So how do you turn Hollywood heartthrob Eddie Redmayne into Stephen Hawking? For “The Theory of Everything” makeup artist Jan Sewell, it was all a matter of preparation. “I asked James Marsh to do a makeup test very early on… to find our end point. I knew where I wanted Eddie to go, from being the young 21-year-old. And then I had to take him through the disease, all the way through, and also a very small amount of aging, to make him end up in his mid-40s.”
Watch Sewell’s Oscars Q&A with Gold Derby below.
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Despite her calm demeanor in relating this story to us, the pressures on Sewell and her team were enormous. “I said, if we find what we want, that’s fantastic, but what we’ll find is what doesn’t work.” Sewell’s challenge laid in conveying the debilitating effects of Hawking’s disease over a period of years through the use of very subtle makeup and prosthetics. “As the disease takes hold, it starts to twist your face. I wanted to use this scale to get us right back down to where he’s twisted in the wheelchair.” After that test, Sewell says, “We had the two points, and then we could work out a timeline all the way through.”
“The Theory of Everything,” like most films, was shot out of sequence, forcing Sewell and her team to make multiple makeup changes throughout the day. “Some days, we had maybe three looks.” This proved especially difficult given the number of wigs and prosthetics Sewell had created for the film. Yet once again, it was all a matter of preparation. “I do a timeline book, where I can know at each point where we are. Which set of teeth it is, which mouth it is, whether we’ve got the little earlobes on. It was completely mapped out.”
She also revealed that putting big ears on Eddie Redmayne made all the difference in the world. And as for co-star Felicity Jones, it was a much more subtle, yet no-less difficult work of aging. “I was worried about how much we aged her. If you looked at the real Jane Hawking, she had aged very nicely herself. So in aging Felicity the 25 years, I did it much more subtly on purpose because the real Jane didn’t age dramatically.”
Sewell’s other credits include “World War Z” (2013), “Les Miserables” (2012) and “X-Men: First Class” (2011).