Imagine doing an impression of a well-known individual while standing in front of a crowd. Now imagine that well-known individual is one of the smartest men alive — and he's part of that crowd. Now take that crowd, turn it into thousands and thousands of people, and pretend that you're actually being projected onto a huge screen in front of them.
That, in essence, is how it felt for Eddie Redmayne to portray Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, the movie that opened last Friday that tells the famed physicist's story. Redmayne told The Washington Post that after landing the part, he realized the challenges that awaited him: Hawking is a genius; Hawking has ALS, a debilitating physical condition that has severely limited his movement; Hawking is still alive, so "he will be the ultimate critic."
Redmayne told the Post that he was "reliant" on co-star Felicity Jones, who plays Hawking's first wife Jane in the film, to fill in the gaps left by his physical limitations. "So often I would say, 'I can't do that,'" Redmayne said, so Jones "had to physically drive the scenes."
Adding to the challenge was the fact that Redmayne says Stephen Hawking "has perhaps the most charismatic face I've ever seen, and also the most expressive." The actor says that's likely because Hawking's body is so restricted elsewhere. "All of the facilities we have of communication, whether it's gesture or tone of voice... when they go, it's like all of that energy is channeled into the muscles you can move," he said.
So, how does the Les Miserables vet think he fared in portraying one of science's greatest minds? "How do you become a genius?" he told the Post. "There's definitely a moment when you have to go, 'I will never be Stephen Hawking.'"