by Sylvia Karcz
photography by Richard Grassie
Eddie Redmayne’s young career is truly on the cusp, so it seems appropriate that at 26 he’s finally ready to move out of his family home and into his own place – a loft in the culturally progressive Bankside neighborhood of London. True, he may not be a household name just yet but take a look at this actor’s short yet undoubtedly impressive resume – or, if you prefer, at those lips – and you’ll get the feeling that his big screen fortune is about to change very soon. Funny thing is, he probably has no idea.
And there is no question that whatever is on Redmayne’s upcoming agenda, it is bound to continue catapulting him to new levels. As someone who is seemingly fearless when it comes to playing slightly deranged oddballs and an expert horse riding, Tudor-esque Elizabethan (“There comes a moment when you’re just like, ‘Okay, enough.’”), this Brit has already created a buzz with his one-of-a-kind character portrayals. He is well on the way to cementing himself as a true standout amongst a new generation of talented young actors.
Redmayne readily admits that he is a nonconformist: both as an artistically-inclined individual from a family made up of business and financial professionals and as an Eton College alum (yes, that Eton College with Prince William) who later graduated Cambridge University with a degree in Art History. It makes sense that Redmayne has a knack for the aesthetically different and his unconventional character choices come as no surprise. In the theater, he gained critical acclaim for roles as varied as Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, to a chilling depiction of a gay New Yorker whose father has an affair with a goat in Edward Albee’s award-winning play, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? And after an unusually quick leap to the big-screen (“I was just a fish out of water. I had no idea what was going on.”), Redmayne has already worked with some of today’s greatest directors and acting talents. Recently he was cast as an assassin in Elizabeth: The Golden Age with Cate Blanchett, as the son of Matt Damon’s C.I.A. agent in Robert De Niro’s The Good Sheperd (with Angelina Jolie), and as an emotionally and sexually confused young man who is seduced by his mother in the much-buzzed-about film Savage Grace (with Julianne Moore). So what could be up next, you ask? How about a mortician who gets asthma attacks when he talks to women in Powder Blue, for starters. Or an adopted Native-American heading toward a hurricane-devastated New Orleans with a group of outsiders in The Yellow Handkerchief.
“It’s much more fun to be able to mess with these completely different human beings,” Redmayne says about the characters he plays. “The variation is [thrilling] and it’s a way to keep your life colorful. And it’s always extraordinary because people are so vocal about their opinions and they’ll either give you high praise or virtually, sort of, spit in your face. Which I love, because it’s rare that you do a project that really gets a reaction.”
And although he’s been sent his fair share of roles that could have easily hurled him to the kind of big-screen, box-office success that many actors spend years – or even decades – trying to obtain, Redmayne has no desire to be your typical actor.
“They wanted me to audition for, I shit you not, a role called ‘The Harvard Hottie.’ And I read it and this guy is supposed to be incredibly good-looking, sporty, strong… I was like, guys, seriously. Probably not… [Or] the main protagonist running around pre-historic Asia in a loincloth. And I’m like, ‘I’m a white, pasty, English boy. Can you imagine anything more revolting than watching me run around semi-naked?’ But you never know.”
As for what it’s like being thrust into a constant cycle of travel and spending time in the US, away from home? Redmayne seems grateful to have the opportunity to experience it in the first place.
“If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in these places and to be able to go and see things, it’s great,” he says. “You get an instant insight into the reality of these towns and cities and you’re not just being a tourist.”
From filming in post-Katrina New Orleans for the upcoming The Yellow Handkerchief (“That city, I swear… it makes you think why every other city in the world doesn’t take advice. [The people] seem to have taken this tragedy and their strife from the other end. The drive and humor that comes from it is a special thing.”), to visiting New York (“[It’s] a thrill. My god, you guys are almost apathetical to how much is there. One of the luckiest things I’ve been doing is spending so much time in New York.”), to having friends involved with the upcoming presidential race in America (“It’s extraordinary for us [in the UK], because we get the news filtered through and half a day later. And I’m trying to see how this thing is swinging back and forth and how much of it now seems based on instinct, and it’s amazing to see from across the pond. Some of my friends are out there campaigning for Hillary Clinton and they’ve traveled over from the UK, speaking passionately, with a commitment and drive that is enough to encourage someone to go out and vote.”), Redmayne is clearly embracing his newfound experiences as an opportunity to not only grow in front of the camera, but to learn from the people he’s been surrounded with behind-the-scenes as well.
Could political and social activism, then, be in the agenda for Eddie Redmayne one day?
“[It] is massively admirable, and something I would like to do… [But] I feel at too low a point and with not enough confidence in my own ideas yet to express that,” Redmayne admits. “I also slightly resent just instant association with things. What it then does is take something that you don’t know a huge amount about, or something you may not be passionate about, and it just gives that issue press and publicity. It weakens your cause and your voice to speak passionately about something that you do actually care about.”
For a person that claims to be somewhat skinless when it comes to certain matters around him, Redmayne nonetheless exudes the sort of intelligence and ambition that demonstrates a potential for greatness both on and off the screen in the upcoming years.
“It’s a completely bizarre world, this one,” he says. “It’s a massive amount about luck. And you hope that if you’re lucky enough to be in [certain] situations that you can support that luck with talent.”
But if that talent was to – hypothetically – be confined to either doing non-paying theater in London while working at a local pub, low-paying indie flicks with innovative directors in New York, or high-profile (and high-paying) blockbuster movies in LA, just what, exactly, would he choose?
“I’d do the films in New York, and then I’d swim really quickly across the Atlantic and do a play, then I’d look at my bank balance, and if I have enough to pay rent, I’d fly first class to LAX to play Frat Boy #2 in American Pie: Return of the Apple Crumble.”
And with that kind of laid-back charm and genuine modesty masking a truly haunting camera presence, how can one not be intrigued to see what will come of this rising actor’s career.