How does one find the right actor to play Stephen Hawking?
Typically, directors and producers do their homework by reviewing an actor’s previous work, looking for clues in the on-screen moments to inspire confidence that a performer has the goods to breathe life into their character. Actor X can do this because he already did that. But unless Daniel Day-Lewis is in the mix, there really is no film resume that suggests an actor can convincingly portray Hawking, the brilliant British scientist whose body is ravaged by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), the motor-neurone disease that robbed him of his ability to speak on his own.
“[In casting Hawking], you have to take a leap into the dark,” says director James Marsh, who successfully gambled on Eddie Redmayne, immediately propelling the 32-year-old British actor and their film, The Theory of Everything, into Oscar contention after its world premiere at this week’s Toronto International Film Festival. Redmayne, best known in the U.S. for playing Marius in Les Misérables, and falling hard for Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn, wowed critics and audiences alike, playing the charming and mischievous academic whose physical condition slowly deteriorates from the moment he’s diagnosed with ALS in the 1960s. In a still-evolving Best Actor race that also includes Foxcatcher‘s Steve Carell and The Imitation Game’s Benedict Cumberbatch, Redmayne might be the one to beat. READ FULL STORY