As we inch closer and closer to the end of Oscar nomination voting, it's sometimes the little things we've learned over the season that stick with us the most. One nugget I always associate with James Marsh's “Theory of Everything” is how intricately the filmmaker and Eddie Redmayne had to plan out the latter's portrayal of Stephen Hawking. Ever since I sat down with Redmayne in Toronto for an extended interview, it's stuck with me. If you've read about Redmayne's breakdown of Hawking's condition scene by scene, you might think it left little room for improvisation or discovery on set. That was hardly the case.
While moderating a Q&A with Marsh and producer Lisa Bruce on Sunday, I asked the Oscar winner about one particular scene that seemed more poignant upon a second viewing. Stricken with ALS, Hawking loses more and more of his motor skills. In this particular scene his wife (wonderfully played by Felicity Jones) brings a wheelchair into their home for the first time. Once Hawking sits in it both he and the audience know he'll never get out of it again.
Marsh said that when they got on set that particular day the staging described in the screenplay didn't work with the space of the room. They completely reconfigured it, which included putting the chair off-camera and dropping a significant amount of dialogue. The result is a touching moment of almost no dialogue where Jane (Jones) walks out of the room and rolls the chair in as Hawking just stares at it. Eventually he puts himself in the chair (with a loud thud) and makes sure to say something akin to “This is temporary” as Jane just smiles at him.
With that context in mind, Focus Features has provided HitFix with an exclusive featurette which, it turns out, centers on another scene in the movie that was shot differently than originally intended. In the video, which is embedded at the top of this post, Marsh praises Redmayne and Jones for their improvisation in what turns out to be one of the sweetest moments in the film. Trust, it's well worth watching.
“The Theory of Everything” is still playing nationwide.