LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Eddie Redmayne won his first Oscar on Sunday for his break-out role as physicist Stephen Hawking in the biographical movie The Theory of Everything.
The British actor, 33, took home the Academy Award for best actor for playing Hawking and the disabling complications of a motor neuron disease, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, over the course of 30 years.
The Oscar came as little surprise following Golden Globe, SAG and British BAFTA trophies for his performance, which catapulted Redmayne from a relative unknown in Hollywood to its newest and most modest star.
“I am fully aware that I am a lucky, lucky man,” Redmayne said as he held the gold statuette on stage. “This belongs to all of those people around the world battling ALS.”
Redmayne spent seven months preparing to play Hawking, mastering his physical decline into almost total paralysis as well as his dry wit, mischievous glint and lady’s man charm.
He met the author of A Brief History of Time just days before filming began. Hawking, now 72, gave his blessing to the film, even though it is based on the memoir of first wife Jane who married the young genius when he was given two years to live.
Before The Theory of Everything, the freckle-faced Redmayne was best known as an up-and-coming actor in movies such as My Week with Marilyn and the musical Les Miserables, in which he played the rebellious young lover, Marius.
Educated among Britain’s elite at Eton College and Cambridge University, Redmayne made his professional acting debut in London in 2002 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Eight years later he won Britain’s top stage award, an Olivier, for his role in the play Red and followed it with a Tony award when the play transferred to Broadway.
Redmayne has also worked as a Burberry clothes model, and he topped the 2015 list of GQ’s magazine’s 50 best-dressed British men.