From playing Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything to Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, British actor Eddie Redmayne knows how to disappear into a role. Which brings us to Cabaret, the astounding 2021 production of the classic musical that won seven Olivier awards, including Best Actor for Redmayne for his turn as ‘The Emcee’ of the decadent Kit Kat Club in 1920s Berlin. With the cast album now available, the 41-year-old star took time to reflect on what’s been one of the highlights of an already astonishing career.
How does it feel to bring this album out now?
“Playing this part in Cabaret was one of the few bucket list things in my life. And I don’t have many. The process of putting this piece together has been six years in the making, and it’s so thrilling when something you’ve dreamt of supersedes your expectations. There was something about the intimacy, and the raucousness and the sensuality of it that was so alert [especially] because we’d been so confined in our houses [during the pandemic].”
How did you cope with the demands of the show?
“It’s like being an athlete. So I would go home straightaway [after the performance]. You’re not drinking, you’re not going out, however tempting that is when wonderful friends and people are coming to see it. You have to be monastic almost. And it takes its toll on life outside of things. It becomes all-consuming.”
Is that why it’s not gone to Broadway? To do it all again would be exhausting…
“What can I say? Never say never. But there is definitely a physical cost to doing a part like that. It’s as knackering as it is exhilarating.”
Given your co-star Jessie Buckley has released an album with Bernard Butler, is there any chance of you two doing an album together?
“I love you for offering that! I’ll propose that to Jessie! She’s so kind. She’ll find a really nice way of letting me down. But to be absolutely clear, I don’t have the vocals for it. I just couldn’t believe when Jessie’s album came out. She was in the middle of doing Cabaret. She was promoting a film [The Lost Daughter] for which she was nominated for an Oscar. Then the amount of toll Cabaret took on all of us. And there’s suddenly an album comes out. And she’s nominated for a Mercury [prize]! Where the fuck did she have the time?”
You started years ago in Sam Mendes’ production of Oliver! Did that give you the musical bug?
“Yeah. It was the London Palladium. It was a gigantic production. It was Jonathan Pryce playing Fagin. I would leave school, leave maths class, to get on the tube and go to Oxford Circus, and do these shows for £20 a show and I found it completely seductive and loved every minute of it. I’ve done lots of theatre since but there’s something specific about the mixture of music and hearing the orchestra tune up and the dancers stretching that is so magical.”
Do you know if anyone who was involved with the classic movie version of Cabaret has seen your version, like Liza Minnelli, for example?
“Oh gosh, no, Liza didn’t. But one of the great moments for me was on our opening night, I had been sent some flowers. And you’re quite nervous on opening night and finding the time to open these things when you’re focused on the show [was difficult]. So it was only in the interval of the opening night that I opened this card, and it was from Joel Grey [who played the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret on Broadway and in the 1972 film adaptation]. He was in New York. He hasn’t seen the show, but he sent me the most beautiful card, which was very moving and galvanising into the second act!”
Looking at your wider career, do you think you’ll be known as Newt from the Fantastic Beasts films?
“I have no idea. But I love Newt. So if that’s the case, then I’m thrilled by that.”
Would you love to dive back into the Wizarding World if a fourth film came around?
“I mean, at the moment, there’s nothing that I’m aware of. So, as I’m aware, it’s not something that’s on the cards.”
Whether it’s Cabaret or films like The Good Nurse, you seem to take on challenging, controversial roles. Is that what drives you?
“There’s genuinely no method to it. It’s purely reactive and instinctive. So it’s just responding to a script or a story that had been sent. Of course, you want to challenge yourself and not just play to type. And I found, looking back at my career, there were periods where I’m doing nothing but things in tweed! And then, in the past few years, through The Trial of the Chicago 7 or The Good Nurse, [I’ve emerged] into more late 20th century [roles]… maybe one day, I’ll go from tweed, out of scrubs, and into contemporary dress.”
Any other bucket list musicals you want to tick off?
“No, I adored Les Misérables and I got to do that one, so I feel pretty chuffed that I’ve managed to do Cabaret and Les Mis. That’s good enough for me.”
The 2021 London Cast Recording of ‘Cabaret’ is out now via Decca Records