In the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel of Victorian England, “Far From the Madding Crowd,” the fates of two of the story’s major female characters couldn’t be more different.
Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba Everdene, an ardently independent young woman who inherits her uncle’s estate. Bathsheba is a rare one in her time — a self-sufficient woman who answers to no man.
Fanny Robin is quite another story. Betrothed to a handsome young soldier, Fanny makes an innocent mistake on the day she is to marry him. Her life spirals into tragedy.
Juno Temple plays Fanny, a woman whose options are severely limited. The 25-year-old actress has appeared in more than 30 films. Her earlier roles include Thistletwit, a fairy in the Angelina Jolie-starring “Maleficent”; Daniel Radcliffe’s doomed girlfriend in “Horns”; and the childlike Dottie, object of Matthew McConaughey’s lust in the New Orleans-shot “Killer Joe.”
Temple has played multiple tragic characters through the years, but Fanny in “Far From the Madding Crowd” ranks especially high on the tragedy scale.
“But I don’t feel like she is the tragedy,” Temple said from New York during a press day for the film. “She felt like a blast of beautiful light as well.”
Fanny and her boyfriend, Tom Sturridge’s Sgt. Frank Troy, truly are in love, Temple said.
“It’s an honest and pure love that gets completely messed up by circumstance,” the actress says.
If Fanny’s and Troy’s relationship had worked out, Temple believes, the sergeant, who later becomes involved with Mulligan’s Bathsheba, would have been a different man all together.
“They really made each other happy,” she said. “But then Fanny breaks him so profoundly and hurts his ego. It’s a double whammy.”
Despite Fanny’s and Bathsheba’s contrasting experiences, Temple doesn’t see the two women as fundamentally different.
“They have the same drive for life and love,” she said. “Fanny never for a moment felt sorry for herself. She is such a fighter, such a passionate young woman.”
Yet, Victorian social conventions render Fanny to an awful end.
“Because Fanny was pregnant and not married, she was damaged goods, almost useless in society,” Temple said. “She’s begging. Another man wouldn’t want to fall in love with her. The way women were treated back then was just outrageous.”
Hardy set his story about Bathsheba, her three suitors and Fanny in the fictional English county of Wessex. The author based Wessex on Dorset in rural southwest England, where he grew up. Danish director Thomas Vinterberg insisted upon filming “Far From the Madding Crowd” there.
Filming in costume in quintessential English countryside helped transport Temple and the cast to their story’s time and place.
“Oh, my God,” she said. “There were some moments where my breath was taken away. When you go into a period piece, the costumes and the settings are so overwhelming. They absolutely help you get into character.
“The costume makes you hold yourself completely differently, breathe differently, move differently. The location is almost like its own character in the film, especially with the relationships Bathsheba has with the three men in her life. The farm work, the animals, the trees. It’s like a pulse, and very sensual.”
Temple decided she would be an actress at 4. Watching Jean Cocteau’s 1946 classic, “Beauty and the Beast,” with her father, film director Julien Temple, inspired her decision.
“My dad put on ‘La belle et la bête,’ ” she said. “I melted into that movie. If you’re a girl, or a child, with a wild imagination, it’s like a fairy tale coming to life. I wanted to do whatever they’re doing.”
Temple’s passion for acting seems nowhere near cooling.
“I’m amazed by the bravery that some actors put into their performances. That makes me hungry to keep trying to fill the shoes of another person. I think that’s a great task.”