‘Theory of Everything': Getting Jane Hawking’s permission

Producer-screenwriter Anthony McCarten and producer Lisa Bruce discuss the difficulties of getting permission to make the film in this highlight from the Envelope Screening Series presentation of “The Theory of Everything.”

A decade ago, screenwriter Anthony McCarten showed up on Jane Hawking’s doorstep. He hadn’t given Hawking -- ex-wife of the famous theoretical physicist  Stephen Hawking -- warning that he’d be coming. But he had read her autobiography, which detailed her intense marriage with the scientist -- and he wanted to turn her story into a movie.

“I just thought, ‘I have to try and get permission,’” McCarten recalled at a recent showing of “The Theory of Everything” at the Envelope Screening Series.

Fortunately for McCarten, Jane Hawking didn’t leave him out in the cold that day. But it would take eight years for McCarten and film producer Lisa Bruce to persuade her to hand over her life’s rights for the film, which hits theaters Friday. Despite repeated rejections during that time period, Bruce and McCarten continued to spruce up the writer’s screenplay -- just in case Hawking changed her mind.

The film the pair wanted to make would center on the couple’s life together, detailing how Jane (played by Felicity Jones) supported Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) as his motor neuron disease steadily progressed. But Jane “was quite reticent to have this made as a movie and have [her life with Stephen] exposed in that way,” Bruce explained.

“I think it’s very rare that you find a story -- especially as a female producer --  where the female is as powerful as the male character,” the producer said. “That was so important to me -- to be able to bring that to the world. The domestic supporter is often submerged in drama.”

For more from the actors and filmmakers behind “The Theory of Everything,” watch the clip above and go here for other Envelope Screening Series videos.

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