One could be forgiven for pegging Eddie Redmayne as a straight-up period actor. The Eton- and Cambridge-educated 26-year-old had his professional debut in the Globe Theatre’s production of “Twelfth Night” and has starred opposite both Helen Mirren and Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth. He will next be seen in the “The Other Boleyn Girl,” opening Feb. 29, in which he plays William Stafford, a steward who becomes Mary’s (Scarlett Johansson) savior.
“What’s hilarious is he and Mary Boleyn end up looking after Anne Boleyn’s child, who was in fact Elizabeth,” says Redmayne. “There was a point when ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ were going to come out at the same time and, in one, I was Elizabeth’s foster father and, in the other one, I was trying to assassinate her. At that point I knew it was probably enough now with the Elizabethan stuff.”
The middle son of a London banker, Redmayne read art history at Cambridge before diving headfirst into an acting career. A starring role opposite Jonathan Pryce in a 2004 London stage production of Edward Albee’s “The Goat” led to his breakout part as Matt Damon’s son in “The Good Shepherd.” He recently wrapped “Powder Blue” with Forest Whitaker and Jessica Biel in which he plays “an L.A. mortician who has a social anxiety disorder, so when he meets women he gets asthma attacks and passes out” and this spring he appears in “Savage Grace” beside Julianne Moore.
Based on a true story, the latter has Redmayne as Tony, the troubled son of Barbara (Moore) and Brooks Baekeland, an heir to the Bakelite fortune. After Barbara and Brooks separate, Tony and his mother’s relationship becomes increasingly toxic (and sexual), leading son to murder mother in London in 1972.
“It was really through circumstance that he ended up where he was, through the claustrophobia of his mother completely clinging on to him and strangling him,” explains Redmayne. “I think it’s an interesting study of how money can affect you and constrict talent: Barbara was a talented actress, Brooks was a great writer and a fantastic mind and Tony had his own talents….Yet if you have that much wealth and no need or drive to do anything, it can suffocate you.”
Indeed, it seems that perhaps the actor should be more concerned with an onslaught of oddball roles than period ones.
“In ‘The Goat’ I was playing a gay New Yorker, son of a liberal family, whose father is f-cking a goat and he gets so confused by this he ends up snogging his father. Then cut to a couple of years later and I was in Spain shooting ‘Savage Grace’ as another gay New Yorker, this time being seduced by his mother,” sums up Redmayne. “So I was like, ‘Oh there you go: symmetry! I’m getting typecast.'”