"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough."
We think about icons' birthdays as trivia, but they can also be a visceral way to connect to the past -- even the most brilliant figures in history celebrated their birthday every year: From childhood to adulthood to fame, we can trace their lives through the years just this way, bringing them back down to Earth and celebrating who they were: People, just like us.
Tuesday (March 14), Albert Einstein would've turned 138 years old. And in April, this eccentric scientist's life story premieres on the National Geographic Channel -- and Screener got an exclusive first look at Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush as Einstein. The video above and pictures below were given to us for their world premiere in advance of this lavishly detailed and stylish production.
Executive produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, from Fox 21 Television Studios and Imagine Entertainment, this 10 episode miniseries will airs in 171 different countries and in 45 different languages. It follows Einstein from his rebellious years as a young teen, played by actor Johnny Flynn, through his decades of work on behalf of humanity, and our understanding of the universe... And eventual rise to international fame.
But this story is about a lot more than his scientific accomplishments -- it's not a Wikipedia page but a living, breathing tribute to a complex man whom history often tries to oversimplify. While Einstein could figure out the mysteries of the cosmos, he was forever confused by personal relationships. He was a wild card with his emotions. After a passionate, yet volatile relationship with his first wife Mileva (Samantha Colley), he subsequently married his first cousin Elsa (Emily Watson). He cheated on both of them with a bevy of women, and remained too entrenched with his research and the rise of antisemitism in 20th century Europe to be a present father.
Einstein was not perfect, far from it -- but he never claimed to be. And as for any celebrity, his overnight fame after moving to America was jarring. As bright as his mind shined, Eisntein's incredible ability to recognize patterns on the greatest scales imaginable couldn't manage to compute the same in matters of the heart. He was passionately curious about science and women -- and while we are grateful for a lot about the former, we tend to forget the hot water he often landed in, thanks to the latter.
At this time in our country, there is a confused sense and thrill around the concept of "genius" -- CBS's programming slate is filled with them, taking their shows to the top of the ratings for nearly a decade, the White House and those who voted for it throw the word around a lot -- but what it all seems to come down to is admiration for this near-mythic quality, and simultaneously a need to identify with it. At the root of a lot of our so-called "culture wars" is this half-resentful, half-worshipful concept of "genius" that works almost like a "haves & have nots" situation, in which those who overvalue intelligence forever engage in conflict over its definition.
But what gets lost in this formulation is a sense of the individual humanity that is so much more than the sum of its parts -- that intelligence is a quality, not a virtue, the same as height or eye color, and judging one another based on it, rather than on kindness and compassion and integrity of character, is a good way to make everyone involved feel hollow and useless. By looking at our heroes, or even our villains -- plenty of "geniuses" are made one or the other, or both -- as truly human, we see how close we could, ourselves, come to greatness.
But we also see the same, for those we denigrate and judge. We all may never fully understand why half of America and most of CBS's viewership is obsessed with fetishizing "genius" as some sort of mythological blessing, or why it holds such equal pain and excitement for them, but we can learn to see our crystallized historical figures and heroes as the regular, wonderful-and-terrible men and women that they are. Respect for yourself starts with recognizing your equality to others, but peace and healing start with recognizing others' equality to ourselves.
Based on Walter Isaacon's book, "Einstein: His Life and the Universe," this beautiful and stylish series explores all these aspect of his life, including his friendships with other historical luminaries like Marie and Pierre Curie, Carl Jung, and J. Edgar Hoover (T.R. Knight) -- the last of whom had, as was his custom, a fierce vendetta against the famed scientist...
"Genius" premieres on Tuesday, April 25, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on National Geographic.