If his first wife had listened to doctors' advice in 1985, most people might never have heard of Stephen Hawking. In the new documentary Hawking, the famed British physicist reveals that he was so ill during a bout of pneumonia in Switzerland that doctors offered to turn off his life support machine, but Jane Hawking insisted that he be returned to England, the Telegraph reports. After weeks of intensive care that he describes as "the darkest [time] of my life," he survived—though the treatment robbed him of what remained of his voice—and went on to complete his bestseller, A Brief History Of Time. (The Guardian notes that Hawking said his "hopes of finishing my book seemed over" during those dark weeks.)
In the documentary, which will be released this fall to coincide with the publication of his memoirs, Hawking speaks candidly about his failed marriages and his constant health struggles. "Because every day could be my last, I have a desire to make the most of every single minute," says the 71-year-old, who was given just two years to live when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21. An Investor's Business Daily editorial once memorably claimed Hawking would never have survived under the British health system.