A Brief History of Time, shots and and movie posters from the film

BACK STORY:  Brief History of Time Documentary

As a child growing up in northern Michigan, Freedman was captivated by the night sky, worrying about aliens, entranced by the Northern Lights and trying to make sense of the constellations and movement of the planets. Later, he wondered deeply about where the universe came from and how it operated. He hoped one day to talk to an astrophysicist about the cosmos.  Freedman never guessed that he would be able to spend three years working with a physicist such as Stephen Hawking.

In 1989, as a film and television producer in Los Angeles, Freedman received a call from a book agent in New York saying he had an author from the University of Cambridge who had a book coming out and that Hollywood wanted to produce a feature film.  The author turned out to be Stephen Hawking and the book was Hawking’s now world-famous A Brief History of Time. At that time, neither Hawking nor the book were famous and Hawking refused to be portrayed in drama. Freedman assured the agent that a special documentary could be made for theatrical release.

After securing the rights to the book from Hawking and the publisher, Freedman embarked on the project. Knowing it had to be important, he was able to enlist support and advice from director Steven Spielberg (a Hawking admirer) and producer Kathleen Kennedy of Amblin Entertainment, who recommended documentary producer Errol Morris to direct the film. Freedman also consulted George Lucas about the early use of computer graphics for the film.

As Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time, gained in worldwide popularity, Freedman secured funding from Tokyo Broadcasting (Japan), NBC Television (US) and Anglia Television (UK). During the filming, Hawking’s A Brief History of Time book, rose to the top of the nonfiction book charts globally and remained on the U.S. and UK nonfiction top ten list for two years. Finally selling more than 20 million books in 40 countries, the book made history for a nonfiction science release.

The film production was shot on 35mm film in the Elstree Studios in London, where Star Wars had been filmed.  The U.S. British documentary producer David Hickman of Anglia Television served as the film’s producer. The haunting musical score was provided by world renown composer and performer Philip Glass.  The theatrical version of the documentary was released by Triton Films in 1991 as an Anglia Television – Gordon Freedman Production.

Freedman will recount the process of securing Hawking’s rights, negotiating with the one of the best minds in math, and tell the stories from making the film and from getting to know Hawking, who actively participated in making the film. Freedman will also discuss and reflect on Hawking’s contribution to making science more exciting and accessible for people globally and for opening minds of young people to pursue science and to think of the big questions no matter their personal circumstances.

The film won a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992.

Freedman stayed in touch with Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, and upon Stephen’s death in 2018, Freedman published this remembrance, A Brief Moment of Silence for Stephen Hawking.