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Thomas Hardy And Tamara Drewe
One of the central enigmas of Tamara Drewe is that while it is loosely inspired by Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd and is laced with classical allusions, this tale of a 21st century media girl trying to better herself is the most modern of tales. Screenwriter Moira Buffini relished the challenge of trying to capture and reinterpret the Hardy mythology: "I loved all of that. I did Hardy at college, I re-read Far from the Madding Crowd after I read Posy's book and I loved all of her allusions to it, I thought ‘there's more, there's even more fun to be had.' So there's the scene when Ben Sergeant, the drummer, who is basically Sergeant Troy out of Hardy's book, seduces Tamara. And instead of doing as Sergeant Troy does with his sword play in that amazing scene in the film with Terence Stamp, I thought that would be really good fun if Ben Sergeant seduced her with his drum sticks.”

(In John Schlesinger's popular and romantic 1967 version, Julie Christie played the beautiful protagonist, Alan Bates the loyal rural hero, Terence Stamp the dashing but dastardly seducer, and Peter Finch the love-besotted older man.)

Buffini adds: "In a general sense, Hardy makes that plot very serious and quite dark and just allows a happy ending. There's a wonderful comedy to be had if you take the same plot and just allow it slightly more comedy. Instead of all Hardy's farmers, the rural characters in the Hardy book which have dated and haven't stood the test of time, we've got Jody and Casey, the two little girls from the village who are like the Greek chorus of it all, and they too are great catalysts for action in the book.”

Stephen Frears feels that the contrast between past and present are at the heart of the film's comedy: "Tamara and Gemma are both very, very modern, in these rather ridiculous rural surroundings that feel a bit like they're from another period, so it's that combination of the location and the modern attitudes.” But at the same time he was determined not to be constrained by the allusions to Hardy: "If you make a film in Dorset, it's just there, you can't escape him, and I suppose somewhere down the line the whole thing is a sort of echo of Hardy or a pastiche of Hardy. But it's not relevant to us making the film – I'm not making a gloomy novel.”

For Arterton herself, after coming off a number of period and fantasy films, a huge part of the appeal of Tamara Drewe was precisely to do something so modern: "Having done the Hardys before (she starred as Tess in a BBC adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles) and reading the book over and over again whilst filming this, it's so different actually, it's SO modern. With Hardy everything tends to be quite exclamatory and they really say what the feel is. There's this part in Far From The Madding Crowd where she says, ‘I'm your wife! You will love me! You will!' And it's really dramatic and Tamara would never do that! She's much more modern than that and she keeps it inside and that's really satisfying to play especially on camera. I think Hardy can be a little too much on film because they do exclaim everything.”

Roger Allam also felt that Hardy-esque notions needed to be in the background in order to focus on the action at hand: "You're trying to find the tone and the style all the time but you can't really think about that. You can't really think as a character, ‘Oh, I'm in a classic reworking, I'm a modern reworking of a classic story'. Although somewhere at the back of your mind there might be a consciousness of that but certainly not at the forefront.”

For Dominic Cooper, the timelessness of the plot and characters are what gives the film such universal appeal: "The themes and the things that happen and the problems, the human problems, are all things that you could relate to in any time really. But, I suppose, it's modern in how it's set and the music that surrounds it and the ideas about it, which are very much today.”

For Luke Evans, it was more a case of not letting himself be intimidated by the source material: "I'm aware of the influence of Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. I've seen the film, and I've seen Alan Bates. I try not to get too overwhelmed by his performance, and to think ‘Oh God, I've got to try to be like Alan Bates!' But it's a great story, and you can see how it's mirrored in this film.” The very first shot, of hunky Andy chopping wood while romantically backlit, wittily underscores the period/modern tension as he reaches for a plastic water bottle.

The last word on Hardy comes from Tamsin Greig: "I think all stories are echoes of another tale and I try not to think about that. I just try and focus on what's happening now, but with a sense of, ‘You know what? We've seen this all before, this is a tale well told many, many times before. Because we're human beings and we're a bit rubbish.'”


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