LONDON - Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ comes to the big screen in a new adaptation of the English novelist’s first literary success that introduced his readers to his fictional rural Wessex settings. Set in Victorian England, the film stars British actress Carey Mulligan, known for her roles in ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘An Education’ and ‘Shame’, as the headstrong Bathsheba Everdene who inherits a large farm from her recently deceased uncle. She soon attracts three different suitors - sheep farmer Gabriel Oak, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, reckless sergeant Troy played by Tom Sturridge and mature bachelor William Boldwood, portrayed by Michael Sheen.

Through the relationships she explores love and friendship while faced with the challenges of running the farm.

‘It’s hard, really hard to find characters like this,’ Mulligan said at the London premiere on Wednesday night. ‘I wanted to show her independence and that she’s somebody who knows her own mind and wants to set her own path in life and show that kind of side of her that gets really involved and hands on and mucked in the farm life.’

The novel was published in 1874 and first introduced Hardy’s rural ‘partly real, partly dream’ Wessex setting in southwest England. Hardy went on to write ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ and ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ set in Wessex.

‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ was last brought to the big screen in 1967, with Julie Christie as Bathsheba. Thomas Vinterberg, who directs this version, said he wanted to put a fresh spin on the characters.

‘Primarily I wanted to sort of get away from the frocks and bonnets and get behind the surface of these very rich characters that are in the book and maintain the complexity of the characters in the book,’ he said. The film opens in cinemas on May 1.