March 27, 2017; Slate
Iconic cosmological genius Stephen Hawking recently held auditions for a human voice to replace his trademark same-old computer-generated communicator of the last 30 years, which is a brief history of time in his field of expertise. The competition was organized as a charitable endeavor.
Hawking is well known not just for his fiercely intelligent and creative scientific mind and his long survival with ALS but also for his courageous defense of humanity that he is trying to save from imploding and exploding the planet, as a passionate advocate for many causes.
Hawking teamed up with British charity Comic Relief to produce a mash-up video to document the cavalcade of celebrities and movie stars lining up to hawk their speechifying skills. Liam Neeson, Stephen Fry, Anna Kendrick, Miss Piggy, and other skilled thespians, as well as Broadway musical impresarios Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lin-Manuel Miranda, lightly aggressive Hell’s Kitchen star Gordon Ramsey and underemployed Bill Gates were among those filmed auditioning for the role of Stephen’s lifetime.
In his taped audition, Ramsey drew from his well-rehearsed lexicon of expletives, and in response Hawking did the same. Lloyd Webber added some Hawking flavor to his rendition of the song “Memory” from Cats. Liam Neeson also hammed it up with a little harmless pandering, prefacing his recitation of his famous tough guy monologue from the thriller Taken with “Listen to my voice…It’s deep, it’s sexy, it’s got a tinge of … physics.” Hawking was not in a rush to choose his vocal ambassador and even turned down Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, co-stars of his recent biopic.
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Perhaps using the most fertile imagination of all would-be’s, one of the stars of Star Wars Episode VII, John Boyega, said, “I feel like I’m the best man for the job. I’ve been to space before. You talk about space. I’ve lived it.”
The Comic Relief video is a must see. Not one candidate in this shimmering pool of larger-than-life talent, seemed to be staking their careers or egos on nabbing this part, but rather were paying tribute to a heroic man whose humor and strength of moral character magnify the impact of his groundbreaking work in such books as A Brief History of Time that render complex theories palatable and understandable to the rest of the Earth not gifted with his off the charts brilliance and conceptual fortitude and imagination. It was a humorous production, with actors feigning desperation, sultriness, or a faux-blasé attitude, and often inhabiting in exaggerated registers roles they are well known for.
Hawking summarily dismissed all of these amazingly talented and vibrant personalities, for the one true voice. Who? Well, most readers will have seen this actor in a multiplicity of films spanning five or six decades. The nuovo voce has a British accent, and while this versatile actor has never played James Bond, he was paired with the arguably best-ever Bond actor Sean Connery in a memorable 70’s film, The Man Who Would Be King. We have no idea if this position is compensated, but the pay is in the honor for certain.
We’ve buried the lede long enough: At the recent introduction, Hawking, donning his new voice, said, “Hello. My name is Stephen Hawking. You were only supposed to blow up the bloody atom.”
Michael Caine is the man who would be Stephen Hawking.—Louis Altman