A brief history of Stephen Hawking on screens

Updated 2018-03-15 11:09:03

"Life would be tragic if it weren't funny," said Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist who passed away early Wednesday morning at the age of 76.

The author of "A Brief History of Time" lived his words in life. Apart from his tremendous contribution to science, he also appeared in a considerable number of films and sitcoms as a humorous man – both as himself or portrayed by others.

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in the biopic "The Theory of Everything." /Photo via mtime.com

2014 – The Theory of Everything

The biographical film about Hawking documented the physicist's life from early childhood as a prodigy to the aftermath of the diagnosis of his disease. The role was taken on by British actor Eddie Redmayne, who went on to beat Benedict Cumberbatch to win the Oscar for best actor at the 2014 Academy Awards.

Intriguingly, Cumberbatch also played Hawking before – in a BBC feature-length drama by Peter Moffat in 2004. Cumberbatch met Hawking twice but didn't develop a relationship. Redmayne, however, devoted more time and energy. He spent six months doing the research and reading "A Brief History of Time." He also spent time meeting the physicist and his family and joined the Hawking family at the London premiere of the film.

"I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well in The Theory of Everything movie. He spent time with ALS sufferers so he could be authentic. At times, I thought he was me," Hawking wrote on his Facebook page.

On the heels of hearing the sad news, Redmayne paid his tribute. "We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet….My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family."

Screenshot of Twitter

2012 – The Big Bang Theory

Hawking first appeared in Season 5 of the popular sitcom in 2012. In Episode 21, named "The Hawking Excitation," Howard was hired to maintain his wheelchair equipment when Hawking was to give a lecture at Caltech. When Sheldon heard the news, he was thrilled to get the opportunity to meet the great man.

The physicist appeared shortly in a cameo at the end of the scene, but he didn't stop just there. Hawking continued to appear in the sitcom in six more episodes, stretching from Season 6 to 11.

"In loving memory of Stephen Hawking. It was an honor to have him on The #BigBangTheory. Thank you for inspiring us and the world," @bigbangtheory wrote on its official Twitter account.

2000 – Futurama

Hawking appeared as himself in two episodes of the TV series in 2000 and 2001. In the first episode, he joined Vice Presidential Action Rangers, led by Al Gore, who aimed to protect the space-time continuum.

Later in 2008, he played as a detached head in the movie "Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs."

1999 – The Simpsons

The thriving American sitcom debuted just one year after Hawking's best-selling book, but the physicist didn't make his way to the animated show until 1999.

The Briton lent his voice to four episodes of the show – first in "They Saved Lisa's Brain," in which the middle Simpson child's Mensa group had taken control of the town but Hawking came out to break their fantasy that their utopia will never succeed.

The appearance earned Hawking big fandom, and he went on to reprise his role in three more episodes in what he called "the best thing on American television."

1993 – Star Trek: The Next Generation

In the finale of Season 6 of "Next Generation," Hawking, Albert Einstein and Issac Newton appeared as holograms playing poker with Lt. Commander Data.

Hawking portrayed his own hologram for this episode, making him the only guest in any Star Trek series to play himself.

The physicist was a self-proclaimed "Star Trek" fan. When taking a tour of the set, he requested and was allowed to sit in the captain's chair of the Enterprise-D.

(By Li Bin)

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