I haven’t seen “The Theory of Everything” yet, but the film has emerged as one of the more formidable underdog contenders of this past year’s holiday awards season. The biopic of world-renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking has been generally well-received with critics and yesterday garnered no less then five Oscar nods, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Score, Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne, who gave a sincerely affecting acceptance speech at this year’s Golden Globes), Best Supporting Actress (the always-terrific Felicity Jones) and the big one, Best Picture. It’s a film that attempts to examine one man’s dwindling physicality in congruence with the immense changes he made in the realm of science, and while it has all the standard ingredients of a typical awards-season prestige pic, it’s nice to see a film that’s not front-loaded with top-tier movie stars and name-brand filmmakers getting some attention. In a Film4 interview special (that took place before the Oscar nominations were announced), the film’s two stars and its director discuss the challenges of bringing such a difficult story to life, their real-life relationship to their movie counterparts and how Hawking’s work influenced the film.
Early on in the interview, director James Marsh (“Shadow Dancer,” “Man On Wire”) discusses the resistance to making ‘Everything’ another drab kitchen-sink drama: he mentions his desire to “fill the film with light” and to portray the blossoming romance between Hawking and his earthy paramour Jane as something out of a fairy tale. The actors are both articulate in discussing their characters and motivations: Jones discusses how she had to take up a rigorous gym regimen in order to find the strength needed to convincingly play Jane Hawking who must physically carry her husband through his darkest hours. She also tellingly makes mention of her character’s “strong sexual identity,” and how it became affected following Hawking’s crippling diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
I haven’t seen Redmayne act before so I cannot attest to his abilities as such, but his take on Hawking and on the film is wry, eloquent and full of insight: he seemed to be using the source material as a constant inspiration throughout filming, and his sheer physical dedication to Hawking’s transformation over the course of his long life is nothing if not impressive. Indeed, the physicality conjoined with demanding character work is what makes the display of both performers deeply impressive. The Academy loves these tales of transformation and struggle, but that’s not to negate what the filmmakers have done here: by all accounts, it seems that Marsh and his crew have concocted a sincere, moving and doggedly faithful account of Hawking’s life, an endeavor that demands respect.
Watch the whole interview below to learn more about the film.