Entertainment

Saturday 23 September 2017

Hawking's carer: life is never dull with Stephen

Professor Stephen Hawking accompanied by Professor Kip Thorne (left) and director Stephen Finnigan (right)
Professor Stephen Hawking accompanied by Professor Kip Thorne (left) and director Stephen Finnigan (right)
Professor Stephen Hawking arrives for the gala screening of Hawking on the opening night of the 33rd Cambridge Film Festival at the Cambridge Picture House
Professor Stephen Hawking accompanied by director Stephen Finnigan arrives for the gala screening of Hawking
Professor Stephen Hawking arrives for the gala screening of Hawking on the opening night of the 33rd Cambridge Film Festival

Ben Kendall

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking's carer said that "working with Stephen is never dull" as she escorted him to the UK premiere of a biopic of his life.

Written and narrated by the 71-year-old author of A Brief History Of Time, Professor Hawking tells how he overcame severe disability to become the most famous living scientist in the world.

He attended a reception at Emmanuel College before a showing at the nearby Picturehouse cinema for the opening night of the Cambridge Film Festival.

As she helped him on his arrival, one of his carers, Claire Dutson, said: "I have worked with Stephen for 11 years - it has sometimes been harrowing but mostly fun.

"People see him as a renowned physicist but I just know him as Stephen, who has a great sense of humour."

Stephen Finnigan, the film's director, supported this description of the University of Cambridge professor.

He said: "Stephen was very different to how I imagined him to be.

"You expect him to be quite plain speaking, quite academic and quite brainy but actually you can have a laugh with Stephen Hawking.

"I went for a curry with him this afternoon and you can chat to him about anything."

In the trailer for the film, the University of Cambridge professor says: "This film is a personal journey through my life."

"I have lived five decades longer than doctors predicted. I have tried to make good use of my time."

Prof Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease, when he was 21. He was told he had only a few years to live.

The film goes back to his childhood and his student days and shows him at home with carers.

It features interviews with his family, including his first wife Jane Wilde, along with friends and fellow academics.

American theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who has been friends with Prof Hawking since their student days, attended the event.

He said: "Having known him this long, his handicap is pretty irrelevant.

"In fact I think his handicap allowed him to do science he may not otherwise have done.

"He is the most stubborn man I know and that stubbornness and that drive is in part motivated by his disability.

"It was clear very early on that he was a genius but his popular appeal came as a surprise.

"When we first met I wouldn't have ever imagined seeing him on the big screen."

In a question and answer session after the film, Prof Hawking said: "All my life I have lived with the threat of an early death so I hate to waste time."

Asked about his view of God and an afterlife, he added: "It's theoretically possible to copy a brain onto a computer to provide a form of life after death.

"However, this is way beyond our present capabilities.

"I think the afterlife is a fairytale for people who are afraid of the dark."

Press Association

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment