BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014
Press Office
Search the BBC and Web
Search BBC Press Office

BBC Homepage

Contact Us


Benedict Cumberbatch plays Stephen Hawking

Hawking - the story of Stephen Hawking's early years told for the first time in a major drama for BBC TWO


It is 1963, and a young cosmologist celebrates his 21st birthday with a party at his home in St Albans.


The next two years are to be tumultuous, frightening and victorious but as the party begins he has little idea of what is in store for him.


Written by Peter Moffat - writer of the acclaimed series Cambridge Spies and North Square - Hawking stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Dunkirk, Spooks, Silent Witness) as the young Stephen Hawking who, as a bright and ambitious 21-year-old PhD student at Cambridge University, is diagnosed with the debilitating motor neurone disease and given two years to live.


Against the odds, he goes on to achieve scientific success and worldwide acclaim, in particular with his best-selling book A Brief History Of Time.


Hawking producer Jessica Pope says: "Stephen's is an heroic story of great achievement. It's about the nature of time on both a deeply personal and a universal scale.


"At the moment when his intellect was striving to grow to its full potential his physical self was cruelly closing down.


"The fact that he never spoke about it, but through sheer force of will and personality determined to be bigger than his illness, is inspirational."


Benedict Cumberbatch says: "I knew very little about Stephen Hawking before starting the project other than this person, a celebrated scientist with an iconic presence.


"I had no idea that for the first 21 years of his life he was able bodied and lived a normal adolescence, which made the role and Hawking the person all the more fascinating to me."


Benedict Cumberbatch's previous credits include Dunkirk Cambridge Spies and Silent Witness.


Michael Brandon, who is currently playing Jerry Springer in the hugely successful West End production of Jerry Springer - The Opera, plays Arno Penzias, an American Nobel prize-winning scientist whose work provided physical evidence to support Hawking's Big Bang theory.


Lisa Dillon plays Hawking's first wife, Jane Wilde, who meets the young cosmologist at a party in 1963 and is instantly intrigued by Stephen's talk of stars and the universe.


Lisa is currently playing Desdemona in Othello at the RSC. Her previous credits include The Master Builder and Stephen Fry's Bright Young Things.


John Sessions - The Lost Prince, Judge John Deed - plays Dennis Sciama, Hawking's academic supervisor and mentor at Cambridge.

Director Philip Martin worked with Stephen Hawking on the acclaimed series Stephen Hawking's Universe.


He says: "Stephen was at the heart of a scientific revolution at the start of the 1960s, which has transformed the way we think about ourselves and our place in the cosmos, we now know that our Universe began with a big bang some 15 billion years ago.


"Yet today, even though Stephen Hawking is one of the world's most recognisable people, few people know about his extraordinary contribution to cosmology, or the dramatic human story that lies behind the science."


Writer Peter Moffat adds: "Hawking is probably the singly most challenging and rewarding experience of my working life and the process made me completely re-shape my thinking on so many levels.


"The challenge for me was how to make that experience thrilling and dramatic and to make it work in the form of a 90 minute drama.


"The process was made much easier as a result of the access I had to Professor Hawking and other scientists such as Roger Penrose and Arno Penzias.


"I hope this film will both entertain and contribute to a better understanding of a truly extraordinary area of science."


Philip Martin's directing credits include Stephen Hawking's Universe, a six part series for BBC TWO on the origins of the cosmos, presented by Stephen Hawking; Wings of Angels, a drama for BBC TWO about God, Darwin and the Galapogos finches.


Hawking was filmed on location in Cambridge and London and is a BBC TWO collaboration between BBC Drama and Horizon in BBC Science.


The executive producers are Laura Mackie, Head of BBC Drama Serials, and John Lynch, Creative Director, BBC Science.


Hawking is on BBC TWO, Tuesday 13 April 2004, 9.00pm.

< previous section next section >
Printable version top^

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy