Interview: Eddie Redmayne portays Stephen Hawking and shares his ‘Theory of Everything’
Preston Barta / Contributing Writer
“The Theory of Everything” | 123 min. | Rated PG-13 | Director: James Marsh | Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Harry Lloyd, Tom Prior, Alice Orr-Ewing, Simon McBurney, Christian McKay, Emily Watson and David Thewlis[dropcap]I[/dropcap]s there a more formidable task than portraying one of the most intelligent minds of our time? Just ask actor Eddie Redmayne, who embodies the highly-acclaimed British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in the film “The Theory of Everything.”
In the heartbreaking yet remarkably true story, audiences get a glimpse into a lesser-known chapter of the famous scientist’s life when he was a young, healthy student at Cambridge University. From there we meet his wife Jane (Felicity Jones), and their romance leads to an incredible story about the power of love and Hawking’s battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
In our interview with Redmayne, he shares the complexity of taking on the role, how portraying Hawking altered his outlook on life, along with what he learned from him.
How did you mentally and physically prepare to take on such a complicated role?
Eddie Redmayne: “When I got cast, I had about four months before filming started. I tried to educate myself about the science, in the one sense, but also, really learning about ALS was incredibly important. So I went to a neurology clinic in London, and I would go every week or two over that period, and I would meet with a specialist there. And she would introduce me to people suffering from this really very brutal disease. Some of them would invite me to their homes, so you could see not only the physical effect [of the disease], but also the extraordinary humor and amazing passion for life many people suffering from this disease have.
Finally, it was meeting Stephen and Jane and Jonathan right before filming. I really tried to approach [the film] in a three-dimensional way.”
What was your thought process when you were offered the role?
Redmayne: “I had chased the film pretty hard – I had been at university at Cambridge, and he was a rock star there. When I was sent the script, I thought it was going to be a biopic of his life, and it transpired that it was this extraordinary and quite complex love story. So it subverted all my expectations. From that moment, I knew it’d be the most amazing privilege to play him. When I got cast, I had been pursuing [the role] – the moment when I got called up and told that I got the part was a sort of sucker punch of fear.”
How has studying and portraying Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” changed and influenced your theory of everything?
Redmayne: “God! The amazing thing about spending time with Stephen is how he describes every day and moment as a gift for him – how he pulls himself out of a melancholia and has managed to live every second of every minute of his life as passionately and fully as possible. I feel like I certainly get caught up in the day-to-day banalities of life, and we forget that [we] only have one shot at this. So, really, trying to live fully is what I’ve taken away from this.”
And what was the most surprising thing you learned about Stephen Hawking?
Redmayne: “When I met him, it was his humor – I knew he had a sort of self-deprecating sense of humor through having done “The Simpsons” and “The Big Bang Theory,” but this sort of wit – it was an extraordinarily incisive wit and sense of timing. There was also this mischievous glint that he had. That was the thing I took away. Even though it’s difficult for him to communicate, he has a very special, powerful feel to him, when you spend time with him.”
“The Theory of Everything” opens today.
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