Hayley Armstrong in Production Services

16/07/2014

What Filming Locations Were Used in The Theory of Everything?

Where was The Theory of Everything filmed? This new biopic follows part of the life of physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane Wilde from their meeting at Cambridge University and details some of the challenges they overcame together. Eddie Redmayne stars as a young Stephen Hawking with Felicity Jones appearing as his wife. 

The film focuses on the relationship of Stephen and Jane while they were at Cambridge and beyond, dealing with life-changing difficulties presented by the diagnosis of Hawking’s Lou Gehrig's Disease or ALS, a type of Motor Neurone Disease. The Theory of everything offers an insight into the biographical history of the legend that is Stephen Hawking.


Creative England's Involvement

Creative England was involved with The Theory of Everything from the early pre-production stages. It quickly became clear that Cambridge would form a vital backdrop for the film, as it was here where Hawking studied and also met and fell in love with his first wife, Jane Wilde. As you can imagine, Cambridge University is quite selective about which film projects it allows to shoot on its premises. Our team was able to provide crucial details about which of the buildings would be most appropriate to accommodate shooting and also provided information on applying for permission to film on site. We also facilitated meetings between the production and Cambridge City Council which resulted in the film being granted considerable access to shoot in and around Cambridge and re-create key scenes from Hawking’s life.

What Filming Locations Were Used In The Theory of Everything?

A number of locations doubles were also used for sites that were harder to secure. For example, it’s well known that Hawking studied at Trinity Hall, however the building proved to be unsuitable for filming, so, St John’s College was used as a double for this location, hosting the ‘May Ball’ scene, one of the largest set pieces in the film.

“St. John’s is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful colleges at Cambridge,” explains screenwriter and producer Anthony McCarten. “The main hall is known as ‘the wedding cake’ because it has such grandeur about it.” Another key location was the Cavendish laboratory where the atom was first split and where Hawking is entrusted with a key, as if being passed the task of discovering new break throughs. “Places like Cavendish add to the magic of a film because of what comes through in its very look and design,” adds McCarten.

Professor Stephen Hawking, his two children Lucy and Timothy Hawking, Jane Wilde and her current husband Jonathan Hellyer Jones attended the set during the shooting of the May Ball scene. Jane also escorted the film makers to locations around Cambridge that were meaningful to her.

Some of the Cambridge locations used in the film include Trinity Lane and the Arts School lecture theatre, which housed scenes set in Rutherford laboratory and lecture hall. As the film spans two decades of Hawking’s life, Production Designer John Paul Kelly and his team did have to recreate certain locations including the interior of the Cavendish Library as the original was relocated in the early 1970s. Luckily, Kelly and his team were able to use documentary and newsreel footage for reference.

Director James Marsh said, “Shooting in Cambridge gave us a texture, a sense of university life and of academic life; so much of Stephen’s life has been spent in academia. We were able to shoot exteriors and some interiors for a week there, thankfully including the crucial set piece of the university’s May Ball, which brings Stephen and Jane to a romantic breakthrough.”

The film also shot on location in London, using Hampton Court Palace in Richmond and Lancaster House to double for Buckingham Palace during the film’s opening and closing scenes. In addition, The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden doubled for Bayreuth Opera in Geneva and the historic Harrow School in North West London was used to recreate the interiors of Stephen’s college of Trinity Hall.


To find out how our Production Services Team can help you with filming in Cambridge or filming in universities head here or follow them on Twitter

  • Filming Locations
  • crew and facilities