Eddie’s ready for stardom and enjoying this brief history of time.
Eddie Redmayne has a huge reason to recall the end of 2014 fondly but the start of 2015 could ring in even more reasons to celebrate.
The Birdsong and Les Miserables star married long-term girlfriend Hannah Bagshawe in a private ceremony at Somerset’s Babington House just 10 days before Christmas.
And on New Year’s Day cinemagoers will get to see the newlywed depicting somebody else’s marriage in a role that could see him land an Oscar.
Eddie plays Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, a powerful story which tells of the brilliant scientist’s diagnosis with motor neurone disease (MND) in 1963 and his budding relationship with languages student Jane Wilde (played by Felicity Jones) while at Cambridge University.
Despite being given just two years to live, Stephen and Jane became a couple and, as he fought the ravages of disease that confounded his doctors, married in 1965. They went on to have three children.
“How Jane and Stephen chose to overcome the obstacles put in their way was pretty dumbfounding,” says Eddie.
“I don’t use the word inspirational lightly as it sounds rather glib, but the fact he was given only two years to live, every day beyond that he says is a gift.
“With Jane’s extraordinary support, they lived their lives, fully, passionately and looking forward.
“I get caught up in the foibles and anxieties of the everyday and it’s humbling seeing how they’ve lived and fill their time on this planet.
“They are a model of … I don’t want to use the word inspiration again, but I have to.”
Actors often speak of the added responsibility of playing a real person but Eddie admits a “great trepidation” approaching the role of Hawking.
But it wasn’t the portrayal of Hawking’s debilitating illness that gave him sleepless nights ahead of filming it was the concept of string theory.
“I read as much of his work as I could and tried to understand as much as I could, which wasn’t very much,” smiles the Eton-educated actor.
“I also spoke to one of his old students about the intricacies of string theory (scientific principles about particle physics) and told him to talk to me like I was a seven-year-old.”
But it is his representation of Stephen’s physical restrictions, rather than his mental aptitude, that are earning the 32-year-old rave notices for his role, which have already included a Golden Globe nomination with an Oscar nod expected to follow.
Eddie felt a responsibility to all those afflicted with motor neurone disease, not just its most recognised sufferer.
“I spent four months meeting with a specialist in London who introduced me to people suffering from this brutal disease and their families,” adds Eddie.
“They were incredibly generous and many invited me to their homes so I got to see not only the physical effects on the person but also the emotional effects on families.
“I found out that how MND manifests in each person is different. There’s no documentary material of Stephen before the 1980s, before he’s in the chair, so working out his progression towards the chair was complicated.
“So I got all the photos I could and showed them to the specialist, Dr. Sidle, and she would go, ‘OK, from that wedding photo you see that his hand is on top of Jane’s hand and is wilted so by this year, that’s gone and this year that’s gone.’
“So basically I was able to chart on a couple of pages every muscle and when it went and where he was vocally, whether he was on one walking stick or two, which wheelchair he was in…”
Eddie’s final bit of preparation was meeting the man himself five days before shooting began.
“Meeting Stephen at that point was scary,” he admits.
“By then he was idol-like in my mind and it was like meeting a rock star. I got completely tongue-tied.
“It takes him a while to speak now so there were a lot of pauses and I hate silence. So I was spewing out information about Stephen Hawking to Stephen Hawking.
“It was pretty embarrassing and after 40 minutes I calmed down and he was wonderful. He has a razor-sharp wit and a mischievous glint. But also great power and he really controls a room.”