Award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne, who gave us unforgettable performances as Marius Pontmercy in “Les Miserables” and as physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” is back with another memorable portrayal of American social and political activist, author and politician Tom Hayden in the Aaron Sorkin-helmed drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
The 38-year-old British actor talked to us recently about his new film and what he learned from the pandemic as he isolates in London with his wife Hannah Bagshawe and their two kids — Iris, 4, and Luke, 2.
Where are you right now?
I am in the U.K. I am back to work, which is interesting and it’s lovely to be back to work actually, albeit in a sort of new normal really. But it’s exciting to be back and acting again.
Did portraying Tom Hayden make you more determined to be more of an activist?
I think, it’s an incredibly complicated question that, and one that I still honestly battle with on a daily basis. Because of the world we live in now, people in the public eye who may have no association with anything political, are given a voice that is perhaps unbalanced.
I believe that, of course we all have our own thoughts, we all have our own causes and beliefs that we are deeply passionate about, and I think that one of the great gifts about being an actor and people getting to see your films is that your voice can be amplified. So with that comes a wonderful thing in the sense that when there are things that you believe don’t have enough attention, you can try and amplify it.
At the same point, you have to be careful, because of course you come from a place of great privilege and there is this kind of, we are very lucky if you are a working actor, you live a good life and you have to be careful that you don’t end up playing through your own, you end up basically looking elitist and for basically sort of undermining the cause that you are passionate about. So my question to myself continuously is what are the things that are important to me?
I try and be an activist in my own personal way, for example here during lockdown in the United Kingdom, people with motor neuron disease, like ALS, weren’t put on the extremely vulnerable list, which was a list that allowed various special treatment I suppose with regards to care and with regards to getting food. And I found that quite shocking.
So the way that was for me, was writing our local constituency politician, and I threw the motor neuron organization that I work with, I am a patron there and I was getting on cross party Zoom calls to discuss why this was happening. So I try to do it at a place that is I suppose a grassroots level.
That being said, there are times when communities don’t have a voice that is as amplified as yours and I feel it is important in those moments just to speak up. I am still trying to work out on a daily basis what my role is. And it gets confused for people in the public eye because our voice is often louder than most people’s because of that amplification.
You have a wife and two kids. What did you learn during this period?
It’s astonishing. I’ve been talking to my friends and some of my friends have managed to be staggeringly creative. During lockdown they’ve written scripts, they’ve written music.
I have 2 children that are 4 and 2 (laughs) so Hannah and I have full lives. We have been in the countryside We have chickens, we have a veg patch so we’ve been trying to grow our own food and be as self-sufficient as we can be but actually a friend of mine put it very beautifully which is well, who knows but this may be a moment that although we are now seeing it, may be a repeated moment but that will be one that has brought of course.
We’re in an incredibly privileged position to have a home and to be healthy and to be safe but getting to, for example, Iris my daughter is 4, had just learnt the letters of the alphabet and I actually would do classes every day like school. I got to teach her to read and it’s only the first thing but to be there for that, those moments, or to Luke whose vocabulary has just become sort of spilling out during lockdown. It’s been a treasured moment in some ways.
I love cooking so I’m doing a lot of that and I’ve been doing a bit of painting. I’m a very, very shit painter. I used to love doing it when I was younger and I’ve never really had the time. Since work got crazy, I’ve gone back to that.
You are shooting right now. How is that during this time especially filming intimate scenes?
I think there are probably some quite intimate scenes with some “Fantastic Beasts,” you know Yates, and he likes to get up close and personal. But not intimate in that way. Not massively intimate scenes for Newt here, but honestly, I think we all went in with trepidation going what is this new normal going to be. And to Warner Bros.’ credit and to our producers, they’ve made us feel very safe. We are separated into bubbles. We get tested very regularly. They have systems in place.
For example, often when you’re filming if you’re meant to be filming outside but there’s a chance that it rains, which it always does in England, you have weather covers so you have these other scenes that are there to sort in. They have what they call COVID cover here, if someone were to get sick. They’re doing everything they can and they’ve been great at making us feel reassured. And all the crew, we rehearse in our masks most of the time until we’re shooting. But it feels there’s still a vibrancy. Film crews and film people, they love what they do often and so everyone’s just thrilled to be back and getting stuff in.
Robert Pattinson got the COVID-19. Did you get in touch with him?
He was filming at Leavesden so I had seen Rob. Again, we put protocols in so that the productions are all very separated so that if someone gets sick hopefully it doesn’t come onto another production. [Source]