Stephen 'Hawking': Benedict Cumberbatch, family and friends honor the theoretical physicist

stephen-hawking-hawking-premiere-cambridge-gi.jpgYou already know Stephen Hawking is brilliant, but his autobiographical documentary proves him funny and charming.

The one-hour film "Hawking," premiering on PBS Wednesday, Jan. 29 (check local listings), has Hawking talking about his childhood, education and paralysis from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Family, colleagues and actor Benedict Cumberbatch , who portrayed him in a British biographical film, also talk about the theoretical physicist.

The most riveting moments are when Hawking, 72, explains how, for most of his life, he's had to live each day as if it could be his last. Old photos are woven in with re-enactments of events from his life.

Even in primary school, classmates recognized Hawking's intellect and nicknamed him Einstein. Hawking enjoyed school but truly enjoyed champagne parties at Oxford, where he says, he "did about two hours of work a day."

The film shows him being tended to by a caregiver and on stage lecturing a spellbound audience.

"Sometimes I wonder if I am as famous for my wheelchair as I am for my discoveries," he says.

While a student at Oxford, he fell a few times, once down a massive staircase. As a 20-year-old Cambridge Ph.D. student, he was diagnosed with ALS, and doctors gave him three years to live.

Naturally depressed, Hawking was also in love with Jane Wilde, who prompted him to work hard. Their honeymoon was spent at a physics conference.

His theory is that the universe spontaneously created itself in a big bang. His groundbreaking 1988 book "A Brief History of Time" has sold more than 10 million copies.

"I am not afraid of dying," Hawking says. "But I have so much I want to do first."
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images