Eddie Redmayne paid tribute to the late Stephen Hawking, branding the astrophysicist as "a truly beautiful mind" following his death at age 76.
“We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet. My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family,” the 36-year-old said.
Hawking, the visionary scientist who was diagnosed with ALS during his college years, previously praised Redmayne for his performance in the film about his rise to fame and his relationship with his first wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). The role earned Redmayne an Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA award for best actor.
“I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well in The Theory of Everything movie. He spent time with ALS sufferers so he could be authentic. At times, I thought he was me," Hawking wrote in a Facebook post following the film's release.
He continued: "Seeing the film has given me the opportunity to reflect on my life. Although I’m severely disabled, I have been successful in my scientific work. I travel widely and have been to Antarctica and Easter Island, down in a submarine and up on a zero gravity flight. One day I hope to go into space. I’ve been privileged to gain some understanding of the way the universe operates through my work. But it would be an empty universe indeed without the people that I love.”
Respect for Hawking was also paid by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed the brilliant physicist in BBC’s 2004 TV movie Hawking.
“I feel so lucky to have known such a truly great man who’s profundity was found both in his work and the communication of that work. Both in person and in books,” Cumberbatch, 41, told The Hollywood Reporter. “He virtually created the publishing genre of popular science. … I will miss our margaritas but will raise one to the stars to celebrate your life and the light of understanding you shone so brightly on them for the rest of us. You were and are a true inspiration for me and for millions around the world.”
Hawking's children Lucy, Robert and Tim announced the news of his passing late Tuesday. "We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years," they shared.
As a graduate student in 1963, Hawking learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was given only a few years to live at the time.
The disease reduced his bodily control to only being able to flex a finger and voluntary eye movements, however his mental capacity was unharmed. Though he eventually spoke with a voice synthesiser following a tracheotomy, he went on to become his generation's leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes.
He also completed A Brief History of Time — a layman's guide to cosmology — which sold more than 10 million copies.