Time taunts everyone’s lives, yet few have so determinately set out to understand it like the revolutionary scientist Stephen Hawking. The film “The Theory of Everything” follows Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his intellectual ambitions as he delves into a romance with the cosmos as well as a woman he meets as a young Cambridge student.
Focusing on Hawking’s personal life, the film captures not the science of the brilliant mind, but the humanity of his tenacious spirit. Diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given two years to live, Hawking worked harder to prove his theories within his prescribed time limit.
Redmayne said the film captures a “universal quality.”
“We all have times in life when we have limitations,” Redmayne said in an interview with The Miami Hurricane. “How we choose to defy those obstacles is what defines us.”
When taking on the role, he admits he felt a “sucker punch of fear.” Redmayne visited a motor neuron clinic for six months, meeting patients to try to understand Hawking’s physical and emotional progression. His body language articulately begins with subtle hand motions, gradually progressing to full-body incapacity.
Yet his convincing portrayal exceeds just his physical embodiment, as Redmayne explained his technique included drawing on things that are specific to him to empathize with the character and convey his emotions.
“An extraordinarily incisive wit, a mischievous glint that he had – that was the thing that I took most away,” Redmayne said of meeting Hawking.
His depth of emotion is partly due to his traditional training. Redmayne and his costar Felicity Jones, who plays Jane Hawking, share a background in London theater.
“We shot it in real time, in the film it’s condensed slightly, but we had 10-15 minute takes,” said Redmayne of a pivotal scene with Jones. “We were caught up in it, in the crux point. Something about us starting in theater in London and the long transitions– we used what we learned and brought that to the scene.”
The writer and co-producer, Anthony McCarten, told The Miami Hurricane he was astonished at director James Marsh’s approach.
“That he would allow the actors the freedom to release so much emotion … to really explore the emotion in the text, and I think that shows up on screen,” McCarten said.
He hopes the audience leaves with one message.
“If you keep an active, curious mind and an open mind and a sense of humor, you can overcome just about anything life throws at you,” he said.
Much like the scientist who proved and disproved his own theories in search of the truth, McCarten says he searched for “intellectual honesty,” infusing his text with the facts from wife Jane Hawking’s memoir. Due to the sensitivity of the material, it took him eight years to convince her to surrender the rights.
McCarten’s moment of gratification came when he saw a tear rolling down Stephen Hawking’s cheek and when Jane said she was “floating on air.”
“My first image is that Stephen Hawing spent a lot of his career wanting to unwind time, so I wanted to end the film with the film winding back to the beginning,” he said.
This montage of the film’s important frames at the end resonates with audiences who leave wishing they could wind back to re-watch the masterpiece.