British cosmologist Stephen Hawking is well known for his theories about the universe, but how much do fans know about his personal journey? The Theory Of Everything (November 7), a new film about the physicist, details his first marriage and the weight his illness and rising fame put on the union.
Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne) was diagnosed with a degenerative motor neuron disease in his early 20s, a challenge that could’ve derailed his career. However, his relationship with fellow Cambridge student Jane (Felicity Jones), gave him hope. The movie revolves around the Hawkings’ 25-year marriage, and viewers will be deeply moved by the pair’s story.
It’s pretty cool to learn about the man behind physics’ most brilliant ideas, but what should you know about The Theory Of Everything before heading to the theater? Find out by reading our guide to one of the season’s most lauded movies.
You’ve seen The Theory Of Everything’s stars before, only now they’re in leading rolesThe movie stars British actors Redmayne and Jones, as Stephen and Jane. Their portrayals are Oscar-worthy, so don’t be surprised if you hear their names more and more around awards season. But they already look familiar to some audiences. Redmayne starred in 2011’s My Week With Marilyn opposite Michelle Williams. He followed up with a breakout performance in 2012’s Les Miserables as hopeless romantic Marius. The actor has also been recognized for his theater work, winning a Tony in 2010 for his role in Red, a play about artist Mark Rothko. Jones starred in the sleeper indie romantic film Like Crazy in 2011 and gained more fame earlier this year with a role in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. By year’s end, both she and Redmayne could be household names in the U.S.
This film will make you cry like a baby
The Theory Of Everything takes viewers through the Hawkings’ relationship, from their youthful idealism to their emotional weariness from dealing with Stephen’s illness. Watching the pair marry as Cambridge students, moviegoers’ enthusiasm for the couple is tinged by imagining what they’ll endure later.
Scenes chronicling Stephen’s deteriorating health are wrenching, especially since viewers will relate to his wit and optimism early in the film. His illness’ progression means that domestic burdens fall to an increasing beleaguered Jane, causing tension. However, the couple’s reserves of strength make viewers root for them. The Hawkings’ determination is so visceral that every setback touches moviegoers’ nerves. Make sure you bring tissues.
Watch Jones and Redmayne discuss bringing the love story to the big screen.
Neither Stephen nor Jane are portrayed as total saints.
The Theory Of Everything is definitely a love story, but the film doesn’t whitewash over love’s complications. Stephen’s condition prompted Jane to seek outside help with the household, inviting new people into the couple’s relationship.
Both Jane and Stephen have conflicts of heart during the marriage. Jane’s affections were torn while seeking an outlet for her discontent, while Stephen’s renown opened him up to women who deeply admired his brilliance.
This facet of the story could have easily been sidestepped, but the film would’ve suffered for it. Showing the relationship’s true costs adds a layer of realism, with Jones and Redmayne tapping into their characters’ less-than-perfect humanity.
The Academy is nuts if Eddie Redmayne doesn’t get an Oscar nomination.
Obviously, Redmayne underwent a serious transformation to play Stephen Hawking. The actor had to portray Hawking at various stages of muscular degeneration. Furthermore, the film reportedly wasn’t shot sequentially. Redmayne had to constantly shift from playing the physicist at the beginning of his illness to his quadriplegic state — and all points in between.
At every stage, Redmayne captured Hawking’s charm, humor, and at times, stubbornness. Whether through intelligible speech or a simple twinkle in his eye, Redmayne nailed Hawking’s mannerisms to a tee.
The closest comparison of Redmayne’s performance is to Daniel Day-Lewis’ 1989 role in My Left Foot. Day-Lewis played Irish writer and painter Christy Brown, who struggled with cerebral palsy. Day-Lewis snagged an Oscar for his part — we can only hope that Redmayne will be in the running come February.
The Theory Of Everything is approved by Stephen Hawking himself.If one of the world’s greatest geniuses is into the film, how can you argue with that? OK, Hawking is biased toward liking The Theory Of Everything, but if he wasn’t pleased, we’d definitely know it.
According to Variety, Redmayne saw Hawking before the cosmologist attended a screening. Through his electronically generated voice, Hawking told the actor that he’d provide thoughts on how he was being portrayed on screen, “good or otherwise.” Thankfully for Redmayne, the film moved Hawking to tears. See, we told you it was a tearjerker!
The Theory Of Everything begins its U.S. run in select cities starting Friday, November 7.
[Photos: Focus Features]