One of the most anticipated World Premieres at this year’s Toronto Film Festival is director James Marsh‘s The Theory Of Everything. It is getting a prime spot the first weekend at the fest, which starts September 4th with opening night film The Judge. This Working Title production being distributed by Focus Features starting November 7th tells the compelling story of Stephen Hawking, the world famous astrophysicist, but at its heart – and with its heart – also is about the extraordinary love story with wife Jane. Their relationship began when both were students at Cambridge, around the same time the one-time healthy young man received a devastating diagnosis that might have been life-ending but became anything but.
Tony winner and Les Miserables co-star Eddie Redmayne stars as Hawking while Felicity Jones plays Jane. The film, based on Jane Hawking’s book, was written by Anthony McCarten and produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and McCarten. Focus is following the pattern they took last year with Dallas Buyers Club, which also started at Toronto, opened in early November and went on to win three Oscars including Best Actor and Supporting Actor as well as three other nominations including Best Picture. Here’s the trailer:
Clearly as the trailer shows, they are hoping for awards action from this one too, and Redmayne and Jones could well find themselves in the thick of the Oscar race. Last week I spoke to Marsh, an Oscar winner himself for his documentary Man On Wire, about this project which he says is not as much a straight biopic as it is a true love story against impossible odds. “That’s the heart of it for sure and that’s definitely the way I approached it as a filmmaker as well as with the two leads. That’s really the essence of the story, it’s a very unusual love story in a very strange environment, a very strange sort of landscape, and that is I think the abiding theme of the film. It is how these two characters, these two real people transcend all the complications and curveballs that life throws at them,” he said, adding that it is Jane’s decision to fight with him when he is given a virtual death sentence that becomes the real hook of the story, that honorable and difficult choice she makes. The film also shows him early on as able-bodied, which Marsh says is the first surprise it offers since most people have only seen Hawking as the wheelchair-bound figure he became. Then the movie charts the illness which is a tragic story but one that Hawking , now 71 , transcends to this day while maintaining a brilliant career. It’s not at all a depressing film its director says, calling it ultimately “uplifting.” Deadline’s International editor, Nancy Tartaglione reports that when footage from the film recently screened at CineEurope in Barcelona. “There was not a dry eye in the house. It was very impressive,” she said.
He praises both stars and said what Redmayne had to do was obviously not easy. “He had to take on enormous amounts of difficult preparation as well as embracing the difficult physicality of the role. It’s not just doing a disability. It’s actually charting the course of an illness that erodes the body, and the mind has to project out from that erosion,” he said. Both met with their real-life counterparts in prepping for the shoot and that turned out to be enormously helpful. Jones even caught the very difficult accent Jane had . “I think as good as Eddie is people will look at that performance and respond to it, but I think Felicity, in her own way, has to be as good as Eddie to make the whole film work and I think it does work on that level.
Marsh says Hawking gave him a blessing as they were making the film, briefly visited the set for a couple of days, and then saw the nearly-finished product. His response was very positive, so much so that he offered to lend his voice, the real voice that he uses. “The voice you hear in the latter part of the story is in fact Stephen ‘s actual electronic voice as he uses it and that was quite an interesting flavor that we got from Stephen after the film was pretty much cut and finished,” he said.
Marsh is looking forward to unveiling it next month at Toronto. “It will be the first public exposure of the film and we will know more about how the film is, and plays at that point. I think we’re all satisfied with what we’ve done with it and making the best out of what were amazing gifts offered by the actors across the board. We will find out at Toronto whether it works for people in the way we hope it does,” he said.
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