“Sadly those pressures are still with us and the threats are still with us,” Ron Howard told TV critics today of the politicizing of science that plays through the life of Albert Einstein. Howard and Brian Grazer are among the names behind National Geographic’s first scripted series, Genius, that dramatizes Einstein’s life.
Based on Walter Isaacson’s book Einstein: His Life And Universe, Geoffrey Rush plays Einstein from his 40s into his 70s; Johnny Flynn plays Einstein from his teens into his 30s. Both actors described the man best known for this theory of relativity, and that photo of him with the wild hair and his tongue sticking out, as a “twinklingly” witty man.
Asked how they made an “egghead subject into a popcorn movie,” Howard said the series looks at the pressure on the German-born Einstein, whose life spanned both World Wars, and “the suspense, in retrospect, of how close the world came to not benefiting from Albert Einstein, sometimes of his own doing” but at other times because of “society, old rigid thinking and plain old bigotry.”
“It does create a kind of suspense,” he said. “Brian and I have found, honest portrayals of these fascinating characters, including scientists and mathematicians, offers a lot of human drama and often danger, emotional and sometimes physical.”
And yes, during the Q&A, a TV critic asked Grazer if he his hair was an homage to Einstein. “I was just trying to find a way to define myself,” he said of his distinctive coif.
Rush, via satellite, described Einstein as a heroic figure “who has to shift and change” in reaction to events around him. “That happened to Einstein all through his life. He was anti-authoritanian but a “glass half full kind of guy who always saw the better side of humanity,” but then had to reconcile the development of the atomic bomb.
“When I first read the script I was looking not only at what is genius. I didn’t want to go down the “IQ intelligent quotient,” Rush said. While doing research on Einstein and the notion of genius, the actor said he was struck by an observation made by 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”