Long gone are the days when Eugene Simon met a brutal demise in HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones.” His latest challenge? Transforming into Albert Einstein’s second son Eduard, who suffered from schizophrenia and died in a Swiss mental institution at age 55 in 1965.
The role is for National Geographic’s new film series “Genius,” which stars Geoffrey Rush as the iconic physicist and was produced by Gigi Pritzer, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
The 24-year-old was eager to tackle the tormented Eduard, whose mental illness wasn’t fully understood during his time. Working alongside one of his idols was a perk, too.
“Eduard is someone I was fascinated to play,” Simon told Fox News. “The more I read about him, the more I became very interested in how his future developed… and then when I discovered that it would be Geoffrey Rush no less to play my father — this is an actor I’ve looked up to my entire life. He’s [one of] the top five, if not the top three, actors I most admired. Filming with Geoffrey was a real dream. I had to pinch myself at times.”
The role took a lot of prep, he explained.
“When I was getting ready for the role of Eduard, I had to discover the ideas and differences between schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, split personality disorder and how all of these things affect different people,” he said.
The timing for the debut of “Genius” seems coincidental. The film shows the patriarch trying to flee Nazi Germany, but facing tough U.S. immigration policies. Today, America's immigration policies have become a hot-button issue.
“Einstein was first and foremost a scientist. But we also forget how much of a social activist he was,” explained Simon. “He was a committed pacifist… He adamentaly fought against the wars and defended his Jewish community against the rise of Nazism. He wanted so much to better humanity as well as forging the frontier of science.”
But one thing that will shock viewers is how much Albert Einstein was a ladies man when he wasn’t advocating for peace.
“He had quite of, what people in California [now] call, a polyamorous lifestyle,” said Simon. “He got his first wife pregnant out of wedlock, and then they got married. He then divorced his first wife and married his second wife, who was also his cousin. And during that time he was a promiscuous man… He was highly eccentric, to put it mildly. And I think he broke the norm even then.”
With the biopic already garnering buzz, it’s no wonder Simon is easily moving on from his more violent days on that other series.
“This is ‘Game of Thrones.’ Everybody dies,” says Simon. “Any actor, even if for a minute, [who] thinks they’re not going to die is living in a realm of naivete that I can’t even get into. I have a theory that everyone is going to die…. and the truth is that I got a lovely death.”
Lancel is incinerated by wildfire after he was stabbed in the spine.
“My most vivid memory would be dragging my half paralyzed body across the floor covered in bat s--t while having blood bursting out of my back and literally having to carry my own body weight for the entire day,” said Simon. “It was a tough call having me push to get that scene done. Also, when the flames went off in front of me eyes… we actually had petroleum on the floor amongst the green goo. And I think, for about three seconds, I might have smelled my burned eyebrows as the fire went off within millimeters of my face.
“When you smell your burned eyebrows for the first time, it tends to stick with you,” he added.
Needless to say, things have slowed down for Simon in becoming Eduard, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When I was filming with Geoffrey, he was playing the violin as Albert Einstein,” explained Simon. “And when we came to the end of the scene and the director yelled ‘cut,’ Geoffrey took the book off the violin he’d been playing, looked at me and just pat my knee twice with the bow and winked at me. It was just this wonderful way of him to say, ‘I enjoyed that. That was a fun thing for us to do.’”
"Genius" premieres Tuesday, April 25th on National Geographic.