Stephen Hawking, ALS and all, is such a "character," he's perfect as the charismatic center of a movie. That's partly because of his brilliance in physics and cosmology, partly because his bold yet childlike persona, and partly because of the woman who kept his brain alive, his wife Jane. A new movie based on her account of their courtship, marriage, and ultimate friendship, The Theory of Everything, stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as this exceptional couple. Last week at lunch at the Lotos Club, in a Q&A led by the charming Stephen Daldry, the stars and screenwriter Anthony McCarten discussed their movie relationship in what many are calling performances that top the lists for this year's acting awards; the film should be nominated for Best Picture.
The handsome Redmayne as Hawking starts out as a merely nerdy Cambridge student; as the disease is diagnosed, he's given two years to live. Miraculously, he lives on to marry his sweetheart, father three children with her, complete his schooling and publish several best selling books including the ten million bestseller, A Brief History of Time, even after several near death emergencies. All the while his physical state becomes more and more compromised, and a challenge for Eddie Redmayne to portray. At one point he is seen to deliver a lecture, well after his ability to speak gives out. Seated in his wheelchair, head slumped to the side, his expression is a riot of contortion. Redmayne worked with a dancer to learn the physicality of muscles stiffening and wilting. While the movie never explains how Hawking remains alive, Redmayne, who must get this question a lot, agreed, no one knows.
When they met, Hawking had the demeanor of a man expecting to live till 100, said the actor. A lady's man, Hawking really perked up meeting Felicity Jones who supplies her signature subtlety to the character of Jane Hawking whose care and critical decisions literally keep him alive. Well, this is her side of the story. Stephen Hawking likes the movie, and said it is true in spirit. And yes, Eddie Redmayne met the ALS ice bucket challenge too.
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