Portraying physicist Stephen Hawking in the 2014 biopic "The Theory of Everything" earned Eddie Redmayne an Oscar, and it also fostered a mutual respect between the actor and renowned thinker, who died Wednesday at age 76.
"We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet," Redmayne said in a statement to The Times on Wednesday. "My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family."
As the brilliant astronomer, Redmayne embodied the subtle but devastating encroachments of Hawking's degenerative neuromuscular disease, immersing himself in the ailments of ALS sufferers and literally charting the timeline of Hawking's life to better his performance. The film focused on the relationship between Hawking and his former wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), and was based on one of her two memoirs about their marriage.
Redmayne told the Los Angeles Times in 2014 that he was so nervous upon meeting Hawking for the first time that he began rambling and asked Hawking his birth sign, to which Hawking quipped: "You know, Eddie, I'm an astronomer, not an astrologer."
Hawking, who is often thought of as this generation's Albert Einstein and used a speech-generating device to speak, also held the actor in high regard after watching James Marsh's drama, believing that he was, in fact, watching himself on the big screen.
"I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well in 'The Theory of Everything.' He spent time with ALS sufferers so he could be authentic. At times, I thought he was me," Hawking wrote on Facebook.