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'Far From the Madding Crowd': EW preview

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Alex Bailey

STARRING Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge DIRECTED BY Thomas Vinterberg RATED PG-13 RELEASE DATE May 1

Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel is an oft-adapted classic, and it was that prestige that gave star Carey Mulligan pause. “The costume drama is always an easy box to put British actors into,” she says. “I’ve avoided them—all those stuffy interiors and mahogany-paneled rooms in grand estate buildings. But this one starts with her turning down a proposal, as opposed to devoting her life to finding a husband. That was a very modern idea to begin a story with.” The proposal that she turns down is from a quiet shepherd named Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts). Their paths continue to cross in fate-driven ways as she’s wooed by a repressed neighbor (Michael Sheen) and a seductive soldier (Tom Sturridge).

Mulligan’s director was also conscious of breathing fresh air. Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) shot two-thirds of the movie outdoors, amid the same verdant, sea-breeze surroundings in southwest England that Hardy described in the book. “There was so much beautiful stuff to show,” he says, while noting the pitfalls of nature: too much noise. “Horses and boars and frogs and dogs and sheep—they can be a tough ride,” he says. The gorgeous scenery and light—including a sunset-drenched doozy of a climactic scene—were worth all the barking and bleating.