One of 2014's biggest Oscar contenders is the story of Stephen Hawking and his wife of 30 years, Jane Wilde. Most of us know the story of Stephen Hawking — his prodigal mind, his black hole theories, his ALS diagnosis and how he obliterated the doctor's two-year life expectancy prognosis. And while other Stephen Hawking offerings have delved deep into the disease, the genius, the theories, The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne, deigns to explore the world of Stephen Hawking's love life — his marriage and divorce to Jane Wilde and beyond. We are forced to confront the question: Is it still a happy ending if the boy and girl don't end up together at the end?
Writer Anthony McCarten, who spent eight years gaining the trust and friendship of Jane Wilde to write the script based of Wilde's autobiography, spoke to the story's unconventional ending, a narrative he crafted based on the true lives of Stephen and Jane. So how does one deliver a Hollywood story based on the true events of two very real people?
"It was a high wire act, it required that every one of the characters involved be portrayed in all their complexities," McCarten admitted at the Los Angeles press day for the film. "That there be no judgement on any of the characters, and that every one gets their day in court. Then the audience can come in and make their own decision," he said.
The film offers a variety of vantage points: Stephen, obviously; Jane — her unwaivering support of Stephen and her struggles as a mother, caretaker and academic; Jonathan, the couple's friend and helping hand.
"It's a complex love story. It's not prince charming and the princess riding off on a white horse, and we need a more generous definition of a happy ending," McCarten explained. "We've all had relationships, they don't all work out. That doesn't mean it's a disaster. The mind is very future focused. But the heart is a bit of a time traveler, and the people we've loved along the way, they will always have their place in us. There's no tragedy in that."
For those who know the story of Stephen Hawking know that the icon is twice married, to Jane Wilde for 30 years, and subsequently to Elaine Mason in 1995, a former caretaker. Felicity Jones, who plays Jane Wilde over the span of several decades in the film, echoed McCarten's sentiments.
"It's unconventional," she said of the film's love story. And there's truth in that. What was one of the hardest scenes to do is when Stephen is going to America, and he tells [Jane] he's going with Elaine. It's that moment when they still absolutely love eachother, there's still so much affection, but the relationship has reached its limit, it can't go on anymore. They are both very similar personalities, and that's what kept their relationship going, they were always challenging eachother."
Eddie Redmayne chose to do the film because of its love story. "I thought it was going to be a biography of Stephen. The reason I fell in love with the script, is because it turned out to be a complicated, passionate, unique love story with an uplifting ending but not a Hollywood ending," he admits. "It's a dissection of love — young love, passionate love, love of subject matter, love of family — but also the failings of love, the boundaries of love, the complications of it. It felt very whole in that sense. It didn't seem to be sugarcoating things."
The Theory of Everything, while it follows to young students falling in and out of love, is nothing but uplifting. McCarten put it perfectly when he said: "There's only a reason for triumph in the story of Jane and Stephen. Look what they did: they raised three children, they advanced human understanding of the universe, and they dealt with this extraordinary debilitating disease at the same time. You tell me that ain't a triumph," McCarten said.
The Theory of Everything hits theatres November 7.
Images: Working Title Films