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September 9, 2014
Ali   Comments Off on TIFF 2014: Eddie Redmayne’s Stephen Hawking transformation Articles & Interviews, Theory of Everything

The LA Times has ran this awesome article about Eddie’s performance in The Theory of Everything!

TORONTO — Barely an hour after a crowd roared its admiration at his Toronto International Film Festival world premiere, “The Theory of Everything” actor Eddie Redmayne swung by the after-party for his movie to amiably hang out with some friends and the occasional reporter.

I talked to him for a few minutes, and in that time he spoke about the work he did for the character openly but unassumingly, a balance that’s much harder to strike at these events than it sounds. There was no boasting, no over-glamorization about the process.

Some of that work, as it turned out, included the expected plunge through Hawking’s science bestseller “A Brief History of Time” (not always successfully, once he got past some of the early metaphors) and, less expectedly, recreating with doctors and other specialists the presumed rate of deterioration during the early onset of Hawking’s motor sensory disease, a period from which there is little video. Redmayne’s comments were that unlikely Oscar-circuit combination — descriptions of massive undertakings made in a down-to-earth delivery (fellow Brit Colin Firth had this down for “The King’s Speech back in 2010) — that plays very well on the circuit.

Needless to say, so will Redmayne’s performance. As my colleague Glenn Whipp and others have noted, the extraordinary transformation, coupled with other Oscar-friendly elements, make him an instant front-runner.

Much will be — rightly — made of Redmayne’s performance later in the film, as the years wear on and Hawking’s speaking and movement difficulties grow. Director James Marsh would shoot different time periods in close succession, sometimes in the same day, leaving Redmayne either to accelerate the deterioration or turn back the clock on it over as short a period as a lunch break. The actor said he also learned in his research that upper portions of a patient’s extremities tend to become more rigid in the progressed stages of the disease while lower parts will turn increasingly spastic, which meant Redmayne had to hone the skill of having two portions of the same body part act in totally opposite ways.

The physicality of it all is great, particularly in the film’s second half. But there’s another part of the film, the first section, when Marsh focuses on Hawking’s early Cambridge days as a young PhD candidate. There’s a nerdy ebullience to the character, and Redmayne conveys it perfectly. (Upon being told in the film by Felicity Jones, who plays Hawking’s girlfriend-turned-wife Jane, that she loves him, he says, “That’s a false conclusion.”)

On stage after the screening, Redmayne offered a glimpse of the same outgoing personality, telling making-of stories as if he was in midseason form. (Among the good ones: Upon meeting Hawking and Jane, Redmayne was “so terrified I spent the first 25 minutes vomiting information about Stephen Hawking to Stephen Hawking.” He continued. “I told him, ‘We’re both Capricorns.’ There was a horrific long pause, and three minutes later Stephen said, in his iconic voice, ‘I’m an astronomer, not an astrologer.’”)

All-in performances are catnip to voters. So is a charming but accessible personality, especially if you’re a newcomer. (Sean Penn maybe doesn’t need it.) Redmayne, improbably, offers both. He also provides a discovery element for anyone who isn’t a theater and/or “Les Miserables” film insider.

It’s very early to make Oscar predictions, especially in a field this deep. Steve Carell and Channing Tatum of “Foxcatcher” have both been out working it at this New Hampshire primary of film festivals; their low-key likability will play well with voters, as will their reinvention from commercial roles. “The Imitation Game” star Benedict Cumberbatch, also here, has a bit more swagger; he’s sharp and talks fast. “Birdman” star Michael Keaton, not here but sure to be a fixture with his film closing the New York Film Festival and the movie already a critics’ darling, not only offers a towering performance but a great comeback and a meta narrative (he’s playing his own life!), its own kind of double whammy.

And all this doesn’t even include the performances that haven’t been seen yet — Brad Pitt in “Fury,” Jack O’Connell in “Unbroken,” David Oyelowo in “Selma,” the men of “Inherent Vice.”

This is formidable competition, and those of us who like the drama of an Oscar race even a fraction as much as we like the drama on the screen are going to have fun watching it play out. But if you’re counting up elements, Eddie Redmayne pretty much has a whole lab’s worth.

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