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Carey Mulligan thinks Thomas Hardy was ahead of his time

NEW YORK — While Carey Mulligan had never read Thomas Hardy’s classic novel “Far From the Madding Crowd” before she was cast as the lead character Bathsheba Everdene in the latest film remake of the book (opening Friday), the actress now has become a huge fan of the 19th century writer.

“I love playing strong female characters, and Bathsheba is certainly that — plus a whole lot more,” said Mulligan during a recent interview in Manhattan. “Frankly, not only with ‘Far From the Madding Crowd,’ but with his other books, Hardy created some pretty amazing female characters.”

Yet for this film, based on Hardy’s novel, Mulligan admitted to being “totally transported by his writing. … I had a vague idea of the story, even though I had never read the book in school. For me, I loved the fact that 150 years ago a man could create such a strong, independent woman like Bathsheba — and could do it so brilliantly and authentically.”

In the film, Mulligan’s Bathsheba inherits a fairly substantial farming operation in the English countryside of Dorset. The actress admitted it was “fun, but challenging” to learn about 19th century farming techniques and farm equipment, in order to add authenticity to the movie’s look.

At one point, she and fellow cast members had to leap into a large water pit to wash down a herd of sheep. Mulligan laughed recalling that day. “It was one of the early days of filming. It really was a good bonding experience for us as a cast. Unfortunately, I was the only one not wearing waterproof liners under my costume — and that water was pretty cold. So, I really toughed it out that day!”

Another aspect of “Far From the Madding Crowd” that Mulligan enjoyed was that “about 70 percent of the film was shot outside in that beautiful Dorset setting. I loved that. So often, that’s not the case with costume dramas. You’re all corseted up and stuck filming in a stuffy 18th century ballroom or whatever.

“Of course, I was all corseted up here too, and that was a bit uncomfortable — especially when you’re bounding across a field at a fast pace on a horse! But at least we were outside! That helped a lot.”