If you thought Tom Hardy being mooted to play Elton John was the week’s unlikeliest Brit-related biopic story, think again. (Incidentally, the Elton John project, “Rocketman,” found a US distributor today in FilmDistrict.) Eddie Redmayne is in line to play Stephen Hawking in “Theory of Everything,” a biopic of the famed, ALS-afflicted theoretical physicist currently being developed by UK company Working Title.
The film is to be directed by James Marsh, the documentarian who won a 2008 Oscar for “Man of Wire,” but who has also been making strides in narrative cinema — his excellent IRA thriller “Shadow Dancer,” starring an award-worthy Andrea Riseborough, was recently released in the US. Anthony McCarten’s script will reportedly focus chiefly on Hawking’s relationship with his first wife Jane Wilde, which began before his diagnosis with motor neuron disease in the early 1960s and ended in divorce in 1991. (The role of Wilde has yet to be cast.) With Working Title involved, we could be in “A Beautiful Mind” territory here, though Marsh should keep it from getting too sticky.
Either way, the film presents a plum dramatic opportunity for Redmayne, an actor on the cusp of stardom following his breakout turn as Marius in another Working Title production, “Les Miserables” — widely agreed to be one of that divisive film’s strong points. He looks more boyish than his 31 years, and certainly a long way from the image of Hawking in the public imagination — all of which sets the stage for a showily transformative performance.
It goes without saying that this could be Redmayne’s ticket to the awards attention that narrowly eluded him for “Les Mis.” (If the film had been the Oscar juggernaut it initially threatened to be, it could easily have swept him into the Best Supporting Actor lineup.) It goes without saying that the Academy loves both biopics and portraits of disability — past actors to parlay that combination into Best Actor gold include Geoffrey Rush in “Shine” and Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot.” That’s a pretty high bar to clear, but he may as well go for it.
Meanwhile, Redmayne’s filling his schedule with A-list projects: he’s currently shooting Andy and Lana Wachowski’s sci-fi project “Jupiter Ascending” with Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. His name has also been connected,with Thomas Vinterberg’s new adaptation of “Far From the Madding Crowd,” set to star Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts, though the Hawking project may put paid to that.