Eddie Redmayne is no stranger to the most challenging of roles.
He won an Oscar for the role of Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, portraying the theoretical physicist’s harrowing battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Redmayne was also nominated for another Academy Award for his role in The Danish Girl, as a man becoming a woman in 1920s Copenhagen. The film was inspired by the life of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe.
The role of Dug in Early Man presented him with a new challenge: become a caveman. The challenge was heightened by the fact that the real Dug is a plasticine model about six inches tall.
So Eddie threw himself wholeheartedly into his research and did the obvious thing – he and co-star Maisie Williams went to Aardman Studios in Bristol, got dressed up in padded cave people suits, and stabbed each other with plastic spears.
For Eddie, the studios were like Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, he said in an Entertainment Weekly interview.
“It’s the most extraordinary place,” he says. “[They have] all these stunning sets that are colorful and vibrant and lifelike, and yet they’re miniscule. And then they have a whole area that’s just the characters’ mouths — like hundreds of thousands of different versions of Dug’s mouth with different expressions. … But they also have this zone which is where the animators go up and get dressed up in huge caveman outfits and film themselves playing the characters, so they can then model from that.”
Eddie faced another challenge with Early Man. It was his first voice-role.
“It’s weirdly much more physical than I expected,” he says. “Because you’re trying to channel all of the character’s traits into just your voice, which, for me, meant that I sort of put my back out and do weird things with my arms.”
Finding Dug’s voice was a process of trial and error based on studying little Dug’s appearance. Dug, Eddie says, has big eyes, a huge mouth and “a kind of eternal optimism”. Eddie claims the huge mouth is a trait he conveniently shares…
So the voice, lighter and a different dialect to Eddie’s normal speaking voice, was the product of fooling around with the big eyes and mouth and optimism, and eventually Dug appeared “ ..like throwing mud at a wall and then trying to sculpt it.”
There was one other challenge Eddie found particularly difficult. Dug’s pet is a pig called Hognob. The name is played off everyone’s favourite chocolate biscuit (or ‘cookie’, for our US readers) the Hobnob. Eddie’s favourite too. Which is why he found himself constantly saying Hobnob instead of Hognob.
As someone who is easily distracted by a chocolate biscuit, I understand completely.
Early Man is due in cinemas tomorrow, February 16th.
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