‘The Theory of Everything’: How Stephen Hawking Felt About Eddie Redmayne’s Portrayal of Him

Actors face a lot of pressure when portraying real-life figures. They want to do this person justice without making a mockery or doing a poor impression of them. Eddie Redmayne faced similar pressure when portraying Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Hawking did share his thoughts on Redmayne’s performance and, fortunately, he approved. 

Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking in ‘The Theory of Everything’

Actor Eddie Redmayne wins the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything
Eddie Redmayne | Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

The Theory of Everything is a 2014 biographical film directed by James Marsh. Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking and the movie depicts his life as he becomes a world-renowned scientist whose life is permanently impacted after he is diagnosed with ALS. At the heart of the movie is Hawking’s relationship with his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), who is also impacted by his career and his illness. 

The movie received praise from both audiences and critics and grossed over $123 million during its theatrical run. It was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Redmayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Hawking. While the film community approved of his performance, Redmayne was also worried about Hawking’s approval. 

Hawking shared how he felt about Redmayne’s performance

Hawking died in 2018 after battling ALS for many years. Due to his disease, he spoke through a computer-generated voice amplifier. According to Variety, Stephen Hawking did attend a screening for The Theory of Everything where he spoke with Edde Redmayne before it started. 

“He took a while to type something, then said, ‘I’ll let you know what I think — good or otherwise,’” Redmayne shared. “I said, ‘Stephen, if it’s otherwise, you don’t need to go into details.”

Variety shared that Hawking had a very positive response to the movie, with his nurse wiping a tear from his face. The physicist reportedly called the movie “broadly true” and even celebrated with Marsh and screenwriter Anthony McCarten at a bar. 

“He emailed us and said there were certain points when he thought he was watching himself,” Marsh said. 

Hawking lent his voice to be used for the movie

While Hawking was not able to speak, the computer-generated voice he used became very unique to him. Hawking was reportedly so happy with the results of the movie that he offered the filmmakers the opportunity to swap the synthesized voice they had been forced to create with his own trademarked version. McCarten said that they had spent a lot of time and money on trying to get the voice right but never got there. 

Eddie Redmayne was thrilled about this offer because he saw it as a stamp of approval from Stephen Hawking himself over a performance that he still had concerns about. It also made it easier to portray Hawking more accurately. 

“You’re just hoping to get there,” Redmayne said. “Yet there’s this constant frustration — it’s always underwhelming, because you never quite make it. But with his specific voice, it’s an actor’s dream. You’re one step closer to the truth.”

The Theory of Everything is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. 

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