Text by Kee | Photos courtesy of Omega
It was Eddie Redmayne's first time in China in the role of an Omega Ambassador
Omega CEO Raynald Raynald Aeschlimann and Eddie Redmyane at the Planet Omega exhibition in Shanghai
Eddie Redmayne has been an Omega ambassador since 2017
Eddie Redmayne took in the Planet Omega exhibition in Shanghai

An actor’s actor. An underrated fashion icon. A restless genius. Prolific British thespian Eddie Redmayne isn’t the atypical Hollywood leading man but that’s also why everyone’s rooting for him. We catch up with the Omega poster boy in Shanghai to talk about playing superheroes, acting techniques, and keeping time.


MANIFESTO: How has your trip to China been?

EDDIE REDMAYNE: We got in Thursday morning. I slept very well on the plane. I spent yesterday exploring Shanghai, which is wonderful. I haven’t been here for about 12 years. Moreover, it’s extraordinary how it’s changed. So that was a good day. I went for a five-hour walk and we walked all the way down the Bund and over into the French Concession. And we went to the Yuyuan Garden and the Town God’s Temple. We stumbled across this extraordinary market selling birds. Then last night I was so tired and we ended up eating in the hotel. But the food was Cantonese and it was absolutely extraordinary. Of course, we had to drink a martini overlooking the Bund at night with all the lights on, it was breathtaking. I love this city. I love the architecture, from the old to the new. It feels so vibrant and filled with energy.

I used to travel more in the early years of my career. And in fact, 12 years ago when I came to Shanghai, I travelled to Yangshuo and a tiny little village called Huanyao. And I remember being blown away by the landscape and the beauty of this country. But as your life gets busier and children are harder to go onto planes with, I’ve become a little less adventurous. My brother lives in Hong Kong with his family and I’ve been there to visit myself a year or two ago, but I still haven’t managed to take my family because we just can’t bear the notion of the flight.

M: Did your wife make the trip to Shanghai too?

ER: We were hoping that she would come to Shanghai, but we have two very little children. Then, we thought about bringing them. But the idea of bringing two children under the age of three is just too much.

M: Did you know the Chinese fans gave you a nickname?

ER: I do know the nickname. I first found out when I was doing the press for the first Fantastic Beasts movie when a room of 30 journalists told me and I feel very privileged to have a nickname. I can’t quite work it out. I think it means little freckles, right? I have lots of freckles and I’m quite tall but it’s a lovely thing.

M: Obviously you are here in the capacity of an Omega ambassador. You have been with them since 2016. Can you recall your first experience with the brand and the connection you have with it?

ER: My father, he’s a very stylish man and an elegant man, he has a thin gold De Ville watch with a leather strap and it’s the only watch he’s ever had Ð he still wears it. And he was given it as a gift. And it is simple and it is elegant, but it is also so rich in its beauty. And so that’s what I always knew a watch to be when I was growing up. And so when I started to work with Omega, it felt like a wonderful thing because it felt rooted in who I was and what I saw elegance to be.

The most impressive experience with the brand I suppose was going to the Olympics. We just had our first baby, a little girl called Iris. And we took Iris to Rio and we were staying in Copacabana and watching the volleyball happening on the Copacabana beach, then getting to go to the swim meet and to also meet the time keepers. The time keepers go to where the Olympics is taking place years before. They take their families and go and live there for two years and start to work on it. And I think that hearing their stories was pretty amazing.

M: Of all the watches you own, which is your fave?

ER: Of all the watches I have bought, my favourite is the Seamaster and it has the deepest history of the lot. There are these lines across the face that are based on the decking of ships. But it has also the versatility of the rubber strap. It’s elegant, it feels modern, and it’s very comfortable.

I see a watch like I see art, like you buy them not for investment. You buy them because they’re beautiful things that you want to live with. They are part of who you are. And if they happen to increase in value, then that’s a wonderful thing. For me, the story is everything. And what I love about Omega is the brand has so many stories. And it’s lovely to wear something that you know is steeped in history.

M: We’re sure your family wears an Omega as well.

ER: My wife wears one of the gentleman’s watches. It’s got a metal bracelet. For my brother’s 40th birthday this year and my little brother’s 30th birthday last year, I bought them both an Omega watch. We went to the store on Bond Street in London and we talked through the specifics and they chose a watch.

M: If you had a time machine, where would you go?

ER: I think it would be the Roaring Twenties because I love the fashion from that period. I love the jazz, I love the champagnes, I love The Great Gatsby, and it would probably also be the Great Depression. So probably really part of the way we see it now in the movies, it looks fun

M: Your roles are often about real people. Do you see yourself moving away from that scope?

ER: I would love to do something contemporary. My plan was to do one after the second Fantastic Beasts. I wanted to do like some contemporary movie, maybe American. I’m doing a film right now playing a scientist with Felicity Jones, a period drama. But the reason I did that was because it’s a very, very special story. But I would love to do something contemporary.

M: Or a superhero movie perhaps?

ER: Why not? I love superheroes. I’m very excited to see the new Avengers film. And the new Spider-Man. As a kid, I love Spider-Man. So, I’m curious and I’ve gotten to see all of those films.

M: Newt Scamander is kind of a superhero too.

ER: Exactly. What I love about Newt Scamander is that he’s so different to all the superheroes. He’s much more shy and reclusive, but he has his own kind of inner strength. And what I love is that even though he’s not the most powerful with it, he has the coolest magic. You know, he uses his wand in different ways and has a kind of an eccentricity to him that I think it is really unique. So I love playing him.

The oddest thing is that quite often in life, I’ve been asked what parts I want to play. But the best work I think I’ve done has always been from when other people go, you should play this. I can’t play that. I’m terrified and that feels very far from what I’m able to do. And it tends to be the best work. So in some ways, I’m sort of relaxed in the idea. I’m not necessarily the best person to choose my roles. It’s normally an instinct. When I read the script out of fear that tends to be when I feel it. When there’s a slight knot in my stomach at the prospective of playing the role, that’s the moment I know it might be something interesting.

M: Fantastic Beasts has become such an overwhelming success in your career. Any stories of what happened behind the scenes that you can share?

ER: There have been some really odd moments. Normally when filming scenes with some of the creatures like the Chinese dragon creature and the lion, the reality is that it is just a massive green pole set up in front of me with a really huge man dressed in a green suit covering his whole face and he is picking me up and throwing me around. You just have to be there to see how ridiculous it looks during filming. As I was doing it, I was just not sure this was going to work.

M: Fans of Fantastic Beasts will love to know if there’s any things you can share about the next instalment.

ER: I wish I could, but we’re sort of sworn to secrecy. We’re hoping to start shooting later this year. I think I know as little as you do in the sense that I get rumours of where we might be shooting and what countries it is set in. Then, I’m also sworn to secrecy, but I am looking forward to it as I have such an extraordinary time making those films. Moreover, I have an amazing time promoting them as well, because the stories that J.K. Rowling writes seem to have a universal quality to them. I get to travel and meet her fans all over the world. It is a special thing. So I feel like I haven’t really given you anything there. I apologise, but I’m not allowed to.

M: What is your prep work like before you take on any role?

ER: In the way I choose a role, I wish there was some kind of science to it. It’s purely instinctive. It’s like when you read a script, if I’m engrossed, I would suddenly feel wowed! Fear lives very closely with creativity. Even if the role is about a fictional world, I would go and immerse myself in that world. So whether it’s meeting people who track creatures, going to the zoos and meeting people that care for animalsÉ You know try to immerse yourself as much in that work. I try to do that quite far before filming. It is why I don’t do that many films back-to-back because I like to do that in advance so that all that stuff kind of ruminates in your soul. And then you can just be free to play it. So does that sound like a technique? I don’t know if that’s a technique, but it’s some sort of it.

M: The great Stephen Hawking passed away just over a year ago. And of course, you own an Oscar for portraying him in The Theory of Everything. Share with us some of the memories you have of him as well as prepping for the role.

ER: When I met Stephen, most of the neurone disease had gripped him so much that he could only use this muscle in his face to talk. So he had a computer with the alphabet. And when the cursor went over one letter, he would twitch his eye and the sensor on his glasses would spell one letter. So in real, when you hear Stephen speak, he often wrote it beforehand, usually what he’s presented before or when he was interviewed. He had already written the answers because it takes a long time to do so. The truth is when I was talking to Stephen, I only spent a day or two with him but he maybe only said 20 to 30 sentences. And also I studied history of art and I’m a really bad scientist. So I don’t think he was telling me more about his life and his science. But I’ve tried to read his books and understand as much as I could.

M: You’re a very fashionable man and you’ve got a certain style. What is your style philosophy and how does it apply to the watches your wear too?

ER: For me, my dad was sort of my style icon. He’s an incredibly elegant man, and he doesn’t try too hard. But he always has to wear an elegant suit with something that has character and flair. And I suppose that’s kind of how I’ve always dressed. I’m colour blind. So I’m not very good with some colours and I’m scared of mixing too many things in case they clash. But for me, that simplicity of elegance with a touch of flavour is what I like my watch to be as well. Something extra that is contemporary and modern, but I tend to dress up first and then I’ll choose my watch in relation to the clothes.

M: The thing we know about you is that you have a pretty squeaky clean image. Tell us something about you that will shock the rest of us.

ER: You need to ask my wife this question. She would come up with a list. I think I definitely have the capacity to be impatient. I also have the capacity to be a control freak.
So that’s just place to start. I also have constant anxiety.

M: What would you be doing today if you weren’t acting?

ER: I studied art history at university and I used to do printmaking when I was younger. And so I think maybe I would have loved to work in the art world. My wife worked as an antiques dealer for a while. And I find old objects beautiful.


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