Cast of “Far From the Madding Crowd” discuss adaptation

By Nora Blake

Photo by Nora Blake
Photo by Nora Blake for WSN

Author Thomas Hardy infamously wrote of woeful Victorian Britain and its doomed social conventions in most of his novels, and these stories remain surprisingly relevant to today’s audiences. On film, these dynamics have been explored again in director Thomas Vinterberg’s cinematic adaptation of “Far From the Madding Crowd,” one of Hardy’s more controversial narratives.

The film’s cast, led by actors Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen, Matthias Schoenaerts, screenwriter David Nicholls, and director Vinterberg sat down with the WSN to discuss the inner workings of this brilliant and nuanced project.

“What really stuck out to me about Hardy’s novel initially was how refreshingly similar it was to my own experiences,” recalled Mulligan, who plays the female lead, Bathsheba Everdene.

Everdene, who inspired “The Hunger Games’” Katniss Everdeen, is unlike most women in 19th century Britain. Too prideful to marry for social acceptance and suddenly wealthy after an uncle bequeaths her with his successful estate, she becomes a highly respected and ambitious young doyenne. However, she also catches the attention of three viable, yet completely contrasting suitors.

Tom Sturridge is the foolish and handsome soldier who first woos our female hero and Matthias Schoenaerts portrays Gabriel Oak, a charismatic and quiet farmer who creates a leveled relationship with the budding Bathsheba.

Michael Sheen, who plays William Boldwood, the most appealing and established admirer as a middle aged landowner—at least based on Victorian standards—commented that “each of these chaps allows Bathsheba to explore a different part of herself. Ultimately, it would seem that she becomes actualized through her liaisons throughout the story.”

But this distinction should not destroy a more modern interpretation of Hardy’s story. In fact, despite contemporary notions of independence and courtship, director Vinterberg believes that the actors buck at some of the traditional themes that prevail throughout the film within their performances.

“There are definitely some moments in the film where some audience members will probably shake their head and think, ‘Why am I watching this? Bathsheba is giving in to her restrictive social position.’ But I actually think she’s a visionary heroine who defied her place and became better because of the relationships she created with the men in the story.”

Screenwriter Nicholls agreed with Vinterberg and added “the bonds that all of the actors created as a result of collaborating on what they would be adding to Hardy’s characters was a beautiful sight to withhold.”

All of the actors discussed the intense, yet rewarding rehearsal period prior to the start of filming. It included lessons on 19th century etiquette and farm work, which Mulligan added was “crucial to my understanding of Hardy’s world and most importantly, how these individuals would have related to one another.”

Everyone involved with “Far From the Madding Crowd” insist that this story is one for the ages regardless of its distinct setting. Hardy’s story, coupled with the fine performances by each person involved, definitely make this film timeless and important to today’s audiences.

Nora Blake is a staff writer. Email her at film@nyunews.com.

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