Carey Mulligan says she wasn’t really looking to do another period drama when “Far from the Madding Crowd” came along. She’s always done them, and, unfortunately, the role of Bathsheba Everdene — a headstrong, independent woman juggling three suitors to whom she’s either indifferent or weirdly into — was too good to turn down. The actress talks about how this Thomas Hardy adaptation was different and whether she’d ever do something bigger and splashier.
The uniqueness of Bathsheba Everdene: “What I was so excited about was that it’s a story that started with a woman who turned down a proposal of marriage. And a good one. It’s a young woman in one of the Victorian classics that doesn’t start her story looking to be married and isn’t looking to be defined by a man. It really hasn’t crossed her mind that she would be married. That was so exciting. That was obviously not the viewpoint of most women of the time. And throughout the story she enjoys bucking social conventions. She’s incredibly complicated and stubborn and fallible and spontaneous and impetuous — all these things mixed together.”
Working with others: “When you get to work with actors like this, there’s a certain security — especially when you make an idiot of yourself in the first week, which is what I did.” She also found director Thomas Vinterbergh a great help. “We had so many extensive, long conversations, going around and around on things. And Thomas said things over and over and over again. I was really annoying. By the time we were on set we were set on an idea. It was a complete collaboration between all of our ideas. I was never going to fall into some kind of stereotype.”
On the costumes: “We wanted to feel like real people and not actors wearing outfits, not people wearing makeup — but still vaguely attractive in daylight. We never wanted it to feel like a buttoned-up costume drama, where people wear outfits and look uncomfortable. It was about real people. The way Thomas shoots it’s all about performances. The era is reflected in the costumes. The makeup and the hair, because we were outside all the time, could get ruined immediately. It had to be endurable and functional. But they always made us look good, which was a bonus.”
The idea of her ever taking an action movie role: “Never say never to anything. The decisions I’ve made over the last couple years have been driven by the characters and the scripts and the directors,” she says. “I’m always drawn to really strong characters, but also characters that have a lot to them. I’m not really interested in playing two-dimensional people. But what’s amazing about Bathsheba is how complex and mixed-up and strong and resilient — she’s just so many things in one. That’s what I’m driven by. And if that came in the form of some action hero, then of course, that’d be great. But it might not happen.”