The Carroll News’ Paul Mullin sat down for a phone interview with the production team of Focus Feature’s “The Theory of Everything.” Mullin spoke with James Marsh (director), Felicity Jones (Jane Hawking), and Eddie Redmayne (Stephen Hawking).
Q: The first image of this movie that went out to the press was the wedding day shot and immediately people began comparing it to the real Hawking Wedding. This movie created a lot of very specific moments. Could you name one specific part of the movie that you were determined to get into the movie, even if it wouldn’t be noticed by the Hawkings or the crowd?
James Marsh: Oh my god was there really one thing? When I read Jane’s autobiography I decided I have to insinuate myself in these peoples lives maybe how unorthodox the decisions they started to make in their personal lives. Because I thought I don’t think there has ever been a movie with a story quite like this. The very unusual love story where A meets B then A with permission of B meets C and then B with the permission of A meets D and yet it is still a love story that you completely buy and that asks of the audience of a bit of sophistication.
Q: In this film there is one character who cannot speak for portions of the movie and the character of Jane who at times very watchful and some scenes even holding her tongue. So could you speak to the strength of the dialogue or lack thereof?
Eddie Redmayne: Anthony did an extraordinary job because what is so important is that as Stephen begins to speak less all he can do is choose where to look when communicating, when to press play, and what specific choice of word is use. So the power of word becomes so huge actually. I suppose I found the interesting thing as the people i met who have ALS, as those muscles stop working you learn to access all the muscles that still work, so particularly with Stephen his muscles around his eyes even if the cheeks were moving less were so active. It was like taking all the colors as human beings that we always have as humans such as physicality, in voice and all of those things and you try to channel that energy into the little that you do have. How expressive his eyebrows were and how useful that was given his disease, they would be able to understand him by looks kind of like a sixth sense.
Felicity Jones: I remember doing a scene and Steven and Jane are talking and Stephen can choose whether or not to respond and that was really detailed working out who has the power at what point, and how they negotiate that was very complicated and that power through communication keeps changing so with the communication board suddenly they have this whole new way to interact in a relationship. In some ways with any relationship so much of it is trying to communicate effectively, that is often the problem with boyfriends and girlfriends because they don’t communicate, and with Jane and Stephen it is literally they cannot communicate.
Q: This is a movie of difficult scenes were there any moments or scenes that were particularly fun?
FJ: No,(laughs), I mean it was freezing and raining, enjoyable, the whole thing was enjoyable in a sense that it was hard in that it was a challenge and we found such huge responsibility because these are real people that we were telling the story of. There would be arguments or discussions between Eddie and I, it was enjoyable in the sense that it came out of quite hard work each day and that all of us cared so intensely about these characters and people.
Q: What did this film allow you to explore in the field that you have yet to be able to explore?
JM: Theoretical physics, but not successfully, I think that was a challenge for us all, to try to reckon with the nature of Stephen’s scientific achievements. At a certain point you are pondering these things in a hotel room and you are like I am gonna have a beer and listen to some pop music, but it is so interesting because as a filmmaker or producer we are able to access some new world essentially, emotional world or in this case intellectual world. For me this was really interesting to try and understand what Stephen’s theories were about.
ER: I found unique to this was that James gave us a lot of time to prepare for this film that you rarely get now. The amount of research that we needed for this film, whether the scientific or the emotional connection between Jane and Stephen. We were able to experience this extraordinary group of people and that was the hugest of privileges but with that it came with great responsibility.
Q: Your character goes through a lot especially physically and emotionally with Stephen, how has the film and the process has changed you?
ER: Great question, I mean what I took away was Stephen and Jane and that family were given an insane amount of obstacles placed in front of them and how they chose to confront and supersede those things was the overwhelming thing that I took away from that, and I feel that it is a very specific set of circumstances, I feel like in our lives we are constantly given limitations and obstacles and I am someone who is a huge culprit of worrying in the every day of everyday life and what it reminded me is when he was given a two year sentence and Stephen said everyday since that was an amazing gift of life and that is what I have taken away and attempted to enforce in my own life.
Q: How do you prepare for a scene of fighting or heartbreak?
AM: When you write this stuff you want to make it as hard as possible for the actors(laughs), because when they make it happen it is truly amazing.
JM: Felicity and Eddie were so in tune with each other Felicity would instinctively move Eddie’s hand or hair and it wasn’t scripted and it was so amazing that they were so in tune with each others physicality. I found these little details that the actors added that wasn’t scripted but emphasized the limitations of the characters. It was a constant joy to find these details in almost every scene.
FJ: James gave us a gift it does take a remarkable director, but to be able to be trusted to take ownership and feel what Jane felt because Eddie and I were so self conscious but we were in an environment where we could make mistakes. That takes a particular director who is not an ego maniac who is going to control everything you are doing and not judge you and say that it was awful. James constantly supported us to make us relax. I would say it was the situation was so emotional anyway I think that Eddie and I had such empathy for Jane and Stephen we would move as people before going on set realizing that we have to cry at this certain point, the empathy we had for them there was moments with Stephen and his inability to speak and I just remember us thinking what an incredibly complicated situation that your husband of so many years can no longer talk to you for both of them the emotional stakes were so high that the emotion came so easily because we realized that they had actually gone through this, they were in these profound situations and our job was to show that as truthfully as possible.
ER: I agree with everything Felicity said, and with that it comes with having a great dance partner, and when you look into the other’s eyes there is no filter there is nothing it is extraordinary. I would just look at Felicity and her strength and the fact that scenes would start with such joy and then goes to this other place it was actually just about listening to someone playing truthfully and beautifully.
Q: How did your experience in documentary filmmaking, help to show the love between Jane and Stephen?
JM: Obvious this is a true story so you have photos and archives to look at, but I thought this screenplay went somewhere that a documentary could not go because this film showed this true story in real time because there were so many surprises that you could not make up. In this case the fact that it was true it allowed Eddie to meet Stephen and Felicity to meet Jane which allowed them to absorb different things. It allowed me to construct a world to feel truthful. I think an example of that was the actual Hawking children felt very familiar with the world that we created. I do think with documentary elements were somewhat in the background, we did not want to make a film that was grim to look at but rather a film that caught the optimistic views of the characters while not making it feel phony. In so many of the photographs Stephen was smiling, the optimism of the character made the film slightly heightened rather than just a observational documentary feel.