The USA Spoke to Eddie in Toronto about how he became Stephen Hawking for The Theory of Everything.
TORONTO — Now that the cat’s out of the bag about The Theory of Everything, all that’s left to do is talk about it. You know, until February.
Redmayne is officially on the glittering treadmill of promotion, and (like certain members of the press who clutch their coffees on these cool Toronto mornings), struggles with setting the proper alarms. “I did that thing this morning when you put on your alarm p.m. instead of a.m.,” says the British actor. His wake-up call was a yelp: ‘Ahh! Morning!’
To become Stephen Hawking (who is now 72), Redmayne studied old photographs of the physicist, met with patients at clinics and worked on his movements with a dancer and vocal coach. But he says the performance was hinged on the devilish wink in Hawking’s eyes, which remains to this day.
“He is incredibly funny,” says Redmayne. “When I met him, that’s what emanated. This wit and humor and this kind of twinkle. Even though he can move so little now he has the most expressive of faces.”
Speaking with Hawking, who suffers from a form of ALS, can be challenging; today he can operate only muscles beneath the eye to communicate. “He has glasses with a sensor. And then he has his (computer) screen, but now with the alphabet. A cursor goes across the alphabet and when he does this (small facial) movement, it stops on the letter,” says the actor.
When The Theory of Everything was finished, Redmayne went to see him. “I said to him, ‘Stephen, I’m terrified. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think.’ And he spent awhile typing away and he just came (back) in his iconic voice and said, ‘I will let you know what I think. Good – or otherwise.’
Redmayne laughs. “I said, ‘Stephen, if it’s otherwise – will you just say ‘otherwise’?’ You don’t need to go into the details.'” Thankfully, Hawking liked it. “Subsequently, he’s been so lovely,” he says.
The true stamp of approval? Hawking lent his voice to the film. And his ex-wife Jane was on set the first day of filming, mussing Redmayne’s schoolboy cut with her hands. “Much messier hair,” she told him.