In Association with BBC FILMS and TSG ENTERTAINMENT
A DNA FILMS Production
DIRECTED BY THOMAS VINTERBERG
SCREENPLAY BY DAVID NICHOLLS
BASED ON THE NOVEL BY THOMAS HARDY
PRODUCED BY ANDREW MACDONALD
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CHRISTINE LANGAN
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER JOANNE SMITH
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY CHARLOTTE BRUUS CHRISTENSEN
PRODUCTION DESIGNER KAVE QUINN
EDITED BY CLAIRE SIMPSON
COSTUME DESIGNER JANET PATTERSON
MUSIC BY CRAIG ARMSTRONG
SOUND DESIGNER GLENN FREEMANTLE
CO-PRODUCER ANITA OVERLAND
CASTING BY NINA GOLD C.S.A., C.D.G.
Rated PG-13 Running time 119 minutes Publicity Contacts:
Based on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD is the story of Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), a fiercely independent and spirited young woman who inherits her uncle’s farm. Financially autonomous (a rarity in Victorian times), beautiful and headstrong - she attracts three very different but determined suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions, while trying to maintain her own independence, explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardship through resilience and perseverance.
Fox Searchlight presents a DNA Production of FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, directed by Thomas Vinterberg, written by David Nicholls from the Thomas Hardy novel and starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge. The producers are Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich. The behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Charlotte Bruus Christenson (THE HUNT), Oscar®-winning editor Claire Simpson (PLATOON, THE CONSTANT GARDNER, A MOST WANTED MAN), production designer Kave Quinn (HARRY BROWN), four-time Oscar® nominated costume designer Janet Patterson (THE PIANO) and Golden Globe winning composer Craig Armstrong (MOULIN ROUGE, THE GREAT GATSBY.)
“In those earlier days she had always nourished a secret contempt for girls
who were the slaves of the first good-looking young fellow who should choose to salute them. . . . she had felt herself sufficient to herself.”
--- Thomas Hardy, Far From The Madding Crowd
Thomas Hardy gave the world one of the great heroines of all time in his novel Far From the Madding Crowd – and created an epic, sweeping love story for the ages. Strikingly modern even in 2015, the exuberant Victorian farmer Bathsheba Everdene starts out a simple country girl who has inherited her uncle’s farm, and becomes a fierce-willed, impulsive heiress who is faced with a myriad of life choices. She’s surrounded, and confounded, by intriguing suitors – the down to earth farmer Gabriel Oak, the seductive soldier Sergeant Troy and the wealthy landowner Mr. Boldwood. But as she weaves through a turbulent tangle of passion, obsession and betrayal, she must etch out her own hard-won path to what she really desires.
The pastoral beauty and sly humor that characterize Bathsheba has kept Hardy’s novel one of the most popular of all time. The story has inspired an abundance of stage and film adaptations throughout the years since its publication in 1874 – Bathsheba even inspired THE HUNGER GAMES’ author Suzanne Collins to name Katniss Everdeen after the Hardy heroine.
The last time this Hardy work was filmed for the screen was for John Schlesinger’s 1967 hit starring Julie Christie. This current adaptation, starring Carey Mulligan (SHAME, AN EDUCATION) as Bathsheba, is directed by Thomas Vinterberg (THE HUNT, THE CELEBRATION).
Why do Hardy’s comically flawed but deeply human characters still ring true 140 years later? The answer lies in their still-potent mix of spirited temperaments and dark complexities. The film’s screenwriter David Nicholls notes: “FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWDhas elements of tragedy but it also has a tremendous lightness, brightness and romance interspersed with moments of pathos and drama. It combines to give you a real sense of the energy of life.”
Adds Vinterberg, who set out to be true to Hardy by connecting with the verve, passion and fascination of the feminine strength that seems so immediate in his writing: “This is a story of fantastic characters created on the page with great depth, movingly integrated into the landscape surrounding them. My approach was to combine that epic grandness with believability – to bring out all the vulnerability and fragility in these characters, while showing all the lavish terrain and drama.”
HARNESSING HARDY Producers Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich of DNA Films are best known for daring contemporary films – ranging from Danny Boyle’s apocalyptic thriller 28 DAYS LATER to the Oscar®-winning drama THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND to the haunting drama NEVER LET ME GO. But they’ve long harbored a fascination with a rarer breed. “We both grew up on the Merchant Ivory films,” Macdonald explains, “and we both love those types of stories. Allon knew FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD well because he had studied it in school so we started to look into it. Most people of my generation grew up with the John Schlesinger film, but we thought there was an opportunity to do something quite different.”
As they immersed themselves in Thomas Hardy’s earthy rural world, they felt the story of Bathsheba Everdene had a chance to strike a deep chord with today’s audiences. Its unconventional romance featuring an irreverent woman battling a world that that threatens to quash her hunger for self-fulfillment seemed deeply current.
Says Reich: “Far from the Madding Crowd is Hardy’s most uplifting story, although there are tragic moments along the way. We felt we could bring something new to it through a proper, three-dimensional portrait of this wonderful female character whose dilemmas are very contemporary. Not only must Bathsheba decide which partner to choose, but she must also learn how to hold her own in a male-dominated world. She sets out to be seen as a person in her own right, rather than for the status of whomever she marries.”
Reich and Macdonald began looking for a writer who could get their hooks into Hardy’s very different world of sex, class and social relations in the working-class farm villages of Victorian England and approached acclaimed British novelist and screenwriter David Nicholls. Nicholls had so successfully adapted Hardy’s TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLESfor the BBC and they were impressed.
“We’re great admirers of David’s work and thought his adaptation of TESS was fantastic,” says Macdonald.
Nicholls knew adapting Hardy was no cakewalk, having just been through it, but he simply couldn’t resist diving in again. “I’ve always felt so passionate about the great Hardy novels,” he notes. “And unlike Jane Austen or the Brontes, Hardy hasn’t been seen on the big screen for a long, long time -- so it felt as if the time was right to revisit this terrific story. It’s still very much a Victorian novel but there really isn't another character quite like her, a character so spirited and so stubbornly determined to stay independent. Bathsheba’s questions are questions we are still asking: how can a woman stay independent and strong in a world where she's not always given the credit that men are?”
Re-reading Far From the Madding Crowd, he came upon a new way into it – structuring everything around the growing bond of friendship between Bathsheba Everdene and the hard-working sheepherder Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts). Oak remains devoted to her throughout her misadventures, and works his way into her mercurial heart through respect.
“A lot of the drama – and the humor – comes from questions about what makes a good marriage,” Nicholls observes. “Is it sex, which draws Bathsheba to Troy? Is it status as she finds with Boldwood? Or is it mutual companionship, trust and friendship, which she has with Gabriel? I wanted to put that question at the center of the screenplay and focus everything around the growing love story between Bathsheba and Gabriel.”
The resulting script was the magnet that pulled the seemingly unlikely Thomas Vinterberg to the project. Vinterberg, a native of Denmark, has been known in the film world as a rebel and a risk-taker who was one of the original founders of the Dogme 95 avant-garde filmmaking movement. He won international acclaim – and the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival – for his explosive film THE CELEBRATION, which braided farce and emotional disaster through the story of a man who accuses his father of unspeakable crimes in the midst of his birthday party. More recently, he received an Oscar® nomination for THE HUNT, a searing tale of moral dilemmas and collective hysteria set off when a teacher’s reputation is shattered by the untruthful remark of a kindergartener.
So why did Vinterberg – renowned for excavating the complications of modern lives – want to take on Hardy? “I like to be on thin ice with my projects; I like to explore new territories,” he confesses. “The story is full of fantastic characters and constant reversals of fortune – and that’s what makes for great storytelling in any era,” he notes.
Though Hardy couldn’t be any more English in his literary style, Vinterberg says that, as a Dane, he was drawn to the novelist’s focus on the power of fate to shift human lives. “There’s a directness to Hardy’s way of approaching fate that I found extremely interesting,” he explains.
Even more so, he was drawn to Bathsheba. “She is this beautiful, vulnerable creature who I immediately fell in love with. I saw her as this strong woman ahead of her time. One who takes orders from no one, who steps into a man’s world with a female power that wasn’t really accepted at that time,” he says. “And yet, at the same time, Bathsheba was this vulnerable woman trying to learn the rhythms of men and her surroundings. That duality is what makes her so rich and so alluring.”
“At first Bathsheba cannot devote herself to Oak or any man, but through this great emotional journey we witness, she gets to the ending that we all yearn for,” he muses.
For Macdonald, Vinterberg’s psychological approach to Hardy was exhilarating. “He brings a real believability to the story but he also brings the sumptuous elements of a period epic,” he says. “He wanted a film that would feel immediate and stylish -- but at the same time have that sweeping sense of epic romance. I don’t think we’ve seen that combination in a while.”
BEING BATHSHEBA Bathsheba Everdene is a rare country woman in Victorian times – through the sudden inheritance of a family farm, she has become as independent financially as she is in spirit, which ironically makes her a lure for the very thing she’s been trying to avoid: marriage.
Says screenwriter David Nicholls of the character’s uniqueness: “Bathsheba is one of those greatly literary characters who were designed to shock and challenge audiences at the time. Here is a woman who can be capricious, selfish and vain, but also incredibly strong, attractive and fascinating. She’s a character who has cast a long shadow over many female characters in literature and film, from Scarlett O’Hara on.”
The filmmakers were thrilled to land their absolute first choice to embody that: Carey Mulligan, who previously worked with producers Macdonald and Reich on Fox Searchlight’s NEVER LET ME GO. Mulligan garnered an Oscar® nomination for AN EDUCATION, and been acclaimed for her consistently diverse work in such films as SHAME, DRIVE and THE GREAT GATSBY.
“Carey is one of the greatest British actresses of her generation,” says Macdonald. “She evokes emotion and believability with every character she creates.”
“We all agreed she was perfect for the role. Carey is a chameleon. She inhabits characters down to the very pores of their skin,” adds Reich.
For Vinterberg, she inhabited the soul of this woman who has stepped way out ahead of her time. “It’s almost impossible now for me to separate Carey Mulligan and Bathsheba Everdene,” the director says. “Carey is Bathsheba – a combination of a tough, intelligent woman and a beautiful flower who sometimes needs to be held. She’s just absolutely truthful in this role. She’s an amazingly sharp instrument and she came in knowing the book even better than I did. We had a strong mutual understanding of Bathsheba that led to a great collaboration.”
Mulligan was intrigued right away by the unlikely seeming combination of Vinterberg and Hardy. “There was something about Thomas doing this film that seemed so different and exciting and I wanted to see what he would do with it,” the actress says. “After meeting him for the first time, I walked away knowing that this was what I was going to do next, although it was another ten months before we actually started filming.”
Though Mulligan had not yet read the book when she was first approached, she soon became a huge fan, carrying her dog-eared copy to the set every day. “When I read the script I just could not believe that I’d never read the book and then when I read the book it was triply exciting. I felt so lucky to have this amazing source material to refer to,” she explains. “Thomas and I would look at the book every day and every time we were addressing a scene we would always see what was there for us. Often, there were just little lines or tiny descriptions that gave the perfect inspiration.”
“There is one great description where Hardy writes that Bathsheba is as ‘excited, wild and honest as the day’ which I thought was a pretty good starting point,” she recalls. “I think she’s someone who has a more revolutionary point of view than most women in that era in that she has her own ambitions that aren’t tied to anyone else, and she becomes more and more conflicted about how much it might be necessary to conform.”
For Mulligan, it was in the cracks in Bathsheba’s armor that the light shone through. “She’s definitely someone who makes serious mistakes, but she’s never duplicitous,” she points out. “I saw her as a woman who lives by her instincts, by her gut, which can be dangerous – and I became very interested in those flaws and in her straightforwardness. In the book, every kind of feeling that goes through her is manifested in some sort of rosiness in her cheeks. There are so many lovely descriptions of how she just can’t hide anything. That is what is so lovely about the character, and what I wanted to explore in her.”
Mulligan was also entranced by Bathsheba’s slow-boiling love for Gabriel, which starts out as a surprising mix of friendship and reticence only to come upon her in ways she doesn’t expect. “I think there’s something about Gabriel that sort of cuts through everything in Bathsheba,” she observes. “He is the only person in her life who can hold a mirror up to her and be completely honest. I love that, ultimately, they realize that this companionship and beautiful, natural intimacy they have with each other is something they can build on.”
Throughout the production, Mulligan was inspired by what she was getting from Vinterberg. “Thomas is hands-on and he’s very direct about saying exactly what he thinks. He’s a romantic. He truly was touched by and embraced the film’s love story … and I got swept up in it with him.”
A TRIO OF SUITORS Though Bathsheba Everdeen values her independence more than almost anything, her life is complicated by three very determined suitors who each seek her hand in marriage. Her first proposal comes from the upstanding landowner Gabriel Oak, but she is too independent to consider it at the time. Oak is a true man of the land: rugged, generous, steadfast – and patient as it turns out. “Oak is a difficult dramatic character,” notes Thomas Vinterberg. “Here is this guy who decides on this woman, yet he’s just sort of there for her, hanging out on the farm waiting for her to choose him, so he’s not really the prototype of an active male lead. So what I was looking for in an actor was the essence of Gabriel’s innate strength and pride.”
He found that quality in the rising Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who first riveted global audiences as a steroid-pumping cattle farmer in BULLHEAD, and then starred opposite Marion Cotillard in Jacques Audiard’s gritty romance RUST AND BONE, for which he won the Cesar Award for Most Promising Actor. He also played Eric Deeds in Michaël Roskam’s THE DROP with Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini.
“Matthias is a man’s man and you can feel there is so much integrity in him,” says Vinterberg of Schoenaerts. “He’s a brilliant actor, he's very sexy, and he's amazing to work with. As Oak, he is that rock in Bathsheba’s world, but then again, he also has a real vulnerability in his eyes.”
Everyone was excited about what Schoenaerts brought to the mix. “We thought in advance that Gabriel was going to be the most difficult part to cast,” admits Reich. “We needed to find that old fashioned type of masculinity: strong, quiet, with a visceral relationship to the earth, a man you could see scything, tilling, building fences and herding sheep. Matthias is all those things.”
“He is an amazing actor,” adds Macdonald. “He has the screen presence to reveal Gabriel as the type of man who you could always go to with your problems and who would never let you down.”
Schoenaerts was keen to work with Vinterberg, and loved the director’s reasons for revisiting Hardy in our times. Says the actor: “I was curious as to why Thomas was so eager to make this film now,” he admits. “He had a very simple and very reasonable answer. He said ‘I think we need this kind of story right now because we live in very cynical times and we need a story that is about something else, and this is a beautiful one.’ His passion just radiated through his voice.”
Schoenaerts also found himself drawn to Oak as a man with strong values. “Gabriel’s very simple, humble, straightforward, and honest, and also one of the most loyal and reliable people you could have in your life. In a way, he has the qualities I think everyone wants to have, but he’s not too good to be true, either. This is a film about choices you make in life and Gabriel chooses to be responsible and unselfish, and that’s the beauty of the character.”
The roughhewn physicality of Schoenaerts’ performance certainly seduced Carey Mulligan. “Matthias is such a brilliant actor that he had the essence of Oak the moment he came on set,” she says. “There is something astonishing about Matthias because he is so huge and domineering yet also very gentle. He had that sturdiness and reliability you want in Oak – and yet you feel he looks at you and sees straight through you.”
In turn, Schoenaerts enjoyed finding a rapport with Mulligan. “Carey makes Bathsheba extremely layered, with so many contrasting aspects. This role would be an enormous challenge for any actress but Carey found all the nuances and really brings her to life,” he says.
Gabriel might be Bathsheba’s rock, but Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge) is the first one who manages to steal her heart with a lusty initial encounter. Full of charm and flattery, but also fickle, entitled and conceited, he leads Bathsheba down a darker path – for a while.
After auditioning numerous actors for the part, Sturridge (BEING JULIA, THE BOAT THAT ROCKED) was the one that walked into the DNA office and blew everyone away. “There had to be something incredibly seductive, extremely arrogant and yet somehow vulnerable in Troy, which is a difficult combination, but Tom really conveyed that,” says Vinterberg.
“Troy is not an easy part, because he is at once very sexy and obviously egotistical and Tom was just brilliant at that,” adds Macdonald.
Sturridge was drawn to Troy as someone he sees as not really a villain but a man who behaves badly because he is so captive to his own whimsical heart. “I find Troy’s behavior eminently explicable. I think his story is that of a man who falls in love with two different women (Bathsheba and Fanny) and he genuinely loves both of them in different ways,” he comments.
Mulligan and Sturridge have been friends for over ten years, so working together came easily. “Carey is so honest in the way she works, you just look at her and you see the truth,” muses Sturridge of their first on-screen collaboration. “The pressure on her was enormous as she is in every single scene, but she handled it with such grace, skill and kindness.”
“Just to get to work with Tom was awesome,” counters Mulligan. “Tom and I shared a lot of mad ideas with each other and Thomas encouraged us. All our scenes have a sort of energy to them because I think these are two people who function really well in the short term … but realize that they can’t sustain what they have. They have the epitome of the whirlwind romance.”
Bathsheba’s third suitor is her most prosperous, and the one who offers her the most in terms of long-term safety and stability: the wealthy but emotionally stunted landowner William Boldwood (Michael Sheen).
Bathsheba gives him a hastily thought out Valentine’s card and he is immediately smitten, pursuing her doggedly, trying to woo her with possessions, even as he loses his own mind.
Sheen is currently winning accolades in a very different role as sex researcher William Masters on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and is famous for his portrayal of Tony Blair in THE QUEEN. “Michael is one of the best actors we have, and he has that absolute gravitas that you need for Boldwood,” says Macdonald.
Vinterberg saw something touching behind that gravitas. “Michael gets to the enormous loneliness in Boldwood,” notes the director. “You always see him alone in large rooms of his mansion. There is a sense of sadness that Michael creates, yet he combines it with a sense of pride and strength that make him persuasive. He was wonderful in the role.”
Like his castmates, Sheen was attracted by a fresh take on an enduring classic. “A big part of wanting to do the film was thinking about what that combination of Vinterberg and Hardy might be like,” he says. “I loved the idea of seeing how a director who can be so forensic and revelatory might bring those qualities to this story. I thought it was very exciting.”
Reading the novel for the first time, Sheen was also struck by the story’s relatability and vitality. “It felt relevant and compelling, and Bathsheba’s predicaments still feel true,” he says of the book. “Hardy is often talked of as being bleak and dark, but this story has light and shade and humor.”
Sheen describes Boldwood as a man “who is quite separate from the community around him because of his wealth and his social position, but also because of his personality.” He goes on: “Hardy gives you clues that Boldwood had a disappointment in love early on in his life and he has become quite uncomfortable being around other people. He’s almost like a Citizen Kane figure, living this very isolated life on his farm, when Bathsheba sends him the fateful valentine.”
Mulligan thought Sheen was the perfect choice for Boldwood. “He has a solidity but he also plays the descent into madness so brilliantly,” she recalls. “He starts off as this man who’s made a decision to spend his life alone, but once Bathsheba rashly makes him notice her, she becomes his sole reason for living and you can see the cracks start to form in his personality, until he just sort of disintegrates. Michael reveals all this in such a skillful performance.”
Sheen says Mulligan’s performance was the pivot point upon which everything else in the film turned. “Bathsheba is the most extraordinary character, not just a strong heroine, but a very complicated one,” he observes. “She’s intriguing yet flawed in a variety of ways and Carey created her as a fully rounded person. Carey brings a real spontaneity, a real in-the-moment-ness, and yet she works very hard as well, bringing an intellectual rigour to her passion.”
Rounding out the main cast is Juno Temple (MALEFICENT), who takes on the role of Fanny Robin, the tragically left-behind bride who further complicates Bathsheba’s already unhappy marriage to Troy. Temple says the challenge in playing Fanny was in finding her appeal to Troy, even amidst her grim circumstances. “I think she was once a joyous little creature and that’s why Troy wanted to be with her – she made him smile, they laughed together,” she says.
Fanny is a yin-and-yang contrast to Bathsheba, Temple notes. “The joy of Fanny is her simplicity but Bathsheba is this incredibly powerful and complicated woman, a real firecracker. They’re polar opposites, really… but it turns out they both appeal to this one man.”
Temple says the key to balancing these relationships was Vinterberg. “Thomas is such an actor’s director,” she summarizes. “He’s so in touch with emotions that he knows in an instant if something did or didn’t work. It’s either ‘you moved me’ or you didn’t. He had this amazing connection with this story and he was so involved on every level, it was really, really cool.”
MANSIONS & MEADOWS
“The sky was clear—remarkably clear—and the twinkling of all the stars
seemed to be but throbs of one body, timed by a common pulse.”
-- Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd
Far From the Madding Crowd introduced the world to what has since become famed as ‘Hardy Country,’ a rugged realm of hilly farms, where the people and their affairs are deeply aligned with the rhythms of nature – with the pulse of the seasons, the turning of the soil, the wildness and vulnerability of the animals. The novel was the second of Hardy’s many stories set in the semi-fictional English county of Wessex. Hardy called Wessex “a realistic dream country,” but it was clearly similar in contour and culture to the real county of Dorset, in the Southwest of England, where Hardy grew up. Known for its verdant, rolling terrain and pastoral sheep farms, Dorset remains even today a paragon of what people mean when they say “British countryside.”
For Thomas Vinterberg it was the only place to shoot. “Shooting on location was a necessity,” he states. “These landscapes are so important to these characters and to the whole feeling of the story. We had to come here and get the real thing. We stayed in the places Hardy was inspired by, we embraced the surroundings and we felt a complete sense of surrender to this universe.”
That surrender came alive in such scenes as when Bathsheba and Gabriel oversee the sheep-dip, which Vinterberg re-created as a visceral collage of mixed textures and emotions. “The sheep-dip was one line in the script, but I felt it was such an important thing,” explains the director. “I wanted to expand this moment, and show the way Bathsheba and Gabriel are really in their element washing the sheep together. It’s a moment of pure happiness, I think, and it’s a kind of cleansing process that has a symbolic value as well. It’s just life unfolding, and I love those kinds of scenes.”
To help forge the fullness of life in Dorset, Vinterberg was joined by a crack team of visual artists, including director of photography Charlotte Bruus Christensen, who collaborated with him on THE HUNT and SUBMARINO; production designer Kave Quinn, and four-time Oscar® nominated costume designer Janet Patterson.
Christensen and Vinterberg shared a visual language. “There was already a shorthand between her and Thomas,” observes Allon Reich, “and they both have such a keen sense of Hardy’s Wessex. Charlotte is brilliant. The film looks fantastic, but she always kept her main focus on character and story.”
Vinterberg describes the way they collaborate: “The way Charlotte and I work is through a lot of preparation. We talk and talk and talk and then we do a drawing and then we talk and talk some more. We do as much preparation as possible so when the camera switches on you can let it all fly.”
One of the key early decisions the filmmakers made was to shoot entirely on film. “All the great period films of the last ten years are shot on film,” explains Macdonald, “so I think the feeling and texture of it helps immerse the audience in another time.”
The film traverses all four seasons and takes place largely outdoors, so weather was a constant factor. “One of the biggest challenges on the film was to give that feeling of the seasons changing,” explains Reich. “You can create rain and you can create snow but it is impossible to create sun. So we did a lot of scanning of forecasts and changing schedules to get our sunny days!”
Production Designer Kave Quinn says landscape was always on his mind. “Thomas wanted to employ an epic quality to the landscape and the characters, akin to something like DOCTOR ZHIVAGO or 1900, with majestic backdrops,” he explains. “He wanted bright colors that, in a modern way, bring a slightly heightened Technicolor realism feel to the film. It’s a fresh look.”
At the same time, Quinn set out to recreate rural village life as authentically as is possible in the 21st Century – which in Dorset, he says, was easier than in most places. “A lot of the countryside is farmed still and it is not on the commuter belt to London so there are no motorways. Dorset really has not changed tremendously since Hardy’s day. The other thing about Dorset is its amazing coastline, and the quality of light is slightly different because of the reflective nature of the water. So that gives another kind of magic to the visuals.”
A lot of early work went into finding Bathsheba’s farm. Ultimately, Quinn became enamored with Mapperton House, a Jacobean beauty near Beaminster, owned by Lord and Lady Sandwich. Set in unspoiled countryside, the manor house has its own church, stable block, coach house, dovecote and courtyard along with surrounding farmland and woods, all of which could be put to use. “The house was perfect,” Quinn remembers. “It had this amazing countryside surrounding it and these lovely stables and courtyard in front of the house which we managed to adapt.”
“The people of Dorset were extremely welcoming,” says Reich. “We recruited a lot of locals -- farmers, thatchers and various skilled people who were happy to grow their beards, put on their period clothes and really get into the Thomas Hardy spirit.”
The production also travelled to Buckinghamshire to film at Claydon House, owned by the National Trust, which doubled for Mr. Boldwood’s spacious but empty mansion. “Claydon worked really well for Boldwood’s house,” says Quinn. “He lives in a very controlled environment where everything has to be perfect. The rooms are all big, so you sense his isolation within this silent world.”
As the locations were being prepared, the cast also came to Dorset to start their own immersive preparation – including riding lessons, herding lessons and learning the hands-on farming methods of the 19th century. Tom Sturridge studied sword fighting, while Matthias Schoenaerts and Carey Mulligan became familiar with handling the 150 Dorset Horns and Polled Dorset sheep that appear in scenes with them.
“I loved the farm work,” muses Mulligan, “and I loved the way we really got to do everything. It was great learning to ride. The horses were amazing and, though there were a few moments that were slightly terrifying, we always knew we were safe. It’s a great feeling to canter into a scene and jump off your horse.”
Replicating the textural feeling of farm life was essential to the atmosphere Vinterberg was after – a feeling not only close to the land but to the earthiest human feelings of desire and sustenance.
“I found that Hardy’s descriptions of animals and landscapes tell us so much about life,” he says. Still, it was an education unto itself for Vinterberg. “I had never been involved with a film where I had to deal with bloated sheep before … and that may be the strangest thing I’ve ever shot. But it was important to creating the feeling of this country life that is so central to who Bathsheba is.”
Equally central to creating Bathsheba and the men who try to win her hand were the costumes created by Janet Patterson. Vinterberg wanted to avoid the crinolines and bustles associated with Victoriana, so he moved the story’s action to 1880, when fashion suddenly turned to a sleeker, more modern silhouette – one more befitting a woman who rides, climbs ladders and jumps into the sheep dip.
Patterson also played up the film’s hues. “Thomas had this vision of an old fashioned epic, shot in Technicolor with lots of colors and lots of vibrant life. He didn't want to do another brown, muddy, Victorian film!” explains assistant costume designer Francoise Fourcade. “So we did a lot of research and found that many original items from the time are in fact, in surprisingly vivid colors, like really, really electric blue and bright purples. In our subconscious we think of these dull, grey charcoal colors for the 19th century, but there were actually lots of very, very strong colors.”
Each of the characters has his or her own journey in terms of costuming: Gabriel moves from landowner to a ragged itinerant worker back to affluence again; Tom goes from the red uniform of the Dragoon Guards to a fashionable man of leisure; while Boldwood’s heavy suits and beard reveal his disinterest in appearances. But, of course, at the heart of the costuming work was Bathsheba.
Her clothing was divided into three distinct phases: her impoverished phase when she’s a simple farm worker; her life as a businesswoman trying to be taken seriously after she inherits the farm; and her more mature phase when she becomes a married woman only to nearly lose her identity and joyfulness. Throughout, she wears her leather jacket while riding.
Says Fourcade: “Janet really wanted her in Jodhpur trousers and a leather jacket right from the opening of the film, so the feeling is that this is not your average Victorian woman, this is someone really radical, a free thinker. That leather jacket follows her through the whole of the film. It's like her armour. If I could keep just one image of Carey in FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD with me, it would be of her leather riding jacket.”
Makeup designer Sian Grigg (EX MACHINA, NEVER LET ME GO) says that she, too, approached Bathsheba as someone on a transitional journey. “I wanted her to start off quite soft and innocent, and then become slightly harder and more sophisticated through being married to Troy, and then, she rediscovers herself and goes back to the softer hairstyles of her youth. We begin with Bathsheba being really young and poor, so she couldn’t have done anything too fancy with her look. Her look at the start is very practical and never fussy, but, at the same time, we set out to make her look gorgeous because all of these men fall madly for her!”
Vinterberg says he was driven by one thing on this film: to be true to Hardy and to the humanity of Bathsheba and Gabriel’s love story. “For me this project was simply about conveying one of the best stories ever told … conveying Hardy’s take on love and fate. The real success for me will be if people disappear into this world and into the truthfulness of his characters.”