Feb 23, 1:36 AM EST

Eddie Redmayne wins best actor Oscar for Stephen Hawking role in 'The Theory of Everything'


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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- "The Theory of Everything" star Eddie Redmayne was considered the Oscar front-runner for best actor. But his oversized reaction when he won gave no hint of entitlement.

Redmayne, 33, who portrayed scientist Stephen Hawking in the film that tracked both his physical decline as well as his first love, rushed on to the stage like a kid. He mugged a big grin for presenter Cate Blanchett and, at one point in his speech, hugged the Oscar statuette with delight.

"I don't think I'm capable of articulating quite how I feel. ... But please know that I'm fully aware I'm a lucky, lucky man," the British actor said at Sunday's ceremony.

Redmayne combined his euphoria with a sober acknowledgment of the disease that Hawking, 73, has coped with since the diagnosis in 1963 of motor neurone disease, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

"This Oscar belongs to all of those people around the world battling ALS," he said. He also dedicated it to "one exceptional family" that includes Hawking, his former wife, Jane Wilde, and their three children.

The movie was based on her book that recounted their life together.

"I will be its custodian and I promise you I will look after him," Redmayne said of the Oscar, then directed an impish aside to his wife, Hannah, in the audience.

"We have a new fellow to share our apartment," he said.

Backstage, Redmayne said he the movie's subject to heart in his performance.

"There were so so many things that terrified me about this film. When the stakes are high it does force you to work harder," he said.

He plans a visit to Cambridge, England, to show off his trophy to Hawking.

It was the first Oscar for Redmayne, and followed a slew of honors for the role that included a Golden Globe and a British Academy Film Awards win.

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AP Writer Jocelyn Noveck in New York contributed to this report.

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