In 2013, the remarkable life of cosmologist Stephen Hawking was the subject of a documentary called, quite simply, Hawking. Now it is the subject of a feature film. It’s called The Theory of Everything and it’s directed by James Marsh. The film is based on the memoir of Hawking’s first wife, Jane Hawking, who met her husband at Cambridge in the 1960s. In the film Jane Hawking is played by Felicity Jones, who says:
FELICITY JONES (STANDARD BRITISH ACCENT)
I think there was an immediate sexual attraction, but at the same time there was a meeting of minds, and I think they challenged each other as well, I think there was a competitiveness between them, which often, when two people who are quite different… and I think it was that difference between them that brought them together.
But the young couple hadn’t been together very long before Stephen Hawking was diagnosed as having Motor Neurone Disease, also known as ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. In The Theory of Everything Stephen Hawking is played by Eddie Redmayne, who talked about the physicist’s famous voice machine:
His relationship with the voice; I mean, the voice itself. It had never occurred to me when I got this part, “Why has Stephen Hawking got an American voice?” And the answer was, that was the first technology that came, and because his voice then became so related to… or his icon became so related to that voice, he’s never wanted to change it because that’s what we know as his new identity, and vocal identity, and my God is identity important!
Jane Hawking nursed her husband for many years and, as Felicity Jones says, they managed to maintain a sense of humour:
That’s so important, and that’s what we’ve wanted in telling this story is how both Jane and Stephen are absolutely hilarious , they have a very dry sense of humour, a very English sense of humour, and I think that’s partly what enabled them to cope with such difficult circumstances was that there’s always a witticism about it, and meeting Stephen, he was incredibly witty and insightful ... and a very dry sense of humour.HOPE
Stephen and Jane Hawking divorced in the 1990s and Jane subsequently published her memoir as Music to the Stars. It was later revised and republished as Travelling to Infinity. Both titles reflect Stephen Hawking’s status as the world’s most important living scientist. As Eddie Redmayne says, this is a remarkable achievement , under the circumstances:
The astounding thing is that Stephen Hawking was given two years to live aged 21, and he’s now 71, 72. I mean, it’s against all odds , and it's a staggering thing, and whether it is to do with his passion, his drive, his outlook on life, his humour, the specific strain of what the disease is, no one knows, but it’s a staggering thing, and he is a great icon of hope.