Matthias Schoenaerts, an actor best known for his roles as Gabriel Oak in Far From the Madding Crowd, Alain van Versch in Rust and Bone, and Eric Deeds in The Drop, is a proud supporter of gender equality.
Far From the Madding Crowd is a novel by Thomas Hardy that has been adapted for the screen several times. The film features and follows the life story of an independent woman in Victorian England, Bathsheba Everdeen, who refuses to settle down just because society expects her to do so.
In an interview with the LA Times about the 2015 film adaptation of the novel, Schoenaerts shared why he thinks the film still endures in modern times and is so iconic, saying, “It’s a very nuanced and profound portrayal of this independent woman, which is very relevant nowadays. When you consider that this book was written more than 100 years ago, women were not at all portrayed in that way. It was pretty unconventional. Still, nowadays in the movie industry we’re missing out on a lot of those parts.”
Schoenaerts adds, “Female actresses are not offered the same opportunities as male actors, so I think we’re still in a very – how do you call it? – masculine-dominated industry. So I think this part for an actress is a great gift and blessing, but at the same time, it’s a tough road to tackle because you can still turn her into an arrogant young lady.”
Schoenaerts is famous for taking on roles in films that feature nuanced male and female characters the likes of which are not often represented on the big screen. During the discussion of sexism at the film festival, Schoenaerts was asked about whether this decision is a conscious one, or if the roles he chooses are just the type of roles that appeal to him.
He answered, “I think when you choose a part it’s like falling in love. Most of it is intuition and I think intuition is a very sincere approach into how you feel about things – it’s not intellectual and it’s not cerebral. And then of course you have to figure out why you feel the way you feel about a certain part. But in the end, it’s all about humanity.”
Schoenaerts continued, “This gender question, it is very important but in the end it’s all about individuals that have a heart, a soul, and a heartbeat – they live life, have an imagination, and sensitivities. And yes, males and females might have different sensitivities but before they are male or female, they’re individuals. I like to think in a way that unites people … Of course you have to acknowledge cultural differences and even gender but there is something that unites us and that is way bigger than that difference.”
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