James Daly talks to Borough’s most dapper resident, actor Eddie Redmayne, on fame, his Oscar hopes and strolling along the South Bank
Three years ago, Living South Resident sat across from Eddie Redmayne, transfixed by those purple tinged eyes and that oddly plump, feminine upper lip. Awkward and slightly twitchy, he was just experiencing the international release of My Week with Marilyn and his breakthrough performance as filmmaker Colin Clarke who enjoyed a brief romantic dalliance with the movie star. At the time, the plaudits were showered on Michelle Williams for her breathy portrayal of Monroe. Redmayne was overshadowed and remained, for the most part, largely anonymous. Least by his standards.
‘People recognise me sporadically,’ he said in those starchy Etonian vowels. ‘But it tends to be more “Do I know you from…” rather than “You’re the guy from…”. It’s where you’ve sort of battered your way into someone’s subconscious but they think you’re a friend from primary school.’
But even he is flabbergasted by how much has changed in such a small time. The plaudits are now his for the taking. In January he picked up the Best Actor Golden Globe for a truly astonishing portrayal of theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. And as Living South Resident went to press news broke that he has also been nominated for an Oscar. He’s up against some seasoned titans, Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game). All gripping, hypnotic portrayals, and all quaking in the mighty shadow of Redmayne’s momentous work. The 32 year-old is the one to beat. But he’s sick of hearing about it. Oddly.
‘I really can’t get wrapped up in all of it,’ he pleads. ‘Really, if you start buying into it, and believing it all, it can’t lead to anything good. And while it’s not the worst position to be in, it’s a fleeting thing. If you read the good stuff, then you read the bad and I just try to block my ears.’
After being cast in James Marsh’s adaptation of Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir, which charts Stephen’s early life as a scholar at Cambridge, their 25-year marriage and struggles and triumphs through his diagnosis with motor neurone disease, Redmayne has delivered a revelatory performance. Critics have been undisputedly unanimous in their praise. So I’m doubtful that there’s much ‘bad stuff’ in the ether.
‘Well, I’m not sure that’s true,’ he muses. ‘I’m sure I could hunt it down. Largely, the great thing is when I took on this part, Stephen and Jane took me into their orbit. And we did them proud. Everything else after that, you know, pales in comparison. But it’s all lovely all the same.’
Life is currently a whirlwind for the Borough-based actor. The awards circus. The Oscar race. He throws his head back against the dated, cream couch and lets out a mournful, exhaustive sigh. ‘Sorry,’ he smiles, ‘just I feel I’ve been having the same conversation over and over for the last few months. It feels like my brain has unscrambled.’
Recently tying the knot with his publicist partner, Hannah Bagshawe, at a winter wonderland themed ceremony at Babington House in the Somerset countryside, one could accuse the Chelsea-born thesp of biting off maybe a little more than he could chew.
‘I’ve never been the best planner,’ Redmayne chuckles, ‘so things do have a tendency to snowball in my life. But I like it that way. I feel it’s the only way I can exist. Throw it all together in this melange of chaos.’
For the last 18 months however, Hawking has been a solid constant. An immovable column in the whirling turmoil. It’s been an important professional, and personal, lesson for Redmayne who previously shone in a melodious ensemble for Oscar-winning Les Miserables.
‘The Theory of Everything has truly been and will remain one of the highlights of my life and it feels sad to say goodbye’
Once the awards circuit ends, he’ll begin work on his new film, The Danish Girl, Tom Hooper’s adaptation of David Ebershoff’s novel about transgender artist Einar Wegener. The star admits, he’ll miss the professor: ‘Simply because he’s been a part of my life for so long. And in a way, I think he always will be. Stephen Hawking gave me the greatest gift. Not just the opportunity to portray him in a film but also the chance to learn about him. And from him, most importantly.
‘I have never experienced, witnessed or been privileged to encounter such spirit. Such intelligence. Such humanity and wonder. And I know I sound like the gushing actor now but it’s impossible to stop yourself when you’re talking about Stephen.
‘The Theory of Everything has truly been and will remain one of the highlights of my life and it feels sad to say goodbye. And yet, there’s so much to look forward to.’
He relishes the release of new film, Jupiter Ascending, a gargantuan sci-fi production from the makers of The Matrix, the Wachowskis. Filmed at Warner Studios at Leavesden before he began work on Theory, Redmayne plays an intergalactic alien emperor, named Balem Abrasax who mercilessly hunts down Mila Kunis’ princess of Earth.
‘Doesn’t the whole premise sound so ridiculously amazing,’ he laughs. ‘This was purely, for me, unadulterated fun and the chance to be an alien emperor, spitting out these lines like, “Bring me the princess”. You just think, “Bloody hell…YES”!’
The neon-hued epic, filmed during summer 2013, also gave him the chance to enjoy some quality time in Borough, where he’s lived for nearly seven years.
‘Working in London, it really is this perfect bonus that you can’t describe how powerful it is. At the end of each day, you’re not on location somewhere in the middle of nowhere, you’re home. And home is where you recharge.
‘And while we were filming Jupiter, it was the chance to stroll all along the South Bank, through the markets towards Bermondsey Wall and, if you’re feeling really keen, all the way down to Greenwich. I’ve really only realised how much I like to walk in this city, especially along the South Bank. It’s that peace and clarity you get. Time to clear out your thoughts.’
As a future Oscar winner with a Hollywood blockbuster set for release, does he really think he’ll achieve such peace walking along the South Bank, one of London’s busiest spots?
‘I think you’re under the impression that I’m now suddenly Tom Cruise or something. Mauled and pawed on the streets. And while that sounds incredibly attractive,’ he snorts, ‘it couldn’t be, nor will it ever be close to that anything like that.’ Only time will tell…
Jupiter Ascending is in cinemas this month. Watch the trailer here: