Eddie Redmayne Channels Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything Trailer

Brow Beat
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

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.