The Theory of Everything has garnered major attention since it's debut at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. Sure, it's fascinating subject matter doesn't hurt but it's the lead actor's extraordinary performance that keeps you utterly captivated from beginning to end.
The Theory of Everything, directed by James Marsh, shares the details of the life story of renowned author and acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking in a movie that's less about the man's theories and genius and more a champion for the human spirit, a spirit that exists beyond the body and even the mind and defines a man in ways that physical dexterity or mental ability cannot. He is played brilliantly by Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) who captures every nuance of Hawking's decent which eventually leaves him dependent on a wheelchair. The actor nails the look, which almost completely captures the wheelchair-bound Hawking that is ingrained in popular culture. And while looking the part is important, Redmayne is challenged to act with limited-to-no mobility and slurred-to-no speech as the movie progresses, asked to find the character's later-film essence in the eyes and that unmistakable smile -- it's his early film performance that's arguably the most important piece of the movie's greater puzzle. Much of his performance is told through his eyes and it is quite an extraordinary thing to behold. Redmayne has been nominated for a best actor Oscar for his performance and it would be quite an upset if he doesn't win.
Another captivating performance is from Felicity Jones who plays Hawking's wife Jane. She stood by him, nursed him, took care of him, bore his children and never had any help. Quite frankly if weren't for Jane, there probably would not be the Stephen Hawking we all know today. Jones was also nominated for an Oscar ( best actress) for her performance.
The Theory of Everything contains an audio commentary, a featurette, and a handful of deleted scenes. A DVD copy and a voucher for a UV/iTunes digital copy are also included.
Deleted Scenes (1080p): Church (0:39), Riverbank (0:30), Jane Types for Stephen (2:15), God's Work (0:38), Stephen Drops Robert (1:25), Helping Stephen Into the Car (0:49), Jonathan Lends a Hand (0:47), and Stephen Meets the Queen (3:42). With optional commentary by Director James Marsh
Becoming the Hawkings (1080p, 7:03): A simple behind-the-scenes piece that looks at Eddie Redmayne's recreation of Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones' performance of Jane Hawking.
Audio Commentary: Director James Marsh delivers a straightforward, slightly dry, and technically informative track that covers performances, the story details, historical accuracy, technical bits regarding the shoot, and more.
INTERVIEWS WITH STARS EDDIE REDMAYNE AND FELICITY JONES
Eddie Redmayne Interview
My goodness Eddie, I don't even know where to start with this extraordinary performance you have given us.
Thank you so much, You are so kind.
How daunting was it to play a man like Stephen Hawking?
It was so daunting yet the most extraordinary privilege. When I was offered this part it was amazing euphoric moment and all I could think was, what treat. If that's what we do is to tell stories as actors, what an astounding story to tell, the story of Jane and Stephen Hawking.
But probably there was a moment of euphoria followed by I suppose I've been punched in the stomach followed by utter fear.
Yeah, pure panic and basically I've been a mess ever since! It was an amazing opportunity.
Where do you go in your own mind to begin playing this man? I was watching your performance so closely the physical deterioration at every stage is unbelievable.
What you did that in the wheelchair and manipulating your hands is mind boggling. How on earth did you manage to do this?
I decided to approach it from a kind of old-school like how they used to do in Hollywood that you have a team. So I was lucky enough to get an amazing makeup designer and a woman named Alex Reynolds a formidable choreographer, and Julia Wilson Dixon an amazing vocal coach and of course the costumes and with Stephen's help we worked together as a team.
I knew everything I did would affect every aspect of this performance so your physicality here (points to body) would affect what costume I'd be wearing and would have ramifications on how I moved.
It's mind boggling to watch.
The physical side I spent six months going to a motor neurone clinic meeting with a wonderful doctor and meeting people who were suffering from the disease and through all of this help I tried to work out what his decline would have been.
What would you say was your biggest fear taking on this role?
I would say it was a few things, not just one. First, you are playing an icon, so the public will have an opinion. Then, you are playing Stephen, who is living with Jane and the family and you know that they are going to see the film. And also, you are depicting science and getting that truthful and comprehensible to an audience without being over people's heads. Through the process of prepping, I met over 30 or 40 people suffering from motor neuron disease (ALS) and I felt great responsibility to be authentic to the illness and depict this thing which is horrifically, sort of taking over people's lives. Mostly I wanted it to be entertaining and to make the story depict [Stephen's] wit and humor and this incredible love story.
Meeting Stephen and having his blessing throughout the entire process had to have been just unimaginable.
What can I say other than, amazing and extraordinary. He and Jane and their kids, I mean they're the most extraordinary family. The greatest thing for me is when Stephen saw the film for the first time he said we could use his voice. So the voice you hear in the film is actually Stephen's. He has copyright over that and that that was a token. I mean that made me weep when he did that. That was a very special day.
You did so much of this performance through your smile and your eyes, telling the story that way was amazing. It still gives me chills when I think about it.
That's when I met him is what I locked into most. Even though he's unable to move so much the expression he has in such limited movement was key. That's what I spent months working on. I actually spent a lot of time in front of a mirror as well just watching what my face could and could not do. It was not just was isolating muscles in your face that because he has such character and humor and with that comes through. That was my aspiration of trying to achieve that. Stephen, when you meet him, he has no interest in the disease. He didn't want to see a doctor ever again [after his diagnosis]. So I wanted to do all the physical stuff in prep, so when it came to filming, it was just Felicity and I playing around. Because, I hope, it's not a story about a disease, it's actually an unconventional love story.
Coming up next we are going to see you in Jupiter Ascending where you got to work with the Wachowski's. Were you pinching yourself ?
Absolutely I was pinching myself! Those two are the most wonderful human beings. I actually filmed that one just before Theory of Everything. Infact, Lana Wachowski is a huge fan of Stephen's and weirdly when I was meeting with James Marsh (director) on Theory I was really buff for Jupiter Ascending. I had gained 22 pounds of muscle, and the trainer that I had been working with had also worked with ALS patients so really, the two films had a strange coincidental meeting. Also Stephen happens to be a huge fan of sci-fi films and kept telling me how excited he was to see Jupiter Ascending so for me it all just came full circle. I'm kind of excited to see what Stephen will think of it.
You've already won a Tony award, but would you call this is the most rewarding role of your career so far?
I definitely think it's the most challenging role. I think in life, whatever you do, you only get better at what you do by raising the stakes. I'm grateful James Marsh trusted me with this role, because I can tell you that I definitely did not trust myself.
There is no question that we are going be hearing your name a plenty come awards season. A performance like this in a movie like this comes with the expectation of awards buzz. Is that something you're thinking about yet?
The stakes felt so high from day one on this, because ultimately Stephen and Jane are going to watch this film. The fact that they liked it, they were the ultimate critics. That for me meant the world. Anything else that comes with that is wonderful. However knowing that Stephen and Jane both loved it is the greatest thing and award enough for me.
Felicity Jones Interview
The Theory of Everything
You are extraordinary in this movie.
How daunting it was it to play not only a woman who lived, but a woman as extraordinary as Jane Hawking?
Playing Jane was petrifying but so fulfilling. It's so funny especially when you meet Jane and you realize what a force of energy and how incredible she is. You want to play her
with truthfulness and portray her is as as wonderful as she is in real life.
Let's face it, Stephen Hawking not only would not be alive if it hadn't been for Jane, but he just wouldn't be the man that he is today. Do you agree with that?
Stephen is the first to admit that. He has said it a million times and stated in the documentary he made last year about his experiences. Jane is very much at the center of
that and and he said how amazed he was that she was so undaunted by his illnesses at such a young age.
When you met her what was it that stood out for you about her? There are millions of women who could never have done what she did let alone stick by someone the way she did.
Yes, she is she is one of a kind actually and you think and hope that you would behave like that in that situation but you don't know until you are put in that position. There is a superwoman quality to her. In life she's very petite she's almost pixie like woman and then the more that I began to inhabit her and understand her how I just realized that depth of the love that she had and the depth of her strength. I have to tell you that I learned so much from her and I think playing her and getting to know her definitely changed me.
What was it like meeting Stephen Hawking and having his blessing to go ahead with this film?
It was important to Jane that she had Stephen’s blessing to do the film. And so we spent time with Stephen, who is just so extraordinary. I think what I loved most about these two people is he is also very commanding and has an incredible wit and a presence. I loved that a there’s this antagonism between them. They’re both very similar personalities. And that’s in many ways what kept their relationship going, because they were always challenging each other.
I have been a champion of Eddie Redmayne's work for years. Working with him must have been an extraordinary opportunity and to just watch his transformation in this movie is brilliant.
He is truly amazing. It totally blew me away watching him work.
What was it like for you to work with somebody like him and then just to watch what he went through?
Eddie is someone who makes everyone up their game because he's meticulous his always on it and you know you want to be as good as he is. I love him as a friend and admire him as an actor. He put his heart and soul into this performance and never once complained or got frustrated, from what I could see. A true professional and he deserves all the accolades he is getting for this performance and more. We’ve had very similar careers, and we’ve known each other since our early 20s and gone to auditions together and been turned down for a lot of stuff together. We’ve done independent films, and then both doing theater gave us a lot in common. Actually, that was such a key element of doing The Theory of Everything, was bringing the elements we’d learned in the theater into preparing for The Theory of Everything. And we were just lucky. We just had really similar ways of working.
It must have been nice to work with someone who is so much on the same page as you?
We had a lot more in common that i even realized before we started. We both like doing lots of takes. I think we both can be quite self-conscious, so we feel like rehearsal is really good, because you can make a fool of yourself and make mistakes before you get to doing it on a camera. And we both like to take ownership over the roles and James Marsh (director) really let us do that, you know. He made us so much a part of the process and would show us rushes, so early on you could see what kind of film you were in. I could see how Benoît Delhomme was shooting it, and obviously how that affects your performance. Just having that information is really useful, and Eddie, I know, also likes to work in that way.
To watch the deterioration of his character playing Hawking and with each stage, how did he do it?
Just detail. He is a perfectionist. I say just detail, (laughing). Such hard work and true determination. He never gave up. It was meticulous preparation and care and and not wanting to get anything wrong. We would look at footage and Eddie would say
this is not right, like it's literally this strand of hair would have to here, things like that.
It was just just caring and committing to something whole-heartedly.
Is there more pressure to play somebody who really lived but especially these two extraordinary people?
Playing real people is really frightening because you don’t want them to watch your performance and feel disappointed and the fact that it's a film in its going to be around forever, you want to get it right.
We love watching you in these serious roles, but will we see any comedies in your future?
I'd love to do comedy if the right script comes along. I actually I have an action film called
"Autobahn" that has some funny moments in it.
So we 'll get to see you flex your muscles in that?
Oh yeah. I run around and hit people, it's great. I’ve got blonde hair. It's a good fun film.
You were truly extraordinary in The Theory of Everything and I just have to say to you is start thinking about choosing your Oscar dress because you're gonna be there without a question of doubt.
Thank you so much