Eddie Redmayne
Friday, 09 January 2015

‘I just bury my head down… & put one foot in front of the other’

Despite the Golden Globe nomination and calls for an Oscar for his role in The Theory Of Everything, actor Eddie Redmayne is determined to keep his feet on the ground, discovers Keeley Bolger

Written by Keeley Bolger
Eddie Redmayne is thinking about the moments when his day job has seemed so extraordinary, he’s felt like pinching himself. ‘I’ll never forget arriving on set on the first day for the [2006] film The Good Shepherd, in which I played Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon’s son,’ smiles the boyish-looking 33-year-old (he celebrated his birthday on 6 January), smartly dressed in dark trousers, grey jacket and navy jumper.

‘[I remember] going, “I don’t know what’s going on here! When are they going to find me out? Get me out of here!”’

Of course, nowadays, Redmayne is as likely to pull in as many film fans as his one-time screen parents. Indeed, he is having something of a moment. Keen to keep his private life just that, he isn’t about to spill the beans about his personal relationships but you’d imagine his recent marriage to long-term girlfriend Hannah Bagshawe at Babington House in Somerset was an incomparable high. Professionally too, Redmayne is going from strength to strength.

Growing up in London, the actor, whose first stage appearance, aged 12, was as a workhouse boy in Sam Mendes’s production of Oliver!, went to Eton before studying history of art at Cambridge. His breakthrough came with the 2008 BBC adaptation of Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, followed by his role as a lowly film-set worker who witnesses the tense relationship between Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier, during production on The Prince And The Showgirl in My Week With Marilyn.

EddieRedmayne-Jan09-02-590In My Week With Marilyn, with Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe

But it is now, with his performance as Stephen Hawking in moving new drama The Theory Of Everything, that Redmayne is really coming into his own. He has already been nominated for The London Film Critics’ Circle and Golden Globe gongs for best actor (news he toasted with a few mulled wines) and there’s talk of an Academy Award nod too.

Spanning Hawking’s life from his days as an able-bodied Cambridge graduate, being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, aged 21, and given just two years to live, to the revered scientist he is today, The Theory Of Everything isn’t a straightforward biopic. Rather, it shows the incredible budding relationship – and later marriage – between Hawking and fellow student Jane Wilde, played by Felicity Jones, who has also picked up a raft of nominations for her role. Sacrificing her own career, Jane, whose memoir inspired the film, devoted her life to supporting Hawking and caring for their young children.

Clearly, discovering more about this unique and entirely universal love story left a lasting impression on Redmayne, who likes to spend his weekends going to art exhibitions.

EddieRedmayne-Jan09-03-590-quote

‘What I see is that Stephen and Jane had these incredible hard-core obstacles put in front of them, and rather than letting the obstacles or limitations define them, it was how they overcame them that defined them,’ says the actor, who also played Marius in 2012’s Les Misérables.

‘I took that as a sort of a message we can learn from. Even though it is a specific scenario for them, in life, we always have limitations and things put on us, and how we choose to overcome them is what defines us.’

While the film could be saccharine, it doesn’t gloss over the friendship the physicist and his wife had with widowed choirmaster Jonathan Hellyer Jones, portrayed by Charlie Cox, who Jane later wed. Hawking also remarried, to his carer Elaine Mason, played by Maxine Peake.

To prepare himself for the role, Redmayne met with other ALS sufferers and also watched countless clips of the physicist, learning to isolate muscles in his face, indicating ‘yes’ with a ‘sort of smile’ and ‘no’ as an ‘almost grimace’. ‘It was intense but it was also quite riveting,’ he says of the rehearsal process.

‘It was interesting to really immerse yourself in that world. It was waiting for everyone to leave, sitting in front of the mirror and trying to learn to isolate the muscles he uses. It was complicated and different, but it was interesting.’

He also met up with Hawking to discuss the role, which he admits was ‘terrifying’.

EddieRedmayne-Jan09-04-590Eddie Redmayne starred with Gemma Arterton in Tess Of The D’Urbervilles

‘He had gone from iconic to idol status in my mind,’ Redmayne explains with a smile. ‘So when I met him, I was pretty terrified. I suffer from verbal diarrhoea. I hate silence, so I basically spent the first half hour telling Stephen Hawking about Stephen Hawking.’

After overcoming his initial nerves and leaving with a sense of the acclaimed scientist’s ‘humour, wit and his sense of mischief’, the burden of expectation started to dawn on Redmayne. In admitting he lost sleep over the role, he says, ‘From the day I got the part, the weight of it, the responsibility, was unlike anything I had ever felt before.’

And while his awards shelf already boasts a Tony for his Broadway run in Red, as artist Mark Rothko’s [played by Alfred Molina] young assistant Ken, he admits his radar for work can sometimes be a bit skewed. ‘The thing is with films, I’m really bad at judging scripts,’ says the actor, who would love to tread the boards again.

‘Because I’ve done scripts that I thought were great. And then you end up doing something that’s kind of dodgy. And I’ve done scripts that are dodgy, and that suddenly end up being interesting.’

While the film has been attracting stellar reviews and awards hype, Redmayne is keeping cool about it all. ‘Do you know what? I try not to listen to it [Oscar buzz], because if you listen to the good stuff, you have to listen to all the bad stuff too,’ he says.

‘And that’s actually where madness lies. So I try and bury my head down and just put one foot in front of the other.’

The Theory Of Everything is in cinemas now.


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