Guilty of being the most talented (and stylish) actor of his generation.
The full Esquire Spain interview by Alba Díaz translated from Spanish by me
The Oscar winner talks about what it means to premiere a film with Aaron Sorkin
(The Chicago 7th Trial on Netflix) and filming the new part of the most famous saga
of all time under the watchful eye of its author, J.K. Rowling.
At the Kettle’s Yard Gallery in Cambridge, stands alone and leaning on a piano
Prometheus, a marble head made by Constantin Brâncusi, and the only piece of art
that Eddie Redmayne (London, 1982) would save from possible massive destruction.
He tells me about it as he leaves the filming set of the third installment of Fantastic
Beasts in the early days of an autumn that, we suspect, we will never forget. It begins
to get dark as the actor nods seriously: “I promise to do my best in this interview.”
Eddie Redmayne made himself in the theater despite some voices warning him
that he could not survive in it. “Many people were in charge to tell me that it
would never work, that only extraordinary cases make it, and that I would not
be able to live from this professionally.” Even his father came home one day
with a list of statistics on unemployed young actors. Redmayne, who is extremely
modest, polite, and funny, adds: “But I enjoyed theater so much that I got to the
point of thinking that if I could only do one play a year for the rest of my life…
I would do it. And that would fill me completely.
Spoiler: since then until today he has participated in many more. He set his
first foot in the industry when he debuted at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theater
and won over critics and audiences. He then landed his first major role in
My Week with Marilyn opposite Michelle Williams. And then came one of
the roles of his life, the character he wanted to become an actor for, Marius.
With him, he sang, led a revolution, and broke Cosette’s heart in Les Miserables.
“I found out about the Les Misérables auditions when I was shooting a movie in
Illinois. Dressed like a cowboy. I picked up the iPhone and videotaped myself
singing the Marius song. I always wanted to be him ”.
Now Redmayne is an Oscar winner - thanks to his portrayal of Stephen Hawking
in The Theory of Everything - and the protagonist of one of the most important
sagas in history, Fantastic Beasts. He plays the magizoologist Newt Scamander in it.
When I ask him what it means to him to be the protagonist of a magical world that is
so important to millions of people, Eddie sighs and takes a few seconds to answer.
“I have always loved the Harry Potter universe. Some people like The Lord of the Rings
or Star Wars … But, for me, the idea that there is a magical world that happens right
in front of you, that happens without going any further on the streets of London, that. ..
That exploded my imagination in another way.
During the quarantine, J. K. Rowling, who has been in charge of the script of
the film sparked controversy through a series of tweets about transgender women.
Redmayne assures that he does not agree with these statements but that it does
not approve of the attacks of some people through social networks. The actor was
one of the first to position himself against Rowling alongside Daniel Radcliffe,
Emma Watson and other protagonists of her films. “Trans women are women,
trans men are men, and non-binary identities are valid.”
After having spent a while talking, Redmayne confesses to me that he has never
been a big dreamer not to maintain certain aspirations that ended up disappointing
him. So he has always kept a handful of dreams to himself. One of them was
fulfilled just a few weeks ago with the premiere of The Trial of the Chicago 7,
a film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin that can already be seen on Netflix
and in some - few - cinemas. “I was on vacation with my wife in Morocco and
the script arrived. I think I called my agent before I even read it and said yes,
I would. She probably thought the obvious, that I’m stupid. After that, of course
I read the script, which is about a specific moment in history that I knew very
little about. I found it exciting and a very relevant drama in today’s times. “
"It's a lot of fun playing characters who are smarter than you are"
And it is that having a script by Aaron Sorkin in your hands is no small
thing. Eddie Redmayne has been a fan of his work ever since he saw
The West Wing of the White House. “His scripts have delicious language
and dialogue. As an actor, it’s fun to play characters that are much smarter
than you are in real life. That virtuosity is hard to come by. I really hope
that audiences enjoy this movie and feel that there is always hope. ”
He remembers that since he released The Theory of Everything he has
recorded, to a large extent, English period dramas, “and although the new
Aaron Sorkin is not strictly contemporary,” says Redmayne, “to be able
to wear jeans and shirts and sweaters instead of so much tweed is great ”.
Besides acting, art was the only thing the actor was interested in, so he ended up
studying Art History at Cambridge University. “My parents are quite traditional
and when I told them I wanted to act they gave me free rein but on the condition
that I study a career. And I’m very grateful for that because … Look, beyond that,
when I play a real character I usually go to the National Portrait Gallery in London
quite often. There I lock myself up. Now, for Sorkin’s film, I went through a lot of
photographs and videotapes. Art helps me to be more creative, to get into paper ”.
If he were not an actor, he would be, he says decidedly, a historian or perhaps a
curator. “Although I think he would be a very bad art curator.”
Against all logic, Eddie Redmayne is color blind. But there is a color that you
can distinguish anywhere and on any surface: Klein blue. He wrote his thesis
on the French artist Yves Klein and the only shade of blue he used in his
works. He wrote up to 30,000 words talking about that color with which
he became obsessed. “It is surprising that a color can be so emotional.
One can only hope to achieve that intensity in acting. “
Like his taste for art, which encompasses the refined and compact, Redmayne
seems to be in the same balance when it comes to the roles he chooses. When
I ask him what aspects a character he wants to play should have, he takes
a few seconds again before answering: “I wish I had a more ingenious answer
but I will tell you that I know when my belly hurts. It’s that feeling that I trust.
In my mind, I transport him to imagine myself playing that character. When
I read a script I have to really enjoy it. You never fully regret those instincts.
It’s like when you connect with something emotionally. ”
"I never look Back"
So we come to the conclusion that all his characters have some traits
in common. “You know what? I never look back, and this is something
personal, but I do believe that there is a parallel between Marius in Les
Misérables trying to be a revolutionary, someone who is quite prone to
being distracted by love but at the same time is willing to die for his cause,
and Tom Hayden from The Chicago Trial of the 7 who was a man who
had integrity and was passionate and fought for the things he believed in.
So I suppose there may also be similarities between a young Stephen
Hawking and Newt Scamander. There are traits in common in all
of them that I don’t really know where they come from ”.
When we talk about the year we are living in, in which it is increasingly difficult
to find hope, we both let out a nervous laugh. "There must be,” Redmayne says.
“There is something very nice that Tom Hayden, the character I play in Sorkin’s
film, said to his former wife, actress Jane Fonda, just the day before she passed
away. He told her that watching people die for their beliefs changed his life forever.
In that sense, I also think about what Kennedy Jr. wrote about how democracy is
messy, tough, and never easy … As is believing in something to fight for. I look
at history and how they were willing to live their lives with that integrity
to change the world and I realize that somehow that spirit still remains with us.“
We fell silent thinking about it. "There must be hope.”
"The piano and drawing help me calm my mind."
I tell him about my love for Nick Cave’s blog, The Red Hand, and one of the posts
that I have liked the most in recent weeks. In it, the singer affirms that his response
to a crisis has always been to create, an impulse that has saved him many times.
For Redmayne, there are two activities that can silence noise: drawing and playing
the piano. “When you play the piano your concentration is so consumed by trying
to hit that note that you can’t think of anything else. Similarly, when you draw
something, the focus is between the paper and what you are trying to recreate …
There I try to calm my mind.
'Prometheus' by Constantin Brancusi at the Kettle’s Yard Gallery in Cambridge (x)
Before saying goodbye, I drop a question that I thought I knew the answer to, but
failed. What work of art would you save from mass destruction? “How difficult!
I could name my favorite artists but still couldn’t choose a work. Only one piece?
Let me think. I am very obsessed with Yves Klein, but I would stick with work by
Brancusi. There is a sculpture of him, a small head called Prometheus, in Cambridge’s
Kettle’s Yard, on a dark mahogany piano. The truth is that I find it very … beautiful ”.
Before leaving, he confesses to me - with a childish and slow voice - that
he would like to direct something one day. We said goodbye, saying that
we will talk about his next project. Next, the first thing I do is open the
Google search engine. "P-r-o-m-e-t-h-e-u-s”. Although Eddie Redmayne
has trouble distinguishing violet from blue, he doesn’t have them when
choosing a good piece. He’s right, that work deserves to be saved.
* The article appears in the November 2020 issue of Esquire magazine
Pictures are my screenshots and edits from the BTS video by JuanKr