IAR INTERVIEW: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones Talk 'The Theory of Everything'

Sunday, 09 November 2014 22:50 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR INTERVIEW: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones Talk 'The Theory of Everything'

Opening in select theaters on November 7th is the new biopic The Theory of Everything, which is based on the life of Stephen Hawking and is already earning early Oscar buzz.

The new film takes a look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). Redmayne is best known for his work on My Week with Marilyn and Les Miserables, while Jones has appeared in such projects as Breathe In, The Invisible Woman, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The Theory of Everything was directed by James Marsh (Shadow Dancer), and written by Anthony McCarten (Death of a Superhero). 

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, along with a few other members of the press, to talk about their work on The Theory of Everything. The two talented young actors discussed their new film, why it’s not your standard biopic, what they found refreshing about the script, the advantages of shooting out of sequence, and the project’s Oscar-buzz. 

I began by asking Eddie Redmayne about how he prepared physically and emotionally to play Stephen Hawking. “Very good question. The second I got the job it was a mixture of formidable privilege and great trepidation for all of those reasons. All I knew was I had to immerse myself in the world of Stephen, which is a pretty riveting world to enter. So I read as much of his work as I could. I tried to understand as much as I could, which was not very much. I would speak to one of his old students who would talk to me about the intricacies of string theory. “

“Then there was the physical side,” Redmayne continued. “I spent four months in an ALS clinic in London and had a meeting with a specialist there who introduced me to people suffering from this brutal disease and their families. They were incredibly generous and many of them invited me to their homes, so I got to see not only the physical effects but also the emotional effects it has on families. Then I decided to work with a dancer to try to find that physicality in me. Then finally the last thing was meeting Stephen and Jane just before we started filming.”

The Theory of Everything is not your standard biopic and has a very unique love story. While the movie does have a happy and satisfying ending, the lead couple does not stay together. I asked Felicity Jones what she initially thought about the film’s unusual love story. “All the way through it is unconventional. I think there is a truth in that,” explained Jones. “Actually one of the hardest scenes to do was the scene when Stephen is going to America and he tells Jane, ‘I am going to go with Elaine.’ It is that moment when they still absolutely love each other. There is still so much affection, but the relationship has just reached its limit. It could not go on anymore. That is the tough part.”

The film spans several decades of the main characters lives, and I asked Jones if that was challenging for her. “Yeah, well I think for both of us. Luckily we were moving around between different time periods, but broadly there was a sense of doing the first scenes of the film at the beginning and the very important last scenes of the film at the end.” I followed up by asking if she felt that she had a chance to grow with the character because of the unique shooting schedule. “To a certain extent, but there would be some days when we’d be doing a scene where we’re both in our mid '30s with two children, and then you’d have a coffee-break and you’d be doing the scene when they first meet and fall in love after the church. I remember feeling like this heavy stone from having Jane’s experience. Then I was like, I have to lift this weight off and go back to being the innocent, unknowing 18-year-old. It was a strange mental shift.”

Finally, with all the early Oscar-buzz surrounding the film, and especially the two lead actors, I asked Redmayne if he recognized when he read the script that playing Stephen Hawking is the type of role that the Academy loves to reward. “No I didn’t,’ he confessed. The truth of that is you read a script and acting is about telling a story. If you read a story that is as exceptional as this and unique as this, and playing someone as extraordinary as this, you fight pretty hard for it. That’s what I did. Then when you get the part you have this extraordinary mixture of privilege with this sudden sucker punch of responsibility. Ultimately I knew people were going to see it. So any of the other stuff, well they are going to be the judges. That was why the stakes were so high for us. I care about Stephen and I care about his story. But I really didn’t think in those terms.”

The Theory of Everything opens in select theaters on November 7th. 

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