Eddie is on the cover of one of three covers of the November issue of L’Uomo Vogue.
Eddie Redmayne decides to sit at a secluded table, out of sight from curious onlookers, for our chat. He’s relaxed, however, because he feels right at home at the exclusive Sunset Towers of West Hollywood. “You see, when I arrived in Los Angeles and no one knew me, they treated me like one of them here. That’s why I keep coming back». The smiling waiters hover around him, but it isn’t hard to smile at this thirty-two-year-old London actor: he welcomes you with spontaneity and friendliness and you immediately forget that you’re at a business dinner to talk about his latest film, The theory of everything, the story of famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who was relegated to a wheelchair from the age of twenty-two.
“I had to fight for the role of Hawking because I really wanted to work with James Marsh. I loved his brilliant Oscar-winning documentary Man of Wire, but he didn’t know if I could handle such a ‘physical’ role. I like to take on roles that are a bit like jumping off a cliff: as a matter of fact, I’m only interested in those types of roles”.
Such passion is rewarding: in The Theory of Everything, his performance as Hawking thrilled critics, who compared him to Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot. The producers of Focus Features are already in a state of agitation as they await inevitable pre-Oscar notices.
After all, Redmayne has all the right stuff: a solid theatrical background like many British actors (Twelfth Night, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? by Edward Albee), a series of indie films with eclectic and very different roles, a successful debut on Broadway (in Red, in which he was the assistant of Mark Rothko/Alfred Molina, who won a Tony Award), and finally a successful mini-series, The Pillars of the Earth, based on a Ken Follett best-seller. All he needed was a blockbuster, but with the role of Marius, the singing revolutionary ofLes Misérables, the actor also brilliantly filled that gap (433 million dollars earned at the box office). And before I forget, he has shared the stage with the most prestigious actresses and stars: Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, Scarlett Johansson, Michelle Williams and Angelina Jolie adore him.
Wearing a red, white and blue plaid shirt and jeans, composed and at ease, he converses amiably: he’s calm and confident and he isn’t eager to make an impression on his interviewer. He still has the same curious and educated behavior since the first time I met him back in 2007 on Main Street in Park City at the Sundance Festival. He was there with two films, Savage Grace, an incestuous drama with Julianne Moore (he was the narcissistic heir of a declining dynasty of the international jet set) and “The Yellow Handkerchief” with Kristen Stewart. It was snowing and Ms. Stewart stopped me on the street to introduce him, “Remember him! He’s going to be famous soon, you’ll see!”, she insisted, laughing.
With that delicate adolescent face, red hair, golden freckles, blue eyes, and attractive mouth, Redmayne already had eye-catching allure. Plus, he had studied at Eton, which was the alma mater of Percy Shelley, George Orwell, Ian Fleming and, more recently, Prince William. He received a degree in Art History from Trinity College in Cambridge. Today, “jumping off a cliff” is an expression that the actor often repeats when he describes the choices of his films. At age 32, he’s attracted to directors with a strong personal vision and by complex roles that have little to do with his real life. That’s why he wanted to act in Jupiter Ascending, the sci-fi drama by Lana and Andy Wachowski, the directors of Matrix and Cloud Atlas, which we will see next year. “These two filmmakers have such an extraordinary, wild imagination that they take you to another dimension. I adore Lana: she’s one of the most brilliant creatures I’ve ever met. She’s the reason I also decided to portray the transgender character of Einar Wegener in The Danish Girl.
The film, which Redmayne will start shooting in the near future, is the real story of the transsexual artist Einar Wegener and his Californian wife Gerda. “It’s an extraordinary love story: Einar started occasionally wearing women’s clothes and posing for her and in the end, he went through gender reassignment and became a woman with the name of Lili Elbe”. Redmayne certainly enjoys approaching different worlds: he has always lived in London, but he loves Los Angeles. “When I arrived here for the first time around ten years ago with Jamie Dornan (who will soon be seen in 50 Shades of Grey) and Andrew Garfield (“Spider-Man”), we felt like extra-terrestrials. On top of that, we’d go to extraordinary events but we struggled to find rent money. So, between auditions, we became great friends and I learned to love this city, which is diametrically opposite of London and never fully reveals itself”.
Redmayne talks about everything: friendship and love, his charity projects and his idea of elegance. He speaks glowingly about his fiancée Hannah Bagshawe. “We’ve known each other since we were 15 years old, and it took 15 more years for a different relationship to emerge. Hannah is a special woman and it’s a huge thing that she has agreed to marry me”. Is the wedding soon? “In the winter”, he answers and smiles but says no more. With such a personal style, what does he consider elegant? “You can’t pretend to be elegant: it’s innate”. Among actors and masters of style, he names Ralph Fiennes. “Ralph is incredibly chic. He has poise and always thinks before he speaks. My role model, however, is my father: he’s impeccable without fuss and he has natural style”. He finds Kristin Scott Thomas, Marion Cotillard, his mother, and his fiancée Hannah to be elegant. Two hours have flown by: after eating tartare and chicken, Eddie accompanies me to the car and while he cordially says goodbye, a blonde woman stops and compliments him. She saw him in Red on Broadway. «Please return to the stage: you’re fantastic», she says. Slightly embarrassed, he thanks her and then he casts a sidelong glance towards me as he holds a book in his hand. “But now I’m going to my room to read…”. By the way, the check vanished from the table as if by magic. In my many years of interviews, Redmayne is only the second actor to have offered me dinner. The first was Diane Keaton, many years ago. Speaking of class…