Eddie Redmayne On Playing Stephen Hawking: 'His Disease Is Entirely Secondary'

Eddie Redmayne may not be a household name, but movie audiences are slowly getting to know the actor as the star of The Theory of Everything. The biopic traces the life of Stephen Hawking from his days as a university student through the development of his career as a theoretical physicist, which won him worldwide fame. Speaking to his friend Andrew Garfield in Gotham magazine, Redmayne admitted to the challenges and rewards of portraying such a well-known figure.

Garfield offered that Redmayne's performance captures not only Hawking's physical presence, but his "soul" as well. Redmayne discussed his desire to nail the physical portrayal while not losing sight of the entirely of Harking's life story.

"Hawking was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21. His disease is entirely secondary [to his life] as far as he's concerned. Similarly, I wanted to make all the physical elements of the performance so embedded and second nature."

He also expressed his delight at meeting Hawking and discovering the charisma that the scientist holds.

"Stephen has so much humor. It's very difficult for him to communicate -- now he can only do so using an eye muscle -- yet he has the most fiendish timing. I belly-laughed a lot in his presence. That's something we really tried to bring into the film, to always find the positive... He's had a guillotine over his head since the age of 21, yet he lives each moment hopefully, and lives life with humor... When you're in a room with him, he absolutely controls it. He really has an amazing strength, which can be difficult and complicated. He loves women, and women love him. You can see this glint in his eye."

In addition to studying Hawking, Redmayne met with other people living with motor neuron disease, also called Lou Gehrig's Disease, or ALS. He is a patron of the Motor Neuron Disease Association in the U.K. Redmayne praised the recent ice bucket challenge, emphasizing that it raised awareness of the condition.

The film, directed by James Marsh, is generating Oscar buzz and Redmayne is already getting industry recognition for his performance. This week, he received the Maserati Torino award at the Turin Film Festival, and in January will receive a best actor nod at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Redmayne, now 32, is a former model and stage actor. He made his first impact as a film actor in a 2012 adaptation of Les Miserables.

The Theory of Everything is in U.S. theaters now.

[Eddie Redmayne Image: Google]