Tag Archives: The Theory of Everything

The 2015 Oscar nominations: Brit hits and Whiplash wit

16 Jan
"Whaddya mean I should be happy with my Golden Globe? I'm going for an Oscar, dammit!" JK Simmons shows his less cuddly side in Whiplash

“Whaddya mean I should be happy with my Golden Globe? I’m going for an Oscar, dammit!” JK Simmons shows his less cuddly side in Whiplash

Congratulations to Whiplash, which I blogged about last Friday as “The little film that could”, for its four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It opens today in the UK: read my articles about the making of it here.

The noms are a great haul for the Brits, with eight for The Imitation Game and five for The Theory of Everything, plus a deserved nod to Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl. Mr Turner managed four, which is actually not bad going for a slow film about a long-dead British artist who communicates largely through grunts. The stunning cinematography that recreates Turner’s paintings, light and all, must surely be a strong contender in that category. It is disappointing that neither Timothy Spall nor Mike Leigh were recognised for what is probably their finest work, but not as flat-out outrageous as their snub from the BAFTAs.

For the first time since 1998, there is not a single black actor among the nominees, though Selma gets a nod in the Best Picture category. That’s not yet out in the UK, so I can’t comment on whether David Oyelowo was unfairly overlooked. But the nominations are a reminder that this was a fine year for cinema, and an innovative one to boot. Boyhood was filmed over a period of 12 years; Birdman was shot in one single continuous take; The Grand Budapest Hotel was a delirious artifice; and Whiplash was a little indie film shot in 19 days that somehow muscled through to be nominated for Best Picture.

Much as critics may bemoan the blockbusterisation of cinema (and actually, even the blockbusters are a lot more competent, coherent and fun than they used to be), there’s life in the old Hollywood dog yet.

For the official Oscars site with the full list of nominees, click here.

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The Theory of Everything: two stars are born

5 Jan

Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne shine in The Theory of Everything.

At the beginning of The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking describes the study of cosmology as “a kind of religion for intelligent atheists”. Hollywood star-watching could be seen as “religion for dumb atheists”.

Nevertheless, here I go again.

There’s a huge buzz around Eddie Redmayne for the film – on Friday William Hill shortened the odds on him winning the Golden Globe from 10/11 to 1/3 – and it’s richly deserved. At the start he is boyishly charming and rogueishly handsome, deploying a killer smile under thick glasses and a tousled fringe. That clichéd coup de foudre when his eyes first meet those of his future wife across a crowded room actually convinces.

His gradual transformation into the wheelchair-bound genius stricken with progressively degenerating motor neurone disease we now know as Stephen Hawking is astonishing. If Daniel Day-Lewis could win an Oscar for My Left Foot, it’s possible to hope that Redmayne could win for this.

And not just one star is born here, but two – it’s a binary system, to use Hawking terminology. Felicity Jones has a more difficult role to shine in, as The Dutiful Wife; but she displays a rare combination of vulnerability and strength as she is torn between her own desires and her need to stand by her man. It’s her film every bit as much as his.

Last year was a good one for British film, starting off with 12 Years A Slave. In a smaller way, this is about as good a start to 2015 as one could wish for.

When I met Stephen Hawking: click here.

The Theory of Everything to do with Oscar odds

9 Dec
Eddie Redmayne as a young Stephen Hawking, with Felicity Jones as his wife Jane, in The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne as a young Stephen Hawking, with Felicity Jones as his wife Jane, in The Theory of Everything

The Theory Of Everything is only recently out in the States, at first opening in just five theatres, and isn’t even released in the UK until Jan 1, but already it’s generating Oscar buzz: William Hill has just slashed the odds on it winning to the same level as Interstellar. About the relationship between a young Stephen Hawking and his wife, it has everything Oscar loves: disability, a veneer of intellectuality, and a romance. “His mind changed our world. Her love changed his,” runs the tagline.

It’s certain to make young Eddie Redmayne, whose dashingly freckled good looks attracted attention in Les Misérables, the next major British Hollywood star. And it’s tough luck for Benedict Cumberbatch, whose Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game has been left in the backwash; especially since Benedict played Stephen Hawking first, ten whole years ago. (For the time when I went on set with Hawking himself, click here.)

The odds released today by William Hill make for interesting reading. Boyhood is the clear favourite, while Gone Girl trails in tenth place, despite the heat it generated on release. A bet on Rosamund Pike at 11-1 seems like a good flutter.

Here’s the list in full:

Best Picture: 4-7 Boyhood, 10-3 Unbroken, 5-1 The Imitation Game, 7-1 Birdman, Selma, 10-1 Interstellar, The Theory Of Everything, 16-1Foxcatcher, Whiplash, 20-1 Gone Girl, 25-1 Inherent Vice, Mr Turner, 33-1 A Most Violent Year, American Sniper, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 40-1 Trash, 50-1 Big Eyes, Fury, Into The Woods, Rosewater, Suite Francaise, Wild, 66-1 Kill The Messenger

Best Actor: 4-6 Michael Keaton – Birdman, 13-8 Eddie Redmayne – The Theory Of Everything, 9-2 Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game, 9-1 David Oyelowo – Selma, 10-1 Steve Carell – Foxcatcher, 12-1 Jack O’Connell – Unbroken, 14-1 Timothy Spall – Mr Turner, 25-1Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Best Actress: 1-5 Julianne Moore – Still Alice, 10-3 Reese Witherspoon – Wild, 6-1 Amy Adams – Big Eyes, 10-1 Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night, 11-1 Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl, 12-1 Felicity Jones – The Theory Of Everything, 14-1 Jennifer Aniston – Cake, 16-1Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year, 20-1 Jessica Chastain – The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them, 25-1 Hilary Swank – The Homesman

Best Supporting Actress: 1-5 Patricia Arquette – Boyhood, 6-1 Laura Dern – Wild, 9-1 Emma Stone – Birdman, 12-1 Carmen Ejogo – Selma, 12-1 Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game, 14-1 Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year, 14-1 Meryl Streep – Into The Woods, 25-1Carrie Coon – Gone Girl, 25-1 Jessica Chastain – Interstellar, 25-1 Katherine Waterston – Inherent Vice, 25-1 Kristen Stewart – Still Alice,33-1 Dorothy Atkinson – Mr Turner, 33-1 Julianne Moore – Maps To The Stars, 33-1 Sienna Miller – American Sniper

A brief history of when I met Stephen Hawking on set

28 Jul
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Stephen Hawking enjoys his 65th birthday present: a zero gravity flight on a modified plane owned by the Zero Gravity Corp.

The paralysed cosmologist Stephen Hawking has already been played by Benedict Cumberbatch on screen, and will be followed next year by fellow “hunk who thunk” Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. Before that, though, is Hawking, a documentary to be released on September 20, which reveals how very nearly none of this happened.

According to today’s Sunday Times, Hawking says in the new film that doctors recommended switching off his life-support back in 1985. He had only just been commissioned to write A Brief History of Time, the book which went on to sell ten million copies and made him so famous he has guested on The Simpsons five times, and the three weeks of intensive care that followed after his wife refused to let him die robbed him of what little remained of his speech. He wrote the book by raising his eyebrows to select letters on a computer program.

By 1991, when I met him on set of Errol Morris’s excellent documentary, he wrote and “spoke” through his voice synthesizer by twitching one finger on a toggle on his wheelchair. I’d known of Hawking for several years before he became globally famous. My elder brother studied Maths at King’s College, and he had pointed out to me the wheelchair ramps which made Cambridge the most disabled-friendly city in the world – built to facilitate Hawking’s passage from college to college.

I also read A Brief History of Time when it came out in 1988 – yes, from cover to cover. The first part is a very accessible overview of the history of physics and cosmology. The final part is a little hard to follow, though fascinating – especially for the Big Crunch theory, which is that at some point in the future there will be a reverse Big Bang, sending all matter hurtling back towards the single point from which it began: travelling backwards through time as well as space, so that at some point, untold billions of years from now, I will be alive again, and typing in the words of this blog, except in reverse; starting from the final sentence, deleting and deleting until I am left with nothing; then I will regurgitate my breakfast, get into bed, and sleep until Saturday night.

I will fondly watch my children grow younger and smaller and in greater need of my care. Having regressed to babies, one day they will be gone, but I will not be sad, it will be as if they never were. I will join The Times, leave it for AOL, then be appointed Editor of Time Out a few months after the chimes of Big Ben count down the historic twelve bongs from the 21st century into the 20th, then after a series of steadily less assured covers I will be moved into the less stressful roles of Deputy Editor, then Chief Sub Editor, then Sub Editor; I will go to Oxford university where I will spend carefree days with the former mother of my vanished children until, one day, we will see each other for one last coffee and part forever, without bitterness or regret.

I will go to school in Winchester; then emigrate to Canada to play in the snow; finally a confused and inchoate period of sleeping and crying and feeding and waking and being cradled in my parents’ arms, my father no longer dead but young and vigorous and beardless so that his bristly cheek would sandpaper over mine, until one day, I would simply… cease to be.

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Stephen Hawking and Errol Morris on set in 1991

I wanted to talk to Stephen Hawking about all this when I met him and Errol Morris on set (right), but the great man typed his sentences so painfully slowly that it was impossible to do much more than say hello. I noticed that, despite this, he still said “please” and “thank you” to everyone he dealt with, a courtesy that, for him, must have been important as every syllable cost him dear.

Watching him, I became obsessed with a thought, a truly terrible thought. Hawking was working, and is working still, on the Grand Unified Theory that will unite the contradictory worlds of Physics and Quantum Physics – “and then,” says he, “we will know the mind of God.”

What if, I thought, the motor neurone disease that paralyses him should progress so far that he loses even this small movement of the finger that, in 1992, enabled him to communicate? It’s all too close. These days, he says in the forthcoming film, he can only write and “speak” by flexing a single muscle in his cheek. One day soon he may lose even that movement. Kept alive, mechanically, for years after, his mind, floating free of earthly concerns, may finally solve the great riddle of science, the secret of life itself – and he will be unable to communicate this greatest of all discoveries to the world.

What will that be like? To apprehend the secrets of the universe but, imprisoned in his cage of flesh and bone, be able to do nothing, say nothing?

Perhaps he’d go mad and become God, like the intelligent bomb with the existential crisis in John Carpenter’s brilliant 1974 black comedy, Dark Star: “In the beginning, there was darkness. And the darkness was without form, and void. And in addition to the darkness there was also me. And I moved upon the face of the darkness. And I saw that I was alone…

“Let there be light.”