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What Went Into Making 'The Theory of Everything,' A Film About Stephen Hawking

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The cast and filmmakers of The Theory of Everything hit the red carpet on Tuesday night for the film’s L.A. premiere at The Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre.

While the film’s easy to mis-label as a “Stephen Hawking biopic,” The Theory of Everything is more about the remarkable relationship between Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). The story traverses the decades, following their first meeting as students at Cambridge, to his diagnosis at 21 with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s or the ice-bucket challenge disease) to raising three children together. Their complicated relationship becomes even more tricky with the introduction of other parties, including choral director Jonathan (Charlie Cox) and Stephen’s nurse Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake).

Best-known to American audiences as Marius in the 2012 film version of Les Misérables, Redmayne’s acting—maybe “transformation” is a better word—has already gotten notice (And yes, it’s remarkable). Redmayne told us at the premiere that director James Marsh (Man on Wire) give him four months to prepare for the role and that he immersed himself in the life of the iconic astrophysicist. “It was about learning about the physics, but also about learning about this brutal disease and seeing the ramifications it has on real families.

"Then I worked with a dancer to find a way into making that into my body," he added. “But to me, the film really isn’t about the disease. When you meet Stephen, really, the disease couldn’t be less important. It’s entirely secondary to him.”

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Jones (last seen in The Amazing Spider Man 2) complements Redmayne’s performance by offering a steely, complex portrait of a woman that many know nothing about. A number of scenes follow her perspective since screenwriter-producer Anthony McCarten based the script on Jane Hawking’s memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.

The adult love story between Jane and Stephen, and later between Jonathan and Jane, is portrayed in its messy glory, avoiding both romantic and disease-of-the-week tropes. Jones talked to us about the difference between both relationships.

“Jane and Stephen meet when they’re very young. It’s young love...love at first sight,” Jones said. “It’s a relationship in many ways that’s quite antagonistic. They’re both fiercely strong academics in their own right, and they argue intensely and that’s where the passion [in their relationship] comes from,” she added.

“And Jonathan, Jane meets later in her life, and it’s a different kind of relationship. It’s a relationship between a more mature man and woman and, in many ways, was more collaborative. But that’s what I loved about the film. There’s this very unconventional relationship at the heart of it. There’s this woman who’s in love with two men—and decides to live with both of them.”

The Theory of Everything opens in select cities, including Los Angeles, on Nov. 7 and expands in theaters later next month.

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