"It was a truly amazing experience -- both the film's astounding recreation of the earlier film shoot and its depiction of that so-called week," says Redmayne, who won the Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Play for his work in John Logan's Red.
"I was incredibly ignorant of Marilyn's work. I mean I knew the Andy Warhol posters. But it was astounding when I watched The Prince and the Showgirl, particularly as an actor myself, to see her lightness of touch on film -- where you're having to do things again and again -- and to see how effortless she makes it look, especially in the context of the rest of what was going on during that filming."
Not only did Monroe and Olivier, who co-starred in the film, clash repeatedly during the shoot, but there was an amazing amount of off-screen drama, as well, notes Redmayne. "There was the very complicated situation between Olivier and Vivian Leigh; they were each playing it off with many partners. And to think Olivier would have had the extraordinary confidence to think that he could impress Monroe, even though she had just married Arthur Miller. Not to mention the presence on the set at all times of Paula Strasberg, who was this doyenne of the Method school of acting and Monroe's confidante. And then here's Colin, who is watching all this and getting a real education of sorts."
"And yet the hierarchy was such that, while first year students were making tea for the fifth year students, they did get a tremendous sense that they could do anything. And that's Colin, who thinks the world is his oyster -- and then along comes Marilyn, who gives him an emotional education that he badly needs."
Speaking of education, Redmayne recalls his own introduction to the acting profession. "I didn't train. I was in second year at University studying Art History and there was a call from Mark Rylance, who was then Artistic Director of the Old Globe, for young boys to play opposite him in an all-male Twelfth Night at Middle Temple Hall and I got it," he says.
"Then I was offered another acting job but I chose to go back and finish University," continues Redmayne. "Since then, I've blagged my way through, always learning on the job so to speak. Since I have virtually no technique, every time I work I add something to my palette."
On My Week With Marilyn, Redmayne had plenty of opportunities to learn from his castmates, who also include Dominic Cooper, Dougray Scott, Julia Ormond, Zoe Wanamaker, and Dame Judi Dench. "Obviously, I learned a lot from Ken and from Dame Judi, but it was Michelle who floored me," he notes. "The amount of material she watched was incredible. And then, like Monroe herself, she hired a movement coach and a vocal coach [to do her own singing and dancing in the film]. She was just stupendous!"