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It's no surprise that world-famous British physicist Stephen Hawking was pleased with Eddie Redmayne's best-actor Oscar win on Sunday night — considering that the Academy Award recognized Redmayne's portrayal of Hawking as his neurogenerative disease progressed over the course of decades in "The Theory of Everything."
"Well done Eddie, I'm very proud of you," Hawking wrote in a Facebook post:
But now what? During his acceptance speech, Redmayne said the golden Oscar statuette belonged to "all the people around the world" who are battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and particularly to "one exceptional family — Stephen, Jane, Jonathan and the Hawking children."
"I will be its custodian," Redmayne told the Hollywood crowd, "and I will promise you I will look after him."
After the win, Redmayne said he intends to visit Hawking to celebrate, and no one should be surprised if Oscar comes along.
So what does scientific research suggest about Redmayne's future? It looks as if there's good news and bad news. A study conducted in 2001 suggests that an Oscar adds an average of four years to the winner's lifespan — a factoid that perked up the ears of Julianne Moore, who won the best-actress Oscar for her performance in "Still Alice."
"If that's true, I'd really like to thank the Academy," Moore said in her acceptance speech, "because my husband is younger than me."
Moore might be disappointed to learn that a follow-up study reanalyzed the data in 2006 and concluded that the "survival advantage was closer to 1 year and was not statistically significant." But who could be disappointed about winning an Oscar, especially when research has found that Academy Awards can add tens of millions of dollars to box-office revenue?
On the dark side, another study suggests that the men who win the best-actor Oscar are three times more likely than other actors to get divorced in the first year of their marriage — perhaps due to the effect of shifts in social status on the masculine mind. This particular kind of "Oscar curse" doesn't have a significant statistical effect on best-actress Oscar winners.
For what it's worth, Redmayne got married in December.
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— Alan Boyle
For more about the scientific research into the effects of the Academy Awards, check out this roundup from Thomson Reuters.