Eddie Redmayne Channels Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything Trailer

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 6 2014 3:26 PM

Eddie Redmayne Channels Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything Trailer

theory_of_everything
Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.

Focus Features

Does the world need a new biopic about Stephen Hawking? The obvious answer is no: Benedict Cumberbatch won critical acclaim for portraying the world-renowned physicist in the 2004 BBC film Hawking, and a 2013 documentary of the same title featured several actors playing the scientist at various ages. And yet this year’s Oscar season will offer us a new Hawking drama directed by James Marsh, best known for the excellent documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim. The Theory of Everything will star Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables, My Week With Marilyn) as Hawking and Felicity Jones (Like Crazy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as his first wife, Jane Wilde.

The trailer, released today, follows Hawking as a young graduate student at the University of Cambridge in the 1960s. The central conflict seems to arise, unsurprisingly, from Hawking’s diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 21, at which time doctors predicted he’d live only two years longer. (Of course, Hawking has long surpassed that life expectancy; he celebrated his 72nd birthday in January.)

Advertisement

The trailer features a few of the usual film tropes surrounding illness: Stephen drops a coffee mug, collapses while walking down the sidewalk, and smashes a wooden chair in frustration at his declining faculties. And yet, in spite of these clichés and the schmaltzy love-conquers-all message of the trailer, I’m looking forward to The Theory of Everything. Impersonating a man who’s as recognizable for his disability as for his academic accomplishments is a fraught exercise, rife with opportunity for overacting and ripe for accusations of “crip drag” (not to mention Oscar bait). But if there’s any actor who’s capable of pulling off the role with grace and humanity, it’s Redmayne, who was hands down the best thing about Les Mis, and who seems every bit as magnetic here. Whether the movie overcomes stale sick flick conventions remains to be seen, but Redmayne’s performance should be worth watching either way.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 22 2014 8:07 AM Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.