MIND IN LIGHTS
The challenge of playing one of our most brilliant intellects has Eddie Redmayne in the running for a Best Actor gong at the Oscars
Dr Stephen Hawking sure knows how to make an entrance. Eddie Redmayne discovered as much while portraying the brilliant astrophysicist in The Theory of Everything, a role that’s just earned him a Best Actor nod at the Oscars.
It was their second or third day of filming and they were recreating the Cambridge University May Ball in the ’60s, an outdoor black tie event that a young Stephen attended with his then-girlfriend Jane Wilde (played by Felicity Jones).
It all concludes with a spectacular round of fireworks, which the filmmakers had to capture in just three takes.
“And on cue, Stephen arrived, flanked by his nurses, uplit like a spotlight from his computer screen and as he arrived, the fireworks went off,” says Redmayne.
“I can only describe it as the greatest rock star entrance I’ve ever seen in my life.
“He literally had a fireworks display go off behind him.”
Part biopic, part love story, The Theory of Everything follows Hawking from his healthy, active university days, where he falls for fellow student Jane, through to his life-shattering diagnosis of motor neurone disease (MND) at 21, and his wheelchairbound adult years.
Despite originally being told he had just years to live, Hawking is still very much alive, having just celebrated his 73rd birthday, been married twice, had three children and published the best-selling book The Brief History of Time.
And as The Theory of Everything shows, his body may have physically degenerated but his mind is as curious, imaginative and strong as ever. But it was no easy task to recreate Hawking’s battle with the disease.
Redmayne trained with a dancer to condition his muscles, so he could hold positions for long periods of time.
“Also because I knew we weren’t going to be shooting chronologically, so we’d be jumping in and out of different physicalities.”
In fact, on the first day of shooting, Redmayne spent the morning shooting scenes as a young Hawking, holding hands with Jane and spinning around in circles.
“Then at lunch time, I was playing Stephen on two walking sticks and then in the afternoon I was in the second wheelchair. So the first day was quite a trial by fire and it remained like that,” he says.
But he says it just made him feel all the more conscious of his own health.
“You were constantly aware of how lucky you were.”
Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking in
The Theory of Everything.