Matthias and his co-stars Carey Mulligan sat down with USA Today to promote “Far From The Madding Crowd“. The print edition of the interview appeared in yesterday’s edition (April 28) of USA Today and you can find the scans in our gallery. We also added the first photoshoot outtakes.
Growing up in Belgium, the son of actor Julien Schoenaerts, Matthias Schoenaerts never thought to enter the family business.
He wanted to be a professional soccer player.
So when, exactly, did he realize he could pay rent by acting in films such as 2011’s best foreign language Oscar nominee Bullhead or as a bare-knuckle brawler opposite Marion Cotillard in the heartbreaking 2012 French drama Rust and Bone?
“Yesterday. As we speak,” jokes the actor, 37. “I never dreamed of being an actor. At a certain point, that’s what I wanted to do. Before you know it, you graduate from the Academy of Dramatic Arts. Damn, I’m an actor.”
And a pretty unpretentious or tortured one, if you ask his Far From the Madding Crowd (in theaters Friday) co-star Carey Mulligan, 29, who rejects a marriage proposal from the sheep farmer played by Schoenaerts. Mulligan’s spunky Bathsheba Everdene has three suitors, but Schoenaerts’ Gabriel Oak is the most present, and most enduring.
Schoenaerts is poised for a major professional breakthrough, given his upcoming slate of releases, and his chiseled looks haven’t gone unnoticed: He was one of the faces of Louis Vuitton last year.
“I tend to get stuck in my head and anxious when I’m working. I’m a real stickler,” Mulligan says. “Matthias has an amazing way of taking you out of that. He can access his emotions very easily, but he has a constant source of fun on set. Which you need for a story like this. You can’t spend eight weeks in the dark Thomas Hardy world.
“We balance each other out in a good way. We had some miserable things to do.”
Like washing sheep in water that was, well, fragrant. And filming in the British countryside on very cold days. At this point, it’s old hat for actors to insist they didn’t loathe one another, but in this case Mulligan swears it’s true, which helped when shooting a classic Thomas Hardy story that has its brooding moments.
“People can hate each other and still do great stuff. It was an added bonus that we all got on very well,” she says. “We could have a decent conversation and be friends. We’d meet in the pub and talk.
“We did the whole movie in eight weeks. Mainly, it was up at 5:30 — they wanted to shoot the sunrise. So there was not a huge amount of socializing.”
And, of course, Schoenaerts had the added bonus of being shunted aside by Mulligan in the beginning of the film. He says that like his character, he can be passionate and impulsive.
“I really need to work on that. Sometimes I’m pretty reserved and sometimes I’m a madhouse. Once I’m crazy about someone, forget about it. I’m like a kid. Then you get this weird law of attraction type of funkiness,” says Schoenaerts, who is single but doesn’t offer up details about his personal life.
“If this is a game, I’m out. I hate that. Here’s my heart. Come on. Wake up. It’s ridiculous. You think you get smarter when you get older? Hell, no.”
Next up for Schoenaerts: stepping in the exploratory boots of William Clark in HBO’s Lewis & Clark miniseries, slated to air next year and co-starring Casey Affleck. He also just wrapped Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as the first person known to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
Schoenaerts may be loose on set and in touch with his emotions, but says he doesn’t play around with his career.
“People confuse playfulness with not being serious. I’m dead serious. You get out of your mind and let it breathe and let it flow,” he says.