Winners take it all

Winners take it all

Oscars 2015

Winners take it all

Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne talks to Horatia Harrod on becoming Stephen Hawking, & beating actress Nicole Kidman to his next role

On his first day filming the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne was standing around on the Cambridge cobblestones, waiting to be called to his scene, when a woman suddenly rushed up and began vigorously ruffling his hair. “No, no, no, Eddie,” she said, “Stephen’s hair would be much messier than that!”

The woman was Jane Wilde, Hawking’s first wife, and it was their love story, played out over more than 30 years, that Redmayne and his co–star Felicity Jones were striving to tell in the film.

The next day, Redmayne and Jones had to shoot a scene showing the young couple at a May Ball, an occasion Wilde had written about as the most romantic of her life with Hawking. Redmayne could see Wilde standing off–camera to one side, and as fireworks exploded in the blackness, he saw Hawking’s wheelchair appear silhouetted on the other.

“There were so many levels of anxiety,” says Redmayne, who is perched in tweed jacket and blue trousers on the edge of a sofa in a suite in Claridge’s. “You’re playing someone that people know, he’s also an icon, he’s also living, he’s a scientist of extraordinary talent. And Felicity and I felt across the board a responsibility to everyone.

Jane had us for dinner, a wonderful moment at which I arrived at her home and found Felicity in Jane’s wardrobe, Jane having brought down her wedding dress. And when people are that kind to you, it ramps up the sense of your not wanting to let them down.”

Today, Redmayne seems relaxed. He is soon to turn 33 but looks younger, his freckles and easy smile giving him the air of a wholesome head boy. Redmayne hasn’t worked since the film wrapped, he says; it has taken a while to recover. The physical aspects of the role were particularly gruelling: Redmayne depicts in precise and painful detail the deterioration of Hawking’s body caused by the onset of motor neurone disease, which robbed him of movement, and eventually the ability to speak.

“I’m not really a method actor, and I’m normally quite good at jumping into next things,” he says. “But also it had been a weird year. When I did (the Wachowskis’s forthcoming “space opera”) Jupiter Ascending, the film before this, I’d had to get all buff, and then the second that finished I had to start losing weight for The Theory of Everything. It’s a weird thing, but you sort of begin to lose track of who you are.”

Redmayne may not have read to the end of Hawking’s bestselling book A Brief History of Time, but his commitment to telling the human story of the scientist’s life was total. He worked with neurologists at the Queen Square Centre for Neuromuscular Research, and he met sufferers from motor neurone disease there. He watched as much footage of Hawking as he could find, and talked to Hawking’s students. And, of course, he met the man himself.

Their initial meeting was, in Redmayne’s self-deprecating telling, a series of excruciating embarrassments. He found himself grasping desperately at the fact that his birthday was two days earlier than Hawking’s, and blurted out that this meant they were both Capricorns. After a long pause, the famous metallic voice rang out: “I’m an astronomer, not an astrologer.”

Hawking did advise him to make his pre–machine voice as slurred as possible, which led to Redmayne having “a wee bit of a battle” with the film’s producers, who were worried about using subtitles. By the end, Redmayne felt that he and Hawking had built a relationship of sorts. “What one can’t work out is how much of it is him and how much of it is you projecting onto him,” he says. “His charisma comes from the fact that he can move so few muscles. But also it’s the power of silence.”

Redmayne’s next project requires another complete transformation — The Danish Girl, in which he will play Einar Wegener, a Danish artist who, in the early 30s, became one of the first people to undergo surgery to change his sex. The film, directed by Tom Hooper, has been in development for many years; other actors mooted for the part now taken by Redmayne include Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Marion Cotillard.

With his delicate, almost translucent skin and pillowy lips, he is one of the few actors who could compete for parts with Hollywood’s most beautiful women. Again, Redmayne is conscious of a weight of responsibility that comes with the role.

It’s there again, that sense of duty, when we discuss his background — a comfortable London upbringing, Eton and Cambridge — and how it has affected his career as an actor. “I think it’s a complicated, a really complicated thing...” He pauses. “Actors are actors, and there should be a complete fluidity for anyone to play anything. I’ve been very, very lucky.”

Does he think that he worries too much? “I’m by nature someone that quite likes to understand how things are working, likes some sense of structure, and I’ve fallen into the worst possible trade for that,” he says. “You have no control.

(As expected, Eddie Redmayne won best actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in ‘The Theory of Everything’.)

She may be an accomplished actress, but Julianne Moore is as down-to-earth as ever. She talks about her life, acting and family with Heather Hodson 

Julianne Moore suggests we meet at ABC Kitchen in Lower Manhattan, her favourite spot. The place is packed but Moore, who is dressed in a downtown yummy-mummy ensemble of blush-pink feather cropped jacket, black yoga-cum-harem pants, black wool hat, black clogs and blue sparkling nail varnish, insists that she order our coffees and joins the crush at the bar.

As Moore and I perch on bar stools, coffee in hand, she radiates congeniality, chatting openly about everything from house make-overs to schools. Spending time with Moore is like hanging out with the most affable of girlfriends.

A versatile performer, over the past three decades she has netted two Emmys, two Golden Globes, one Bafta and four Academy Award nominations. And, an Oscar now. Based on neuroscientist Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling novel of the same name, Still Alice is the story of Alice Howland, a happily married linguistics professor who is diagnosed aged 50 with Alzheimer’s and who contends with the rapid decline of her cognitive functioning while her family, including a conflicted Alec Baldwin as her husband and a wonderfully subtle Kristen Stewart as the prodigal daughter, recalibrate their relationships with her.

Her greatest concern was getting the disease right. “I really worked from top to bottom,” she says of her research for the role. “The head of the national Alzheimer’s Association set me up with several women across the country who had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

I spoke to them about their experiences. The youngest of them, Sandy Oltz, was diagnosed at 45. I stayed in touch with Sandy a long time.” Moore also met the head of Alzheimer’s research at Mount Sinai Hospital, and carers and patients through the New York branch of the Alzheimer’s Association, and finally visited a long-term care facility where people were in the late stages of the disease.

“Everything that you see in the movie, all the physical behaviours, the emotional behaviours, are things I had seen people do or they had spoken about to me directly.”

As Alice, Moore carries the film on her shoulders. Her performance is an unforgettably moving study of a woman fighting the inexorable dimming of the light, and several of her scenes leave you emotionally floored. Moore excels at playing women washed up on the shores of chaos or despair. For someone so conspicuously normal, where, one wonders, does all this complexity spring from?

One clue to her depths as an actress is her peripatetic childhood. She was born Julie Anne Smith in Fort Bragg, the army installation in North Carolina, but the family was there only for six months because her father, Peter Moore Smith, was a helicopter pilot and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

The family spent years following their father from place to place. After serving in Vietnam, he left the army and the family headed to Nebraska so that he could attend law school. Then the family went to Alaska, where he worked as a lawyer in aviation law. Next, they were uprooted again for New York, after which he became an attorney, then a military judge.

Between the ages of five and 18, Moore attended nine different schools. All the upheaval made it hard to maintain friendships, but it also gave the young Moore ample opportunity to study human nature. The fact that her mother was Scottish, Moore tells me, is another reason she has given so much thought to identity. “I wrote this book, My Mom Is a Foreigner, But Not to Me,” she says of her 2013 children’s work.

Her 2007 children’s bestseller, Freckleface Strawberry, was about a little red-haired girl contending with a sea of blondes and brunettes, and was so popular it has become a musical. Moore now has a five-book contract with Random House, all children’s fiction, with the first, Backpacks, due out in July.

When Moore was 16, the family moved to Frankfurt in West Germany, where she attended Frankfurt American High School, appeared in several school plays and caught the acting bug. With the encouragement of her English teacher, she decided to pursue a career in theatre, leaving home at 18 to study for a BA in theatre at Boston University. For three decades, she has done well as an actor.

Her theatre performance caught the eye of Robert Altman, who cast her in his 1993 film Short Cuts. Moore’s movie career has been in continual flight since. She has deftly combined commercial work such as two Hunger Games films with independent features including David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars (2014), and has proved immune to the truism in Hollywood that an actress is finished at 40. “I feel lucky,” she says, refusing to take any credit.

If Moore’s career path has been straightforward, her personal life has been less so. After a failed marriage in her mid-20s, in her early 30s she found herself marooned in Los Angeles, successful but single and lonely.

She went into therapy, the takeaway of which, she has said, was, “You have to make your personal life happen as much as your career.”

In 1996, she became involved with Bart Freundlich, a director nine years her junior, while working with him on The Myth of Fingerprints. Her son Caleb was born a year later, and daughter Liv in 2002. In 2003, Moore and Freundlich wed.

“I really wanted a family, I really wanted children,” she says. Family, home, health, identity: these are subjects of infinite interest to Moore.

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