Palm Springs Film Fest: Eddie Redmayne Lands Top Actor Honor for 'Theory of Everything'

Theory of Everything Still - H 2014
Liam Daniel/Focus Features

Theory of Everything Still - H 2014

Eddie Redmayne, who has received raves — and whom I have long projected as the best actor Oscar frontrunner — for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in James Marsh's tear-jerking drama The Theory of Everything (which Focus Features is releasing in select theaters Friday), has been tapped for his first accolade of the season: he will receive the Palm Springs International Film Festival's highest honor for a male actor, the Desert Palm Achievement Award, at the 26th annual PSIFF Awards Gala on Jan. 3.

Previous recipients of this award include, in reverse-chronological order, Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Colin Firth (The King's Speech), Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) and Sean Penn (Milk). Every one of them went on to receive a best actor Oscar nomination later that month; McConaughey, Day-Lewis, Firth, Bridges and Penn went on to win.

"From The Good Shepherd to Les Miserables, Eddie Redmayne has proven himself an actor poised for greatness," Harold Matzner, PSIFF's chair, said in a statement. "In The Theory of Everything, as ALS-stricken scientist Stephen Hawking, Redmayne captivates his audience as he goes through a powerful physical transformation from a healthy college student to a dependent wheelchair-bound middle-aged man in what is truly a stunning performance."

PSIFF's chief regional competitor, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, recently announced that Birdman's Michael Keaton, one of 32-year-old Redmayne's chief competitors for the best actor Oscar, will be presented with a comparable prize — the Modern Master Award — at SBIFF on Jan. 31.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg