In the new comedy Tamara Drewe, a contemporary tale based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Far From the Madding Crowd, set in the West country in England, Dominic Cooper and Luke Evans play two of Tamara’s (Gemma Arterton) suitors.
Evans portrays Andy Cobb, the handsome gardener who knew Tamara when she was considered an ugly duckling. But she has returned to the village with a new nose (care of a plastic surgeon), and a confident attitude to match her fresh found beauty.
Cooper plays Ben Sergeant, a horny rock star who meets Tamara after breaking up with his band.
Both Dominic and Luke spoke with us about the movie and their colorful characters.
Can you tell us a little about your take on Andy and Ben?
Luke Evans: I flicked through (the graphic novel) the first time I got the book and immediately knew which character I was. All the cast have had the same thing, where we’ve scanned through the thought, ‘Blinkin’ heck, I actually look quite like the character, they’ve done quite a good job.’
I got Andy, I understood his physicality and I understood the way he was and who he was. He never lost his dream of living back where he (grew up). It’s the only memory he has of his family, and I think that’s a huge thing. He’s a family man, and he wants his own family one day.
Andy’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.
Dominic Cooper: Even though Ben’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’ realize 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.
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.
With this, the characters are so well drawn out, they verge on caricatures, and you have to be careful about that also. You need to believe that these are real people.
I wanted to make him very different from the character I saw in the graphic novel, and give him much more of a brighter personality. Although he’s extremely dislikeable, on paper he’s so arrogant and egotistical, but I still wanted the audience to like him and basically to feel sorry for him.
Did you go back to Far From the Madding Crowd for your characterization of Andy?
Luke: 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.
What was it like to be directed by Stephen Frears?
Dominic: Stephen gives you a tremendous amount of confidence. Playing my character, in a comedy, you need to feel very confident about what you are doing and very relaxed and able to take risks with it, because you are doing something quite heightened.
So you have to be prepared for it to be very wrong and to make a fool of yourself and if the set and the company feels comfortable amongst each other than you have much more range to be able to experiment, and Stephen really allows that to happen.
Dominic, you recently acted with Helen Mirren on stage in Phedre, what was that like?
Dominic: It was completely magical. We went to Greece and performed at the oldest amphitheatre in the world. It seats 14,000 people. We televised it from London, so it went around the world as a live feed, so we had to very much change our performances while we were doing it.
I never really saw myself as a classical actor, dealing with language like that, but when you get hold of it and it’s inside of you, and it takes awhile, and to work opposite Helen, using that language, in front of an audience – it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life
Luke, you’re currently shooting The Three Musketeers. Can you tell us a little about that?
Luke: With The Three Musketeers, we (rehearsed) all the sword fights in sneakers and track suit bottoms, it was so easy. I had to do this thing where I tip over a cart and slash all these people. And then we put the costumes on and the Musketeer shoes, which had a heel, and that tight fitting corset which the men wore, and their tight collars, and then they gave you the real sword. You look at yourself in the mirror and you go, ‘I look like a Musketeer now.’
I always think the costume is the final bit, and you get on set and you’re ready, ‘I’m Aramis!.’