Daryl Hannah hopes West End role will help her overcome stage fright

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The Independent Culture

Daryl Hannah, the latest American film star to swap Hollywood for the West End of London, said yesterday she has crossed the Atlantic to overcome a crippling case of stage fright.

Daryl Hannah, the latest American film star to swap Hollywood for the West End of London, said yesterday she has crossed the Atlantic to overcome a crippling case of stage fright.

The 39-year-old actress, a seasoned veteran of more than a dozen blockbuster movies from Blade Runner to Wall Street, will make her stage debut next month in a new version of The Seven Year Itch.

Her appearance in the role of a seductress immortalised by Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film will be one of Hannah's final performances. The star is the latest in a procession of American actresses to gatecrash the British theatre in the past year.

Speaking at the Queen's Theatre in Piccadilly, where rehearsals for the 10-week run started this week, Hannah said: "I have never done theatre before but I want to get over this fear. I have an enormous and overwhelming stage fright. It has debilitated my life. So either I will survive it by doing this or I won't - I'll pass out or faint one day or I won't."

The jet-lagged star, who arrived on Tuesday from Los Angeles, even refused to rule out having to leave the production if she cannot overcome her phobia. She said her appearance in the play, originally written for Broadway by George Axelrod in 1952, would be one of her last before she retires behind the camera to direct films in 2002.

Mike Radford, the British film maker who is directing his first stage play, said: "I'm sure that she'll be fine. If the worst comes to the worst, there are drugs for stage fright."

Hannah was at pains to knock down comparisons with Monroe in the original film, directed by Billy Wilder, which gave birth to the classic image of the 1950s sex symbol's skirt billowing. Hannah has resolved not to watch the film, about a middle-aged married man who fantasises about the girl next door before starting a torrid affair. Hannah said: "That would be the biggest curse if I did try to imitate Marilyn Monroe in any way. I'm trying not to do a shabby imitation of her."

There was disappointment for those expecting her to shed clothes on stage. Yards from the Queen's Theatre is the production of The Graduate for which Kathleen Turner and Jerry Hall have stripped off. Nicole Kidman appeared nude in The Blue Room last year.

Hannah said: "I've heard there's been a rumour I'm going to take my clothes off. That'll only happen if I have a bout of amnesia. It's not in the script, it's not going to happen."

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