Over the years, I have on occasion written about Lucy Hawking, the daughter of famed theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking. Inevitably, people are shocked when they hear that Stephen Hawking has children. They ask. “How can that be?”
Most of us think of Hawking as paralyzed and wheelchair bound. Few know that he was once an able bodied young man. Fewer know the tragic and touching story of how this energetic young man came to be the physically handicapped super genius we know him to be today. That is, until recently.
The Theory of Everything is a movie that tells this story, and it has been met with critical acclaim. In fact, it has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Actor and Best Actress in a leading role for the actors who played Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane.
However, the movie would have never been made had it not been for the efforts of two of its producers, Anthony McCarten and Lisa Bruce. McCarten has had a lifelong fascination with Hawking, and became compelled to make the movie when he read Jane Hawking’s memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.
After writing several drafts of a script for the movie, he was introduced to Bruce, a veteran producer. Together they worked to secure the rights to the story, and with Jane and Stephen to complete a script everyone felt comfortable with. Years later, the movie was finally made.
I was able to speak with Bruce about what compelled her to make the movie, and what impact the story has had on her.
Alejandro Rojas: How many years had you and McCarten worked on getting this movie made?
Lisa Bruce: I have been involved with it about 6 and a half years now, and he had started a couple of years before that, so it is about a decade in total.
Rojas: What was your perception of Stephen Hawking when this project was first brought to you?
Bruce: I think that my perception was really like most of the general public. I really didn’t know anything about his domestic life. I wasn’t even really sure if he hadn’t always been handicapped. I did know he was English, but when I was pitching the movie many people thought that he was American.
I really knew him and thought of him as many people do, as the Einstein of our time. I kind of thought of him as a brain in a chair, you know? I didn’t really know about his personal life or all of the things he created outside of just some amazing mental discoveries.
I did not know that he fathered three children and that he had such an amazing sense of humor and optimism, or that he was given two months to live, so that was quite an eye-opener when I read the first draft. I found it to be really compelling because of that. He is sort of, to me, a kind of modern day super hero. A real life super hero because of the challenges he faced, and he just took them on. I think the thing he seems to care the least about is his…