Eddie Redmayne brings unforced intelligence to this startlingly mature portrait of a complex and troubled marriage
Here is an unexpectedly charming, moving and powerfully acted film about the enigma that is Stephen W Hawking, the Cambridge theoretical physicist who survived a form of motor neurone disease (MND) that was expected to kill him by his mid-20s, and became a pioneer of the study of black holes, a bestselling author and the world’s most famous wheelchair user. By working from a memoir of his flawed marriage written by his ex-wife, Jane Hawking (the second and more temperate of the two books she has written), screenwriter Anthony McCarten and director James Marsh have swerved a lot, if not quite all, of the cliches about all-too-human scientist-geniuses and they have created a startlingly grown-up portrait of a difficult, troubled relationship.
As it happens, this film does in a number of ways resemble The Imitation Game – the recent movie about wartime codebreaker Alan Turing – and that film’s star, Benedict Cumberbatch, has himself played Hawking in a 2004 TV movie. But The Theory of Everything is trying for something more real, true and intimate in its study of the compromises made within a marriage with unique pressures.
Eddie Redmayne portrays Hawking with simplicity, candour and unforced intelligence; he shines a light on the miracle of his survival into middle age, and subtly suggests how this was partly due to a revitalising, reticent uxorious passion in response to his wife’s devotion to him. Yet it also hints at how the discoveries themselves kept him alive, perhaps even suggesting that he physically imploded into a dark star of pure cerebral force, while his fragile frame had to bear a daunting emotional burden. Redmayne’s performance also shows how the famous electronic voice box liberated him – and how that synthetic voice, with its sing-song robotic tone, enigmatically conceals what he is really thinking and feeling.
The basic story has been recounted in that Cumberbatch TV film and in a recent documentary by Stephen Finnigan, Hawking. The brilliant young mathematician at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in the early 1960s is starting to make a name for himself, but also shows a worrying tendency to clumsiness – stumbling, knocking over mugs of tea, dropping pencils – which initially could be seen as just scatterbrained brilliance. But a serious fall brings a grim diagnosis: Hawking has MND and two years to live. His girlfriend, Jane, played with fierce, pinched determination and English-rose beauty by Felicity Jones, refuses to give up on him. They marry and have children; the two-year mortality deadline comes and goes, Hawking’s reputation continues to climb and it’s clear that something special is happening.
The scenes and stock characters look pretty familiar at first, with brainy chaps in sports jackets frowning over their equations in the lab, drinking pints of foamy bitter in the pub and chatting up girls – just as we saw in The Imitation Game or indeed Life Story, the 1987 BBC TV movie about James Watson and Francis Crick in 1950s Cambridge discovering the structure of DNA. (This movie, oddly, seems to make everyone in those 1960s pubs stick to 21st-century no-smoking rules.)
Where the film departs from the norm is in showing how Stephen and Jane effectively converted their marriage into something like an open relationship. Frustrated and depressed, Jane forms an intense, ambiguous friendship with a widower, the church choirmaster, Jonathan Hellyer Jones, played by Charlie Cox, who joins them on family holidays, helping Stephen as if he were one of the children. It is a situation in which Stephen is complaisant. Or is he? Soon he himself forms a similar, quasi-platonic relationship with his nurse, Elaine Mason, played by Maxine Peake, which is as intimate, or more intimate, than the dynamics of the conjugal bed. She does not hesitate to assert a kind of marital primacy over Stephen. Is Stephen’s eventual choice governed by emotional pain? It is another mystery.
For a while, this is effectively a four-way marriage: a very un-Hollywood situation. Perhaps things were harsher and less dignified in real life than they appear on screen. But Redmayne, Jones, Cox and Peake portray the principals and their emotional web with delicacy. The title refers to Hawking’s quest for an all-encompassing theory of the physical universe, but the pathos of the film is that in ordinary life, not everything can be made to fit and make sense. Compromises must be made; people must muddle through. It is a gentle, tender story of lovers who found friendship during and after their marriage.
AFTER a successful year which saw her break box office records playing Hamlet, Bolton actress Maxine Peake has more to look forward to in 2015.
The 40-year-old, who grew up in Westhoughton, will grace the London theatre stage in February before taking part in the 2015 Manchester International Festival and later teaming up with The Hobbit star Martin Freeman.
Biographical romantic drama film The Theory of Everything, which explores the relationship between physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife, hits cinemas on New Year’s Day with Maxine appearing as Elaine Mason, Hawking’s second wife.
She said: “I think it’s up for Golden Globes and tipped for the Oscars — I pop in at the end of that.”
On January 5, she will start work at The Royal Court, London, where she has been cast in Zinnie Harris’ How to Hold Your Breath.
Looking towards the rest of 2015 and Maxine is excited to be teaming up with The Hobbit and Fargo actor Martin Freeman for independent film, Funny Cow — the story of a female comedian’s rise to fame.
She said: “Martin Freeman is on board, which is amazing.
“I met him at the Baftas.
“It’s in the hands of the producers now.
“We are aiming for October.
“Fingers crossed it will go into production.
“It’s one of those roles, I thought, I could quite happily retire after I played this part.
“It’s the ultimate part.
“It’s set in the working men’s clubs in Sheffield, in the ’70s.
“I’ve always been fascinated by that. I grew up going to working men’s clubs”
Over the summer, she will team up once more with the Royal Exchange Theatre’s artistic director Sarah Frankcom, for the Manchester International Festival, following the success of performance of The Masque of Anarchy in 2013 and the recent run of Hamlet.
Although unable to reveal exact details, she did say they would start rehearsing at the end of May.
She said: “I’m doing some theatre and then the Manchester International Festival.
“I’m doing that with Sarah Frankcom.
“I’m looking forward to it. I really enjoy the festival, just the audiences.
“They are just really up for it. They’re a different crowd, you just feel they are on your side and they want to be entertained.”
In September and October, theatre-goers flocked to see the former Westhoughton High School and Canon Slade pupil play Shakespeare’s iconic role of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
The sell-out run was extended and theatre fans even travelled from afar afield as America, as part of a trip to see Hamlet and other theatre shows across the country.
She said: “I was really surprised and really pleased because it was a bit of a gamble. You don’t know how it’s going to work out.”
Maxine Peake is interviewed at the Premiere of The Theory of Everything which tells the true life story of Stephen Hawking and his love affair with his first wife Jane Hawking.
Watch a short clip of Maxine Peake as Stephen Hawking’s nurse and eventually second wife, Elaine Mason:
In theaters 1 January! 😀
Maxine’s latest film ‘The Theory of Everything’, where she plays Elaine Mason, has been announced for a 2nd January 2015 release.
I took 2 quick snap shots from the HD trailer which was just released. Watch it here:
2014 has already been a great year for Maxine Peake, as we have seen her star in Run & Jump as well as a new series of Silk.
Peake continues to deliver fine work as she moves effortlessly between television and film. And it is film she is concentrating on this week, as she is set to star in new British drama Keeping Rosy.
Run & Jump has already been a great film role for her to get her teeth into this summer, and now Keeping Rosy is a second.
Keeping Rosy sees her team up with first time feature filmmaker Steve Reeves, as she takes on the central role of Charlotte.
The movie follows Charlotte who is passed over for a job, and takes out her anger on her cleaner when she gets home.
While Charlotte’s life disintegrates, we follow her on a heart-racing journey of self-discovery, atonement, and danger as she fights for a future that is rosy.
If you are looking for a gritty British drama to enjoy on the big screen this week, look no further than Keeping Rosy. Peake is on fine form in the central role, as she continues to tackle interesting and daring movie roles.
And we are going to be seeing plenty of Peake on the big screen over the coming months, as she has completed work on a series of different projects.
One of the early 2015 movies that I am already looking forward to is The Theory of Everything, as James Marsh returns to the director’s chair.
Marsh has brought us fantastic documentaries such as Man on Wire and Project Nim, but now he returns to live action with this new film.
Theory of Everything follows the relationship of Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are on board as Stephen and Jane Hawking.
A terrific ensemble cast has been assembled for the film, as Redmayne and Jones are joined by Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis, and Peake.
The Theory of Everything looks set to be one of the biopics of 2015, and really is a movie that is not to be missed.
Peake has also teamed up with director Carol Morley in her new film The Falling.
Morley has been behind films The Alcohol Years, Edge, and Dreams of a Life, as she returns to the director’s chair the first time since Dreams of a Life back in 2011.
While the plot for The Falling is being kept under wraps, Peake is joined on the cast list by Greta Scacchi, Maisie Williams, and Monica Dolan.
Peake has also completed work on two shorts The Heart Fails Without Warning and Keeping Up with the Joneses and has been cast in new film Funny Cow.
I have been a fan of Peake’s work throughout her career, as she has moved from Dinnerladies, Shameless to See No Evil: The Moors Murders.
While she has enjoyed huge television success in recent years, the big screen beckons for Peake this year… and films is somewhere she really belongs.
Keeping Rosy is out now.
Good morning! 😀 Maxine has joined the cast of the Hawking’s Biopic “Theory Of Everything“.
This sounds like a really interesting project – looking forward to hearing more!
Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Charlie Cox, Simon McBurney, Harry Lloyd and Maxine Peake have joined the cast of the biopic about physicist Stephen Hawking called Theory Of Everything says Variety.
Felicity Jones will play Hawking’s (Eddie Redmayne) wife, Jane who met Stephen when he was an able-bodied Cambridge student. They fall in love and even though he is diagnosed with ALS, she makes the choice to marry him.
James Marsh (“Man on Wire”) will direct the film using Anthony McCarten’s script.
Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce the pic.
Production is underway in and around London and Cambridge.