The Spectacular Explosion Of Eddie Redmayne
‘I gave up science when I was 14 so the greatest acting job on the film was pretending to understand his theories.’
Eddie Redmayne is a modest guy. Speaking here on his performance as Stephen Hawking in the recently released The Theory Of Everything, he drastically and amusingly underplays his feat and the scale of the physical and emotional acting talent required to portray the renowned ALS suffering physicist on screen. This level of talent has not gone unnoticed and Redmayne, alongside co-star Felicity Jones and director James Marsh, has been widely tipped for award season success for the role and come Oscar time it looks assured that he will no longer be regarded as an up and coming actor.
2014 will surely be the year that Redmayne (32) cemented his status as an in demand name. After breakout success alongside Michelle Williams in 2011’s My Week With Marilyn and as young rebel Marius Pontmercy in Oscar hit Les Misérables in 2012, this year has seen him take center stage with his critically acclaimed lead role as Hawking. To top it all off 2014 also saw him cast as chief villain Prince Balem in Jupiter Ascending, the upcoming epic space opera by Matrix directors the Wachowski siblings.
It is not purely talent but also commitment and dedication to his prospective roles that has seen Redmayne bloom as an actor. Screenwriter for The Theory Of Everything Anthony McCarten described the actor as ‘far above anyone else in terms of passion’ during the casting process for the film. Redmayne was reciprocal in his admiration for McCarten by explaining that it was the quality of the script that established his desire to take on such a challenging role.
‘The passion came from Anthony’s script that I initially thought was going to be Stephen hawking biopic. I had seen him at Cambridge from at a distance and knew the icon and knew the voice. I had studied history of arts so knew nothing of what he discovered. When I read the script it subverted all my previous expectations and I realized instead it was an investigation into a unconventional love story about the emotion in all its guises.’
When we spoke to the film’s director and fellow Brit James Marsh last week he similarly stated that Redmayne had instantly stood out for selection due to his grasp of the work that would be entailed to play such a demanding role based on gradual physical deterioration.
‘We’re not short of great actors in the UK but Eddie quickly became my personal choice. I was convinced he had both the fortitude and talent do this. Due to the months of difficult physical and psychological preparation. It’s a role not many people could do.’
In response to Marsh’s remarks Redmayne was able to offer an extended insight into both the qualities of which his director was so praising about as well as the challenge of non-chronologically shooting a film based on Hawking’s chronological physical decline.
‘What James said ‘fortitude’, it was about knowing that when we shooting it was about jumping between different physicality’s in the same day, and not wanting the film to be about a physicality but an emotional story. In order to do this it meant having to embed all the physical work so that when it came to me and Felicity on set it meant we could just be there playing the human story.’
Redmayne also explained that meeting Hawking himself prior to commencement of filming was the defining moment in his preparation for the role.
‘When you meet Stephen, for someone who can move very few muscles he has the most charismatic face. I had spent months learning to use muscles in expressive ways like never before but having met him I realised I had to also learn to capture a certain mischief and glint in his eye, his ability to control a room with so little words.’
Released in the US last Friday, The Theory Of Everything has drawn praise from critics and in particular Redmayne for his performance in the lead role. To play a person suffering with motor neuron disease is a tall order for anyone in the acting business. What made it the biggest challenge according to Redmayne however was the inevitability that when they came to see it, Hawking and his family would be judging the film and his performance.
‘If you ultimately know that the person you are playing is going to watch this film about their life and make judgement on it, as well as their first wife and children, it gives you a year of sleepless nights but it also drives you to give your best performance. When they saw the film and were generous about it that was the greatest reward ’
It’s not only Hawking and his family though who have been generous. Even in the film’s early stages of release, Redmayne has been widely tipped for an Oscar nomination for a performance that have drawn comparisons to that of Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot. Although he is appreciative of the attention his hard work has received, for Redmayne any personal media hype he hopes will only benefit the success of the film.
‘It’s incredibly flattering and I hope if there is any buzz it simply encourages people to see the film. I find it’s story and circumstances pretty universal about being given obstacles or limitations in life and how you choose to supersede them so I would love people to see it.
Redmayne has no doubt provided us with one of the stand out screen performances of the year and his career looks set to explode in 2015. His growing stature in the film industry have been the result of a string of select but stellar displays so to find Redmayne among the Oscar nominations for best actor come February should come as no surprise. For screenwriter Anthony McCarten this star quality was there for all to see when The Theory Of Everything began filming.
‘It was by no means certain Eddie could deliver on everything he set out to. He had done some film work that was impressive and we knew he would be good, maybe very good. About two days in though it was clear we had someone who was going to be spectacular.’
What is clear is that after this film Redmayne’s career will no doubt surge to new spectacular heights.
The Theory of Everything is out in theaters now.