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09/15/2014 10:34 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Theory of Everything Producer Talks Screenwriting and Stephen Hawking

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Answers by Anthony McCarten, Producer, Screenwriter, The Theory of Everything

What type of research went into making of The Theory of Everything (2014 film)?

I first became inspired by the ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Hawking story in 1988, with the publication of A Brief History of Time, when I, and 10 million other readers,were blissfully bamboozled by this incredibly profound work. To read a book isn't necessarily to understand a book, and that's certainly true in this case. I thought that someone would make a remarkable movie of this man's life one day, never thinking that I would have a position to do so. What is it about him? There is this incredible disparity between his physical state and his mental state, which is without historical precedent. I like to say that the world has waited a long time for a symbol of genius to rival Einstein's here, but with Stephen Hawking's computer voice and his chair we have one ... but it's also a symbol for hope, of courage, of triumphs over adversity. Something we've never had before and will never have again. I was very inspired by his personal story. But it took Jane's book to make me see the private life... and there were miraculous things to behold in that private life. In my mind, then, I could see a way that it could be a story - not only in the universal, the galactic, the macrocosm if you like, but also, the microcosm of relationships, the quanta of emotions.

Why do we remember our past but not our future?

It's a sort of semantic question, isn't it? How can we not remember our future? We would have to have also had a concurrent life in another parallel universe, to have a future you could possibly remember. And you would have to somehow connect with that parallel universe to be able to remember your future. But we are probably quite fortunate in that we are limited to present and past alone - we have enough to deal with without worrying about the future! I personally stay away from fortune tellers - not that I believe in them, but I know I'd be affected if they told me, you know, "you have two years to live" (as they told Hawking). There's enough information already out there.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career as a screenwriter?

I would say that there's no substitute for experience. What experience teaches you is, what's boring and what isn't. To get that experience, you start by writing one script. You get experience by writing another script, writing another script, and another script. And learn the hard way. There seems to be a lot of people promoting the idea that there's a short cut. There's a lot of books you can buy, for nine bucks that says, "Within twenty days I'll teach how to write a script." Yeah, you can write a screenplay, but for you to have the judgment to know whether it will work or not, requires experience.

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