Hawking (2004) another Cumberbatch masterpiece


Tina Dubinsky

Wind back time to ten years ago and you may recall the BBC television film, Hawking. It debuted in April 2004 in the UK to much acclaim.

The story of this touching film provides us with a glimpse into Stephen Hawking’s early years in Cambridge as he discovers his niche in physics, and is diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Hawking film with Benedict Cumberbuch
A young Stephen Hawking reflects upon the deeper meaning of space time as he undergoes medical testing.


Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of 21 year old Stephen Hawking. It is a moving performance, where glimpses of Hawking’s signature smile and thoughtful expressions shine through and lend credence to Benedict’s remarkable portrayal.

Hawking television film with Benedict Cumberbatch
Finding happiness through romance, Benedict Cumberbatch as Hawking proposes to his friend, Jane Wilde.


In a press interview for the BBC,  Benedict reflects on his characterization and production of Hawking. Benedict had two meetings with Stephen Hawking, the first during pre-production:

“It was a script-editing meeting and we were both looking at each other from opposite ends of the table, then we just caught each other’s eye and smiled.”

The second and more terrifying meeting occurred during filming, where Stephen Hawking announced Benedict was much more handsome and less scruffy.

“I’ve seen the photographs and it’s not true,” grins Benedict.

With only one week of rehearsal before filming began, Benedict worked with a movement instructor to portray the different stages of Hawking’s physical decline from the debilitating disease. The Motor Neurone Disease Association  also assisted Benedict by introducing him to two people in different stages of the disease, who allowed him to study and film them.

Hawking is a film about the discovery of time

Awaiting their Nobel Prize award for their exciting discovery about the Universe
Penzias and Wilson (actors Michael Brandon and Tom Hodgkins) discuss their exciting discovery while awaiting their Nobel Prize award.


Highlights of the film include a reenacted media interview in the 1970’s of two American astrophysicists, Arno A Penzias and Robert W Wilson from New Jersey USA. Although not clear at the start of the film, the flash forward moments to the interview is used as a dramatic tool, and provide clarity towards the conclusion of Hawking.

Hawking is compelling entertainment. Filmed on location at Cambridge and in London, the cinematography realizes the grand formality and traditions of the times.

Hawking television film - Cambridge scenes
Bike riding was very popular in Cambridge in the ’60’s. The film captures this and other aspects of the University


One of the most poignant and climatic scenes of the film, unfolds on platform one of a railway station, the ‘Cambridge’ platform where Hawking has an epiphany during a conversation with a stranger. It is a touching scene, the beginning of a tear jerker finale and as a whole, deserving of the critical acclaim the film has received.


Hawking television film (2004)
On the train to Cambridge.


  • Nominated for two BAFTA TV Awards, Best Actor and Best Single Drama
  • Nominated for the Golden Nymph, Best Television Film UK
  • Winner of the Golden Nymph, Television Films – Best Performance by an Actor – Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Hawking – Only human (but still a genius!)



This article was originally published at U-Foria.com, August 3rd 2014.

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