The screen writer and producer of forthcoming Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, has said he’s always been “in thrall” to the eminent physicist.
"He’s an icon", says Anthony McCarten, who spent the best part of a decade working with Jane Hawking to adapt her memoir about their marriage. After reading Hawking’s seminal book A Brief History of Time in 1988, he assumed that someone would make the film of his life, but never imagined he would be the one to do it.
During an Academy Conversations interview (the people who do the Oscars), stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones (playing Stephen and Jane Hawking), writer/producer McCarten and producer Lisa Bruce talked about bringing the story to the screen and telling the intimate story of their lives.
McCarten remembers thinking that if he could "marry the incredible character of Stephen Hawking with the incredible courage, determination and strength of Jane, we could have a unique cinematic story."
Producer Lisa Bruce is full of admiration for the Hawkings’ willingness to let the most intimate moments from their lives be put up on the screen for all to see. In particular, she has enormous respect for Jane. "Her ability to jump off this emotional cliff with this man when he’s been given a two year death sentence was just profound," she says.
For Redmayne, being part of the film meant going through a complete transformation. To research his part, he spent time with other people suffering from the same motor neuron disease that befell Hawking while he was studying at Cambridge. He learned not just the physical challenges they face, but the emotional ones, he explains.
He worked with a dancer and other experts to portray he condition as accurately as possible. He had to "train his muscles" so that when he and Felicity were acting together, he could focus on "the human and the emotional story."
Disrupting the space time continuum
The film wasn’t shot chronologically because it is "economically unviable," Redmayne quips, “unless you’re Boyhood,” referring to the film that took director Richard Linklater 12 years to make.
The first day of filming "was a trial by fire" he remembers, as it jumped around drastically – in a way that probably couldn’t be explained by Hawking’s theories on space and time. In the morning he was spinning Felicity around, and by the afternoon it was many months later and he was confined to a wheelchair.
Talking about the importance of training beforehand, Felicity Jones said: "When you’ve done the preparation, when you come to set you can be free to be spontaneous." On working with her co-star, she added: "Chemistry is a strange thing that you can’t really explain," but it helped that she and Eddie felt very comfortable in front of the camera together.
The video is full of interesting nuggets of information about bringing the film together in a way that does justice to Stephen and Jane’s story. And the fact that the Academy are talking to the people behind The Theory of Everything suggests that it’s on their radar for the Oscars… Watch the whole interview below and tell in in the comments if you'll be going to see it when it's released on 2nd January.