With his immense talent and considerable charm, it didn’t take long for Eddie Redmayne to make the leap from up-and-coming teen actor with a couple of TV roles on his resume to Academy Award winner.
Three years after his breakout role in 2012’s Les Misérables, Redmayne won the Best Actor Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of the late Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything (and earned a second nomination the following year for The Danish Girl). Adding to his fame, Redmayne then joined the Harry Potter franchise, starring as Newt Scamander in 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
As Redmayne prepares to reprise the magical role for the Fantastic Beasts sequel, The Crimes of Grindelwald, we’ve gathered up some surprising facts about the 36-year-old actor.
1. HE WAS CLASSMATES WITH PRINCE WILLIAM.
The actor has revealed that while in school at Eton College, he was classmates with Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. The two were even elected for The Eton Society, an elite group at the school, and played rugby together. “He’s a wonderful man,” Redmayne told Glamour. “I always felt slightly sorry for him because everyone wanted to tackle the future king of England. He took all the hits.”
Other famous schoolmates of Redmayne at Eton were Avengers actor Tom Hiddleston and William’s younger brother, Prince Harry.
2. HE IS COLORBLIND (SORT OF).
Redmayne has been very open about being slightly colorblind, something his wife Hannah Bagshawe helps him out with when it comes to fashion.
“I almost feel like a bit of a fraud when I say I’m colorblind, because I see in color,” Redmayne explained to GQ. “[I have problems when], for example, I’m shooting a scene, and you have to hit a mark on the floor, and it’s a red marker on green grass. With my peripheral vision I haven’t got a chance. If I look down I can see the difference between the red and the green, but I don’t know how to explain it to people.”
3. HE FIRST REALIZED HE WAS FAMOUS WHEN HE WAS ON A PLANE ... SLEEPING.
Like most actors, Redmayne first realized his level of fame when he was recognized off the set. But when it happened for him, he was sleeping … and on a plane. He once explained that after he awoke during a flight, the passenger sitting next to him asked if he was important, because the flight attendants were watching him sleep.
4. HE WAS EMBARRASSED OF HIS FRECKLES UNTIL HE MET JULIANNE MOORE.
With countless freckles all over his face, Redmayne was admittedly embarrassed by them growing up ... then he auditioned for the role of Julianne Moore’s son in 2007’s Savage Grace. Redmayne told Conan O’Brien that Moore walked in and knew he had to be cast just on appearance alone. (He was.)
5. HE LIED ABOUT HIS HORSEBACK RIDING EXPERIENCE TO LAND A ROLE.
During auditions for the TV miniseries Elizabeth I, Redmayne gave director Tom Hooper the impression that he was an expert horseback rider. Unfortunately, he was lying—and when it came down to actually performing the task, it was more than obvious he had never been on a horse.
“I almost killed myself, almost killed half of the crew,” Redmayne told Conan O’Brien, explaining how Hooper then promptly got on the loudspeaker to yell, “You’re a f***ing liar, Redmayne!”
6. STEPHEN HAWKING PRAISED HIS PERFORMANCE IN THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.
When Redmayne portrayed Stephen Hawking for The Theory of Everything, even Hawking was impressed. In addition to sharing his praise for the actor on his Facebook page, the film’s director James Marsh shared how intense the famed physicist’s reaction to the movie truly was. “He emailed us, and said there were certain points when he thought he was watching himself,” Marsh told Variety.
7. HE BECAME THE FIRST MAN BORN IN THE 1980S TO WIN AN OSCAR IN ACTING.
For his portrayal of Hawking, Redmayne became the first man born in the 1980s to win an Academy Award for acting. He is also one of 17 actors who have won Oscars for portraying real-life people while they were alive. (Hawking passed away three years after Redmayne’s win.)
8. HIS AUDITION FOR STARS WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS WAS A BIT OF A DISASTER.
Before he became a part of the world of Harry Potter, Redmayne auditioned to become a part of the Star Wars galaxy. He auditioned for the role of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, but Redmayne said the production was so secretive that he really had no idea who the character was or how he fit into the story. To compensate, he tried doing a Darth Vader imitation. It did not go well.
“My Star Wars audition was pretty catastrophically bad,” he admitted in 2014. “There’s this wonderful casting director called Nina Gold, who I absolutely love. I went in and did this scene and after seven times of trying to play a baddie [Gold] was like, ‘Got anything else, Eddie?’ I said, ‘Okay, that’s a childhood dream crushed.'"
9. HE AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF TOM RIDDLE IN HARRY POTTER.
Years before scoring the lead role in Fantastic Beasts, Redmayne auditioned for the original Harry Potter series. “I actually auditioned to play Tom Riddle when I was back at university,” Redmayne told Empire. “I properly failed and didn’t get a call back. Over the years I always hoped I might be cast as a member of the Weasley family, but unfortunately not."
10. HE WAS THE FIRST AND ONLY CHOICE FOR FANTASTIC BEASTS.
Though Redmayne didn't land the part of Riddle, that failed audition got his foot in the door of the Harry Potter universe. When it came time to cast Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts, producer David Heyman immediately thought of Redmayne.
"From the outset, Eddie Redmayne was our first and only choice,” Heyman told The Telegraph. “Not only does he look as if he lives in 1926, but he has all the elements required to be Newt: he’s smart, funny, utterly British, and immensely sympathetic—even as an outsider more comfortable with his beasts than with people."