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He’s not yet 40, but Eddie Redmayne OBE is already one of our foremost actors, bagging Oscar, Tony and Olivier awards for his boundary-pushing roles.
Now, as his latest film takes him, literally, to new heights, he talks to Gavanndra Hodge about the mayhem of family life, and being reunited with his ‘work wife’
Eddie Redmayne is desperate for a coffee. It’s 9am but he’s been up since five with his one-year-old son, Luke, and three-year-old daughter, Iris. ‘Several nappies have been changed,’ he explains. And yet he looks almost preternaturally fresh, eyes bright, skin unlined, wearing a posset-free Brunello Cucinelli shirt, gracefully hurdling over the back of the banquette to find a waitress from whom to order a latte.
Redmayne, 37, is one of our foremost actors, celebrated for extreme physical transformations and subtle emotional power. He won the best actor Oscar in 2015 for his portrayal of the late physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and the following year was nominated for The Danish Girl, in which he played Lili Elbe, an artist who was one of the first people to have gender reassignment surgery. He has won Tony and Olivier awards for his theatre work, has been awarded an OBE for services to drama, and has delighted Harry Potter fans with his ongoing portrayal of supernatural zoologist Newt Scamander in JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts franchise. The clip of him as Marius in Les Misérables, dashing and disconsolate, singing Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, has been viewed more that 80,000 times on YouTube.
Redmayne’s latest film is The Aeronauts, a period adventure featuring gas balloons and impressively whiskered Victorians – it is basically Gravity in tweed. Redmayne plays the meteorologist James Glaisher, who ascended to 37,000ft in a balloon, higher than anyone had gone before, in order to gather scientific data. In real life, this perilous trip was skippered by Henry Coxwell, but for the purposes of romantic frisson and anachronistic gender equality, Coxwell has morphed into the fictional balloonist Amelia Wren, played by Felicity Jones, formerly Jane Hawking to Redmayne’s Stephen.
Rami Malek and Eddie Redmayne are no strangers to transformation. In 2014, Redmayne took home the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and most recently, reprised his role as lovable wizard Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Malek, meanwhile, took on a very different real life figure this year, as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. When interviewed together, however, the two are far more normal—though no less charismatic—than their larger-than-life on-screen personas, as they chat about everything from karaoke adventures to first kisses. Here, the pair chat about what they learned from their roles, favorite Halloween costumes, and Redmayne’s excitement about the upcoming The Hills reboot.
Have you two met before?
Eddie Redmayne: We met fleetingly. Rami Malek: We met just the other night. I was having dinner with some of my cast mates from Bohemian Rhapsody, and it was an incredible table you were sitting at. I think it would be a dream come true for a lot of people. So, I’m gonna make you name drop everyone. Go ahead. Redmayne: I can’t remember who was there. Malek: Yes, you can. Redmayne: Jamie Dornan, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux. It was only in Los Angeles. I promise you that’s not my normal. Malek: I was intimidated to walk up to this table, and I could just see everybody flipping out that you guys were all together. Redmayne: But the first time we met, [it was] just after my daughter Iris was born, when sleep is really important. One night I heard these cranes going up outside, and I stormed outside, kind of furious. I saw these little letters on the thing saying there’s gonna filming here tonight. They were literally outside our front door, and they were filming Bohemian Rhapsody. We had this amazing makeup artist called Jan Sue who I worked with in The Theory of Everything, and Rami worked with on Bohemian Rhapsody. I texted her going, “You’re filming here?” So I took Iris, my daughter, and her first ever film set was your film set. I saw Rami from a distance, and I’ve gotta say you arrived on set so freaking in the zone that I was completely blown away by it. And then Iris started crying, and I was like, “Okie dokie.” Malek: I’ll say this; I took so many lessons from you and The Theory of Everything. I absolutely fell in love with that performance. So enchanting, so deep, so wonderful, and so inspiring. I said, “Give me everything that he had in that film.” I asked for Jan Sewell, and I asked for a movement teacher. Redmayne: What was that process like? Working with a dancer on The Theory of Everything, that changed my life for me. Malek: Almost the exact same thing. I met with choreographers to play Freddie Mercury, and the guy’s just not choreographed; he’s so spontaneous. I found Pauline Bennett, who was incredible with movement. I mean, there were moments she said, “giraffe” to me, and I kid you not, I could make a Freddie pose as a giraffe. Some moments she’d be like, “Okay, you know the, the lyrics to ‘Killer Queen?’ Do them as a Shakespearian soliloquy, if it were being played by Marie Antoinette.”
With Aardman Animation’s Early Man now playing in North American theaters, a few days ago I got on the phone with Eddie Redmayne to talk about voicing a character in the stop-motion film directed by Nick Park. During the exclusive interview he talked about how he got involved in the project, what people would be surprised to learn about the recording process, how things changed during production, his earliest memories of Aardman Animation, and so much more. In addition, he talked about his early work in Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd and how that project changed in the editing room, how making Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald compared to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, when he starts shooting Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts with Felicity Jones and if they’re trying to be the British Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, why he recently took some time off from acting, and so much more.
If you’re not familiar with Early Man, the film takes place during the crossroads between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age and follows a young caveman named Dug (Eddie Redmayne) who gets whisked away to a Bronze Age city ruled by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston). Dug then takes part in a soccer tournament where the future of his cavepeople is on the line. Maisie Williams plays a local soccer player recruited to help Dug’s team. For more on Early Man, read Matt Goldberg’s review.
Check out what Eddie Redmayne had to say below.
Collider: You doing a lot of press today?
EDDIE REDMAYNE: It’s one of those days, but it’s all good.
You really can’t go wrong promoting an Aardman movie.
REDMAYNE: No, you know what- it’s one of those dreams to be a part of.
The star reveals what it was like to work on Early Man and why he’d be rubbish as an actual caveman
You were born in the early 80s, so you remember a time …
Before the internet?
Yes, when Plasticine…
…Was a massive deal! And that Blue Peter here’s-one-I-made-earlier, saving your loo rolls. There was something so imaginative about that. Now, if you’re on the Tube or waiting in a restaurant, you’re straight onto your phone. I am that person. Whereas there used to be a time when you’d daydream and that’s when you have interesting thoughts.
What was it like recording Dug’s voice?
Quite often if there were three people in the scene, it would be Nick Park and one of the model makers filling in the other parts. As a director, Nick absolutely knows what he wants. I always wish on film sets that I could do 8,000 takes, but your job is to find the performance and allow it out of your mouth. It was amazing because I’m a deeply unfunny human being.
How would you cope if you were dropped into the Stone Age?
I would love to not to have to deal with the… ah… um… issues of the internet? The addictions that come with phones? Having grown up in the 80s, I yearn quite a lot. My wife [PR executive Hannah Bagshawe] and I often talk about it: we are dinosaurs! Realistically, would I survive? No. I’m skinny, I’m neither quick nor massively athletic, I’d probably get eaten! Maybe a fatter person would get taken first. I’m really crap at outdoors stuff, lighting a fire. No, I’d be a goner. I quite enjoy painting, and someone has to do the cave paintings.
In a more primitive world, would you be able to kill something for food?
Eddie Redmayne’s star reached stratospheric levels in 2015 when he won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, paying off a slow-burn career of stage, TV and film acting and sending him into the big leagues. Since then, he’s not wasted his cache, getting another Academy Award nomination a year later for The Danish Girl and heading up Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them as magizoologist Newt Scamander. Newt’s back later this year in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but before them, Redmayne lends his voice to new Aardman movie Early Man. He plays Dug, a Stone Age caveman whose tribe is threatened by the encroaching Bronze Age and only football – or soccer – can save them.
Screen Rant recently caught up with Redmayne in London to talk about working with claymation legend Nick Park – both as director and actor – which led to a discussion of his YouTube procrastination of choice, as well as some details on the next Fantastic Beasts.
While preparing for his role in this month’s Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Eddie Redmayne found himself watching an exotic-animal handler stroke the inside of a rhino’s thigh. “This woman just started rubbing her rhino just above the knee—I was like, what are you doing?” the 34-year-old actor recalls, laughing. It turns out rhinos are into that.
And it turns out Redmayne is into finding out exactly this kind of obscure fact. You could say this part of the process—the months he spends enrapt in detailed, expansive research before he arrives on set—is his favorite part of being an actor. For his Oscar-winning performance as Stephen Hawking in 2014’s The Theory of Everything, he trained with a choreographer and an osteopath and spent countless hours in a London neurology clinic. And for his portrayal of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe in last year’s The Danish Girl (for which he received his second Best Actor Oscar nomination) he met with transgender women from different generations to get a sense of the scope of trans life throughout history. Calling from his house in the British countryside, Redmayne speaks with solemnity about the duty he feels to get it right. “When you’re given the opportunity to play someone as amazing as Stephen or Lili, the pressure makes you really buckle down,” he says.
Redmayne brought the same reverence to his role as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts, though, of course, playing a socially awkward, stealthily rebellious wizard toting a tattered suitcase filled with magical creatures presented a new and different challenge. “The first time Newt is introduced in the script, J.K. Rowling had written in the stage directions that he has a Buster Keaton–esque quality to his walk,” Redmayne recalls. “And I was like, Oh my god, what a thing to write! Now I have to go and work out what that is!” Potter fans will recognize Newt from the titular textbook Harry and Co. study at Hogwarts. Newt is the world’s premier expert on beasts, and in the film—the first of a five-picture series that also stars Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Katherine Waterston—he comes to New York to research and rescue magic creatures, but things get hairy when some of his own beasts get loose.
At the recent world premiere of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” there were no sightings of Harry Potter. But Eddie Redmayne, the star of the new Warner Bros. blockbuster, wore a plastic Bowtruckle — a green twig-like creature — on his tuxedoed shoulder. “It was given to me by a fan on the red carpet,” Redmayne later recalls, over eggs and coffee at Manhattan’s Crosby Street Hotel. “It looked so realistic,” he says, it even fooled one of the movie’s producers.
There are sure to be more fan homages in the months, and years, to come. In the new franchise written by J.K. Rowling, Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, the Magizoologist who arrives in New York with a suitcase packed with mystical animals like the gold-seeking, furry Niffler or the enormous Erumpent. To prepare for the part, the Oscar-winning actor studied with animal trainers and re-watched key “Harry Potter” scenes. “I went down a YouTube hole,” he reveals.
While the new franchise isn’t set at Hogwarts, there will be some overlapping characters in the five movies that Warner Bros. has planned for the series. Redmayne spoke to Variety about “Fantastic Beasts,” meeting with Rowling, and why he won’t ever play James Bond.
How did you learn about “Fantastic Beasts”?
It came to me in a wonderfully top-secret way. I got a call, saying David Yates wanted to meet me about an unknown project. We met in a pub called Blacks, which is in Soho in London. As I went to this place, it was pouring rain, and downstairs in the basement, there was a fire and David. The whole thing had a Diagon Alley vibe to it. He started telling me this story that J.K. Rowling was writing, and he talked about Newt and the case. I had taken a suitcase that I had. As he talked more about the case, I gently pushed my case back. I had this embarrassment that I looked like one of those actors that turned up dressed for the part.
After spending two straight falls consumed by awards season, Eddie Redmayne is taking a break from the Oscars and fronting his first franchise.
In the Harry Potter prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the mantle of J.K. Rowling’s leading man has been passed from Radcliffe to Redmayne. His Newt Scamander also wields a wand, but he’s a humbler operator in the same magical realm. Newt is a sheepish Brit arriving in 1926 New York, with a leather case stuffed with wondrous but outlawed creatures.
Though the film, which also stars Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterson and Dan Fogler, is an ensemble, Redmayne is undoubtedly the freckled face of the new Pottermania. It’s a new, high-pressured role for Redmayne, an Oscar winner for his Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” and a nominee for last year’s “The Danish Girl.” So is fatherhood; in June, his wife, Hannah Bagshawe, gave birth to their daughter, Iris.
A few hours after taking a break from promotional duties with Iris, Redmayne chatted in a downtown Manhattan hotel about his headlong dive into Rowling’s empire, the film’s multicultural message and just how many movies he’s gotten himself into.
AP: Your first blush with the Harry Potter world came much earlier, didn’t it?
Redmayne: This is true. When I was at university, they were casting the net quite wide for Tom Riddle, the young Voldemort. I had gotten an audition. I think I was seeing the casting director’s eighth assistant. I remember surviving about three and a half lines of the first scene before I was shown the door, so I wasn’t very successful. It wasn’t the greatest introduction to the Harry Potter world.
When he was nine years old, maybe 10, a small, freckly, flame-haired Eddie Redmayne auditioned to be in the West End production of the Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun. Acting was a new thing for him and before the casting call he found himself dreaming – both figuratively and literally – about winning a part. He’d be in the West End! He’d get to wag school! But then, on the day, a reality dawned somewhat murkier. Around 700 children turned up. Many wore Sylvia Young Theatre School T-shirts, and danced and sang precociously behind the scenes. Each child was given a tag, walked on stage and either sang or spoke a single line. When everyone was done, a list of names was called.
“It was a meat market for children,” Redmayne recalls, wide-eyed. “It almost felt like a forerunner for The X Factor or something. So I sang my one line and was promptly sent home.” He giggles, fidgets: “I remember it being properly scarring!”
The story is 25 years old, but the memory is vivid. Redmayne, now 34, brings it up when I ask him if he expected, on the night itself, to win the 2015 Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. “I had let my mind fantasise before and it was cut so bluntly short,” he explains. “I’ve never actually spoken about it, but I wonder if, over years of doing auditions, I’ve stopped myself allowing to believe the dream.
“Even in the run-up to the Oscars” – he whispers those last two words like he’s faintly embarrassed to be overheard – “it’s a horse race, and I knew I was in the running, but I’d not allowed myself to believe that it could happen. And also I thought Michael Keaton was formidable and I loved that film [Birdman].”
Eddie Redmayne has some big shoes to fill as the face of the next installment in the Harry Potter franchise. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, if it does well, could launch another series of movies (and let’s be real, with fans as ravenous as Potterheads, there’s no way this movie is going to flop).
Today Collider published an in-depth interview with the star himself in which he opened up about what it was like to be part of such a huge story, his character Newt Scamander, how Fantastic Beasts differs from the rest of the Potter universe, and what it was like to work alongside completely computer-generated characters. The whole interview is worth a read, but here are some highlights:
On being a Brit on American soil:
here are Americanisms and Newt is an Englishman in New York in the 1920s. He’s been in the field for a year. And so suddenly, he arrives in New York and everything is so huge. I remember the first time I went to New York when I was about eight or nine and staying at this hotel and just opening the window and just seeing Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in front of you and then just these buildings flying up and being kind of totally overwhelmed by it. There were things I related to, certainly, in this sort of American-British thing.
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