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

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

How Did the Royals Win Despite Bunting So Many Times? Bunting Is a Terrible Strategy.

Federal Law Enforcement Has Declared War on Encryption

Justice and the FBI really do not like Apple’s and Google’s new privacy measures.

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 6:39 PM Spoiler Special: Transparent
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?