It always seems like this time of year, when films begin to emerge for Oscar consideration, there are an endless number of films that come out where the description begins with ‘if you see one movie this year, see this one’. 99.9% of the time, those are promotional words that aren’t worth the time it took to write the sentence. In the case of the forthcoming documentary, Hawking, it falls into the .01% and is definitely true.
Hawking is the new documentary film about the notoriously private and, at the same time, world’s most celebrated physicist, Stephen Hawking, the author of ‘A Brief History of Time’. Hawking’s story, from his early days as a student through his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, to his status as a bestselling author, is narrated by the man himself, telling his own life story in his own words. Given unprecedented personal access to the physicist, filmmaker Stephen Finnigan delves into memories of Hawking’s student days, recounts his astonishing scientific discoveries, and portrays his struggle against Motor Neurone Disease, with which Hawking, now 71, was first diagnosed at age 21. It’s an intimate and inspiring portrait of a truly remarkable man.
Someone with more than a passing knowledge and interest in Stephen Hawking is Benedict Cumberbatch. Back in 2004, before Sherlock and, actually, pre-most everything in his career with the exception of Fortysomething, Benedict Cumberbatch played Hawking in a relatively obscure but extremely well-done drama series. In the forthcoming documentary, Cumberbatch talks about playing the theoretical physicist in his early struggles with motor neurone disease.
“I felt a huge onus of responsibility to get that part of his life right,” Cumberbatch says. “It’s a terrifying prospect to have a completely functioning mind inside a body that locks you in, that keeps you stationary. One of the things I wanted to get right was to show the progression of his condition and show where the instability and fear came from.”
Cumberbatch was nominated for a BAFTA for his portrayal of Hawking as a PhD at Cambridge University, when he was diagnosed with the debilitating condition.
A Darlow Smithson Production in association with Channel 4 and PBS, Hawking will be released in the UK on 20 September with a tentative January 2014 small screen broadcast in the U.S on PBS. No word yet on a theatrical release in the States or a Channel 4 broadcast in the UK. Whenever it is, ‘if you see one movie this year, see this one’.