Eddie Redmayne received approval of his performance in The Theory of Everything from Stephen Hawking himself

By Stephanie Petit and Phil Boucher
March 14, 2018 08:17 AM

Tributes to Stephen Hawking have been pouring in since news of his death at age 76 broke on Wednesday, including from the actor who carefully studied his life to portray him onscreen.

Eddie Redmayne, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his turn as the brilliant physicist in the 2014 movie The Theory of Everything, praised Hawking in a statement given to PEOPLE.

“We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet,” Redmayne, 36, said. “My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family.”

Felicity Jones, who portrayed Hawking’s first wife Jane in the film opposite Redmayne, told PEOPLE in a statement, “So sad to hear of Stephen’s death. Stephen Hawking pushed the boundaries of who we are and what we believe.”

“An extraordinary human who could bring humor to the most despairing moments and find hope in the unknown. He showed the world that anything is possible. My thoughts are with his wonderful family in this difficult time.”

Hawking’s family released a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning confirming he died in his home, according to The Guardian.

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, with first wife Jane, said in the statement. It continued, in part, “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world.”

"The Theory Of Everything" - UK Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals
Felicity Jones, Stephen Hawking, Jane Hawking and Eddie Redmayne
| Credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

On top of winning the Academy Award, Redmayne also received approval of his performance from the scientist himself, who was reliant on a wheelchair for much of his life due to a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

“I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well,” Hawking said in a Facebook post at the time of the film’s release. He added, “At times, I thought it was me.”

Continued Hawking, “Seeing the film has given me the opportunity to reflect on my life. Although I’m severely disabled, I have been successful in my scientific work. I travel widely and have been to Antarctica and Easter Island, down in a submarine and up on a zero gravity flight. One day I hope to go into space.”

“I’ve been privileged to gain some understanding of the way the universe operates through my work. But it would be an empty universe indeed without the people that I love.”

Eddie Redmayne and Stephen Hawking
| Credit: Liam Daniel/Focus Features; Leon Neal/AFP/Getty

Redmayne was understandably daunted about tackling the role of the world-renowned professor.

“I was so nervous,” Redmayne told reporters at the Toronto Film Festival back in 2014. “Then five days before we started filming I was lucky enough to meet him. I basically was so nervous, I just vomited forth information about Stephen Hawking to Stephen Hawking. He just sat there and took it and was like, ‘Yeah, I know. I am me.’ ”