Based on Jane Wilde’s memoir ‘Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,’ the film ‘The Theory of Everything’ takes a slice of time in the life of Stephen Hawking and brings it to admirers and audiences to experience. From the moment when he meets his soon to be wife Jane, to the devastating diagnosis of his ALS and the struggles both he and Jane endured as he rose through the ranks of the astrophysics world, this film is not your ordinary biopic and Jane is not your ordinary wife.
Better known as Felicia/Black Cat in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ and high society thief Robina Redmond in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp,’ Felicity Jones plays Jane Wilde in the film and ScienceFiction.com had the pleasure of speaking to her about what it was like to play Jane, meeting Stephen Hawking and her future in the Spider-Man franchise.
What was your feeling after learning you were going to play Jane? Was there some anxiety when you found out you got the part?
Fear and fright. (laughs) Reading this, what I loved about it is that it wasn’t a straight forward biopic. As I kept reading – I love reading scripts. I hate reading them on the email or on my computer. I love having them on paper so you can sit dow – You know you really like something when you don’t keep getting up to get coffee or , you know, take the phone or things like that. I just sat down and read it in one go and loved it. As the story unfolds it got more and more complex and interesting. Here was this phenomenal female character who had this inner strength and determination and willfulness, but also there was a vulnerability to her and there was an enormous love and care she had at the same time and it was exploring her sexual identity as well.
How would you describe Stephen and Jane in the film?
The film is a lot about two very passionate people who aren’t saints. Both are very willful and very determined but they are trying to have a relationship considering the circumstances.
The film doesn’t end in the happily ever after that is the norm these days. Did you find that refreshing?
Absolutely! All the way the way through it was unconventional and one of the hardest [scene] to do was when Stephen goes to America… and it’s that moment when they absolutely love each other, there’s still so much affection, but the relationship just reached its limit.
What did you get from Jane that you didn’t get from the script or her book?
I was nervous meeting Jane because she is formidable. She has an academic mind. It’s precise dates and times everything…But what I found in meeting Jane there is something like the army general about her. That was really useful especially in that scene with Stephen’s father. She says, “I may not look like a terribly strong person” and my thought this is the woman’s call to arms and it’s like she’s going into battle and the battle was to keep Stephen alive. And that’s what I found when I met Jane. She manages to command a room but in this very quiet polite way with a very light touch.
How is it like playing someone you’ve now met and know? Does it affect your mindset? Is it a weird thing to navigate?
Yes, especially when the real Jane starts a text saying “Hi Jane.” (laughs) It all gets quite surreal without a doubt. It was a very unusual project in that sense. That’s why it’s something you put your heart into it because it has that real dimension into it and these are real people so you want to get it right.
How did this movie help you examine your own passion and pursuits?
The women [I’ve played] don’t necessarily have the celebrated genius but what I liked about them is that they’re still incredibly powerful people but their power is shown in a different way. I’m quite interested in these women’s stories of how they managed to have power in times when they weren’t extensively allowed to have power… with Jane with being in the 50s and 60s and wanting to be an academic and taken seriously, how does she navigate her own sense of identity while at the same time being a mother, wife and caregiving. Like with anyone, that balance is really important to me and how to achieve that personally and professionally.
What was your impression of Stephen Hawking?
It was very important to Jane to have Stephen’s blessing to do the film… I spend time with Stephen who is phenomenal. Again that’s what I love about these two people because he is also very commanding and has an incredible wit and a presence.
What was some of the exciting surprising things you learned about Stephen Hawking?
Stephen Hawking is such a universally known figure and he is one of those people who is a famous celebrity so you feel like you know him but you don’t actually, not at all. What I found in meeting him the whole way along is that Stephen is someone that has no bullsh*t. And you feel that when you meet him. You try to nervously talk and fill in the silences and make him like you and he’s someone who takes hold of the situation and you feel like he sees through things very quickly. I admire that in him. He’s a physicist but also a philosopher, isn’t he? He was asked recently what was the best way to get through life and the thing he said was “Be curious.” And that’s what he has never given up, you know? He is someone who keeps pushing, and trying and analyzing and you can’t help but take that away. I thought that was the right. Curiousity – that is what you have to maintain.
Any word about you starring as the Black Cat in the rumored Spider-Women team up film?
I know as much as you! I think it’s a fantastic idea. It would be great to have more female superheroes.
‘The Theory of Everything’ hits theaters on Friday, November 7.
Starring Eddie Redmayne (“Les Misérables”) and Felicity Jones (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”), this is the extraordinary story of one of the world’s greatest living minds, the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who falls deeply in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde. Once a healthy, active young man, Hawking received an earth-shattering diagnosis at 21 years of age. With Jane fighting tirelessly by his side, Stephen embarks on his most ambitious scientific work, studying the very thing he now has precious little of – time. Together, they defy impossible odds, breaking new ground in medicine and science, and achieving more than they could ever have dreamed. The film is based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by Jane Hawking, and is directed by Academy Award winner James Marsh (“Man on Wire”).