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TAMARA DREWE

The Writer's Retreat and Its Inhabitants
"Stonefield is the writers' retreat run by Nicholas and Beth Hardiment,” says screenwriter Moira Buffini. "But it's really Beth's brain child. Nicholas, her husband, is an author of bestselling, rather good crime novels, and Beth's project in life is nurturing writers. She's got her little small holding farm she looks after the hens and her little goats and she also looks after writers. Stonefield attracts all sorts of different writers; there's Glen, the academic who's come to do his quite highbrow book about Thomas Hardy. And then there's other writers who are just desperate to get published, like Tess, who writes romantic fiction, Eustacia who writes lesbian crime, and Diggory who's quite a well known poet but finds it difficult getting a wider audience for his work. They're all at it with Beth looking after them, making sure they drink enough, cooking them beautiful food, and generally helping their creativity.”

When Tamara Drewe returns to Dorset after the death of her mother to renovate and sell their family home, she becomes the "pebble that goes into the pond and everything radiates from her arrival,” comments Editor Mick Audsley.

Screenwriter Moira Buffini concurs: "I think Tamara has got an idea of the person that she wants to be and she has made herself match this ideal of beauty. She's had her nose changed, she's got the hair, the clothes. She left at eighteen as an awkward, plain, angry girl and has come back in her mid-twenties as this beautiful woman no one quite recognises, no one can quite believe it's the same person. She is a bit like the cat among the pigeons who returns and things start to happen... she's trying out her new role: I'm a beautiful woman now, if I press that button what will happen there? And yet the thing that I liked about Tamara was that at heart, inside, she still thinks of herself as a plain, awkward, angry girl, she still is that girl and she's experimenting. She thinks if she's beautiful everything will change and it doesn't, you know, it doesn't.”

"Tamara goes through life creating havoc and getting in pickles,” says Gemma Arterton. "It all, sort of, centres around her nose, which is kind of a focal point for the whole film. The insecurities she has are very relevant to what happens to girls now, this whole need to fit in, the need to look beautiful, to be successful, and doing anything in order to get like that. Wanting to be loved and all the mistakes that she goes through finding that. I found that I could identify with it and I know so many people like that in my life.”

About his character Nicholas Hardiment, Roger Allam notes: "He's one of those men who feel that he's got the right to roam, sexually, that that is absolutely his right as what he calls ‘a creative mind'. I imagine he'd like to be taken more seriously as a writer. I think this is his nineteenth book and there's a sense that he is just churning them out, and that he'd like to move on. And I think that's probably all interlinked with a middle aged man wanting to reinvent himself through the eyes and the body of a much younger woman.”

Tamsin Greig says of her character Beth Hardiment: "Beth runs the retreat and makes it a paradise where writers (including her husband) don't have to think about feeding themselves or washing themselves. She's there to nurture them... She is an enabler, but she also wants to be an invisible servant, where things just happen, and she doesn't want to take credit for it. Her joy and her feelings of success come from the fact that she's created this place and no one knows how. She's sort of an illusionist.”

Screenwriter Moira Buffini adds: "Beth thinks her great talent in life is to nurture creativity in others, and I think at heart her own self-esteem is quite low. She does seem quite saintly but she's stuck in this marriage which psychotherapists would describe as ‘co-dependent'. Neither of them is happy in it and they're stuck in it, and they're both living out the death throes of their marriage.”

Bill Camp describes his character Glen McCreavy's writer's block: "Glen's in the midst of this Hardy biography which he's just stifled by, and has come here to this place because it's just so idyllic, it's so beautiful. He watches and is fascinated by what he sees and I think that stokes his excitement about being here. I think he finds it all quite titillating - Andy and Tamara and everybody throwing themselves into these romantic machinations. When Beth leads him down the road as to who he is writing for and why is he doing what he's doing, she allows him to write, as he says, for her, as if he were speaking for her, which then gives him a voice.”

Andy Cobb is the Hardiments' handyman and gardener and the Hardy-style embodiment of rustic virtue. Simple and earthy, he and Tamara enjoyed a fling as teenagers. But as Luke Evans puts it: "He's not into all this showbiz, celebrity, journalism, newspapers... I don't think he cares what's going on in the world. Tamara comes back having had this nose job, and written about it in the newspaper, and he can't really understand why she's done it. He quite liked the old Tamara.”

Rock star Ben Sergeant is at times thoroughly obnoxious, with his yellow Porsche and metropolitan manners sticking out like a sore thumb in the village. But Dominic Cooper has a soft spot for his character: "Even though he's such a rancid show-off who makes massive mistakes you kind of feel empathy for him because he is so stupid he almost doesn't realise the effect he has on other people around him. He's so self obsessed but that sort of simplicity and lack of comprehension makes him mildly charming because you can't blame him.” Cooper relished the chance to live out a long held fantasy in playing Ben: "Those dreams of being in a rock band coming true is something I will never achieve in real life, so it's great to get the opportunity to play in a film.”

Jody Long and Casey Shaw, played by newcomers Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie, are two local schoolgirls, hanging around in the bus stop, smoking spliffs, obsessing about Ben, and therefore plotting the downfall of Tamara in any way they can. What started as minor roles seemed to grow and grow the longer production went on. Comments Alison Owen: "Posy always thought that they were the key to making it work on film and to give them a bigger voice. And they gradually grew, which is sort of the role that they have in the strip, in the graphic novel. Their role as a sort of Greek chorus, of being the ones that are commenting on what is happening, and also having their own threaded-through involvement grew in Moira's take on the script. Moira wanted to involve them more and then Stephen wanted to involve them even more, so their parts were constantly boosted. And of course, that happened even more when we cast the glorious Jessica and Charlotte.”

Stephen Frears comments on his and screenwriter Moira Buffini's fondness for the two girls: "Moira really loved these characters, it sort of poured out of her, all these jokes. And then we found these two wonderful girls (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie). It's odd: we went through a casting process, and chose them properly but I remember shooting scenes and thinking – I didn't quite know they were going to have to do this! Afterwards you feel faintly irresponsible and think, ‘Well, I didn't quite realise quite what I was going to be asking of them!' You know, they would do long, sustained passages of tremendously delicate performance.”

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