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The Theory of Everything – Winners’ Press Conference interview, Adapted Screenplay, EE British Academy Film Awards in 2015

8 February 2015

Winners’ Press Conference interview with Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) for Adapted Screenplay

Winners' press conference interview with Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) in the Adapted Screenplay category

Q.  Hello again.

ANTHONY McCARTEN: Hello, everybody.

Q.  How does it feel?  Two for two.  Well done.

ANTHONY McCARTEN: I am not going to be happy until I get three.  We are up for best picture.  No, seriously.  They tell you, people who have been through this before, don't go on those websites that predict these things. But I did and I had no chance.  I think statistically I was 100 to 1.  So I am quite shocked.

Q.  Did you put money on yourself, 100 to 1? 

A.  I didn't bet, no.  Being in the film was gambling enough.

Q.  Earlier on you talked about the process, your wooing essentially of Jane for the story.  But actually writing the script itself, what was that process like for you?

A:    It posed some really unique challenges.  One of them was, I am not a great student of science and I had to find ways to translate to the screen these really complex ideas. I had to also compress 27 years of marriage into the traffic of two hours on the screen.  And the love story is really quite unprecedented.  It is not what you would think as your normal Hollywood love story.  It asks the audience to go on a very unusual journey, to switch tracks almost in their sympathies.  And it was by no means a guarantee that audiences would do that.  So it's extremely gratifying to see the, you know the attention and the love we're getting tonight.

Q.  Absolutely. 
NEW SPEAKER:  You mentioned the fact that it's an unconventional journey and many magnificent moments within it.  You personally writing it, was there one moment, one scene you can point to and say: that is the heart of the story, that was the moment you understood this relationship, this man?

A.  Yes.  One of the key scenes in there is when they break up.  This is the ultimate spoiler, but it was ‑‑ I was drawn to the subject matter, because I wanted to do a love story where half of the love story can't move at all and can barely speak or, if so, only at four words a minute.  How do you conduct a relationship?  All relationships are based on communication.  So how would that function? 

And I was a great, ardent fan of the death scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where they decommission the memory banks of HAL, the computer, and I think it's without question the best death scene in all of cinema.  And it is so emotional.  And that gave me confidence that dealing with emotion, through the mediation of machine, was possible. 

So I asked a lot of the actors.  They had to work with a voice that didn't convey emotion and it all had to be in the face.  So it's a huge testament to especially Eddie, for making it such an emotional ride for people.
NEW SPEAKER:  Hi.  What was your reaction when you found out that it was going to be Eddie playing the role?  Did you think that he had the ability to kind of give a voice?

A.  Yes, I was one of the producers, so I'd always had a shortlist over the years, and when Eddie came of age, he was always on the shortlist.  It was a very specific list of criteria that we had: they needed to be skinny, brilliant and British.  Eddie also brought enormous passion.  He is a Tony award‑winning actor, so his talent was not in question.  But I think he would admit this: that this was a big step up for him.  It required 100 per cent absorption, 100 per cent discipline of his body, of his voice, of his emotions and so forth, and I am just so delighted for him that he has got the recognition.

NEW SPEAKER:  I am Hugh from the Radio Times. 
I was wondering, when you are writing obviously the subject is still alive. Were you ever concerned about taking dramatic licence and changing the story?

A.  Yes.  In 2004 during that first conversation with Jane at her house, and she was very kind enough to let a stranger in and I pitched this idea of this movie, I stressed to her that I would have to maintain artistic control, and I said as her book has been unflinching, I wanted the film to be unflinching, and to her great credit she never tried to soften the story. She never tried to whitewash it, and nor did Stephen.  I shouldn't have been surprised. They are extraordinary people, very brave and they allowed the film to proceed with full candor.

NEW SPEAKER:  What was it like in the auditorium when Stephen Hawking came on stage?

A.  You could just feel this wave of emotion sweep right down the theatre, and everybody just spontaneously rose to their feet.  On the way in the limousine I said to my partner: I am anticipating a standing ovation when Stephen comes in.  I think there is such a love for him.  I think he regularly is in the top three most beloved living Brits, after Judi Dench and someone else.  I don't know who else is on the list.  David Cameron? Probably not.

NEW SPEAKER: In two weeks time, you could all be on the stage at the Academy Awards, the Oscards, odds on favourite, Eddie (inaudible).  Has that sunk in, that that moment is coming, the Oscars?

A.  Sure.  We have been on an incredibly intense campaign since Toronto Film Festival, so that's just imprinted on you every day, that it's coming, that it's coming, that it's coming.  But you know, for me, this is equally the top of the mountain.  That's another peak, but it's no higher than this peak. Bringing this, as James said, this has grown from British soil, this story, and to have this embraced like this tonight, it won't get better than this.

Q.  You have two of these now.  Maybe a third to go.  Where are you going to put them?

A.  Wow.  Where would I put it?  What an interesting problem to have.  Thank you.

Q.  Thank you. Congratulations.  Anthony McCarten.