bill Murray, Copycat with Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter, and Sommersby with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster.
He has also continued his career in television in the US and recently directed four successful pilots - Eyes, Reunion, Damages and Wedding Bells. Most recently he directed the season finale episodes of The Tudors.
Amiel is currently developing new series ideas for television and several feature projects, including 105 Degrees, an account of the last ten days leading to the fall of Saigon.
John Collee (Screenwriter)
John Collee studied medicine, as Charles Darwin briefly did, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He then took to travelling, working as a doctor in the UK, West bank of Israel, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, the Solomon Islands and the former Soviet Union where he met his wife, a foreign correspondent with ABC television.
From 1991-96, while working as a doctor, he wrote a weekly column on science and medicine for The Observer newspaper in the UK. His published novels include Kingsley's Touch, A Paper Mask and The Rig, all published by Penguin in the UK and USA. Paper Mask, for which he also wrote the screenplay, led to a meeting with Jon Amiel and the two have been close friends ever since.
In the past decade, as a full time screenwriter and a native of Australia he has collaborated with the Australian directors George Miller and Peter Weir on films as diverse as Happy Feet (winner of the 2006 Oscar for Best Animated film) and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture in 2004). The character of Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander played by Paul Bettany was influenced by Charles Darwin's own accounts of the Beagle voyage.
In recent years he has collaborated on a number of heroic, doomed projects with Stephen Spielberg, Jean Jacques Annaud (twice), and Guillermo del Toro among others.
Work on Creation began at a rented beach house in Malibu and was completed in a remote farmhouse in central France where John lived for the latter part of 2007 with his wife Deborah and their three children, channelling Charles Darwin through country walks and beetle collecting.
Randal Keynes (Author of 'Annie's Box' and great great grandson of Charles Darwin)
Randal Keynes OBE is a British conservationist and author. He is the great great grandson of Charles Darwin and the author of the intimate exploration of his famous ancestry, Annie's Box, subtitled Darwin. It is this book on which CREATION is based. Keynes is a Board member of the Charles Darwin Foundation for Galapagos and has taken a leading role in the campaign to have Down House, Darwin's former home which is open to the public and part of the English Heritage portfolio of properties, designated a World Heritage Site.
THE ART OF ADAPTATION