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Filmography • Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Cast Highlights:
  • Eddie Redmayne
  • Ruth Jones
  • Jodie Whittaker
  • Hans Matheson
  • Character: Tess Durbeyfield
    Production Status: On DVD
    Release Date: September 14, 2008 (UK)
    Director: David Blair
    Writers: Thomas Hardy (novel), David Nicholls (writer)
    Genre: Drama
    Filming Locations: Filmed on location in Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset in Spring 2008
    MPAA Rating: n/a

    Plot Outline:
    The story of Tess Durbeyfield, a low-born country girl whose family find they have noble connections.
    When Tess’s drunken father discovers their family can trace their ancestry back to Norman nobility, Tess’s unhappy fate is set in motion as a train of events is unleashed.
    Exceptionally beautiful, Tess is given a place with her supposed noble kinsmen and is seduced and raped by the son of the family, Alec D’Urberville (Hans Matheson).
    She returns home and gives birth to a sickly boy who soon dies. Trying to rebuild her life, Tess is employed as a milkmaid and meets Angel Clare (Eddie Redmayne).
    They fall in love and Angel proposes. Scared of losing him, she can’t face telling him about her past, but on their wedding night Angel confesses a previous affair, so Tess, convinced that he will now forgive her, owns up about her own relationship with Alec – with tragic consequences.

    Gemma’s Role:
    Gemma Arterton plays Tess. Used by her family to charm money out of the D’Urbervilles, beautiful Tess pays the price. Tess is the innocent but spirited heroine of the story and the eldest daughter of a poor, rural Victorian family. She is sensitive, loyal and kind and tries to do the best for her loved ones. A “fine and handsome girl”, Tess easily attracts the attention of admirers but her life is tragically undone by their misdeeds and misjudgements.

    Gemma literally screamed with joy when she heard she had got Tess while still filming Quantum of Solace. “I thought, ‘Now I can show everybody I can act.'” “Tess was completely different to Bond. But that’s what I want in my career. On the Bond film we had a day to shoot each scene, but on Tess we worked so quickly so I was acting and thinking all the time.” Clearly a wonderful part for any actress, Gemma explains what attracted her to the role. “I was attracted to the role because stripped down, it’s such a basic story about love and missed opportunities, everyone can relate to it. If only Angel had asked Tess to dance with him. It’s also just brilliant, brilliant storytelling. Whether you’re into tragedy or not, it grips you, because you’re with Tess the whole time.” “I was honoured to be considered for the part, but at the same time I did feel a huge responsibility to get it right. I wanted to do the character justice because she is such a strong and inspiring woman.” Arterton fell in love with Tess as intensely as Thomas Hardy, the character’s creator, did. She wept when she read the script and glows when she describes Tess. “She’s simple as you like. She’s a pure, straightforward girl who grows into a woman with simple ideas and simple goals, and that’s really attractive. People come along and chip away at her life, but she still keeps this sense of strength and dignity about doing the right thing for her family, her baby and her love.” “You see where she’s come from, and you’re immediately on her side. Nobody can dislike Tess – unless they’re fundamentally bitter about life. She is the archetype of goodness. You can’t say, as some Victorian prudes did, ‘she asked for it!'” “Even though Tess was written more than a hundred years ago, I have a surprising affinity with her. Like her, I’m from a working-class background and from a strong family – that’s one of the reasons they wanted to cast me. She has an awkwardness in social situations and she feels that she’s not like everyone else – I got that. When I was at drama school, I often felt odd and intimidated.” When Gemma is asked if she is, in fact, Tess, she laughs. “No — there are similarities, but I’ve got too much of a sense of humour. Poor old Tess doesn’t have much of a laugh. She doesn’t think things through, she just feels them. And I’m like that. I don’t rationalise, I just feel. I suppose if I had been born 150 years ago, it might have been into the same sort of life. There’s a similar background — normal family life, not middle-class. I look after my family. I’ve always been quite a mothering person, and Tess is like that. More than similarities in character, I think there are similarities in the way I operate as a person and the way I think and feel. But I can’t really pin them down. She’s much more restrained and shy and gentle. [She laughs again.] I’m more — abrupt, shall we say.” “Tess goes through so much and maintains her dignity right up until the end. Weirdly, I did learn quite a lot about myself from playing this role. I realised that I couldn’t have survived in those times. It was tough and I don’t think I would have had the strength to get through each day. I reckon I would have turned to drink early on!” “I swear to God I’ve never cried as much as I did when I played Tess.”

    This isn’t Gemma’s first foray into the world of Tess: “I played the character of Hope, Tess’s younger sister, in a school play. Coming to the drama again almost 10 years later is a very different experience. I was too young to really understand it first time around.”

  • External Links:
  • Official Website
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Photo Gallery
  • Download Video clips (coming soon!)
  • From the Photo Gallery:

    Cast and Crew Quotes:
    • “She’s a nature goddess.”
    – BBC1 executives (Tess of the D’Urbervilles producers)

    • “She’s unutterably beautiful, but the key thing here is that she’s an actress, not just a face — a real star in the making.”
    – BBC1 executives (Tess of the D’Urbervilles producers)

    • “Also, Gemma’s very down to earth, which is perfectly fine, with all this attention going on around her.”
    – BBC1 executives (Tess of the D’Urbervilles producers)

    • “You have to meet Gemma Arterton. She’s Tess.”
    Tess of the D’Urbervilles casting agent (in a phone call to the director of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, David Blair)

    • “Keira has grown since Zhivago. It’s no surprise because everyone thought, ‘Hang on, there is something about this girl.’ She has this presence on the screen that is mesmerising. Gemma is a very bonnie girl and, like Keira, you do get a sense she is going places. She’s got so much fire in her – she is so much more than a Bond girl.”
    – Hans Matheson (Keira Knightley co-star in Doctor Zhivago and Tess of the D’Urbervilles co-star)