Back in January we predicted that every straight woman with a pulse would fancy Matthias Schoenaerts in 2015. This year saw the Belgian actor launch his English-language acting career in a series of deeply romantic roles, and with the impending release of the highly anticipated Far From The Madding Crowd (May 1st), mass adoration is a sure-fire certainty.
Forget the Jamie Dornan and Fifty Shades fever that dominated brains last February – Schoenaerts is the only name worth knowing this summer.
Schoenaerts – pronounced scone-arts, we think – is taking on the part of Gabriel Oak in the adaptation of the Thomas Hardy romance novel. The movie tells the story of Bathsheba Everdene, a young woman in late Victorian England who finds herself in the midst of a love square after inheriting a small fortune. Fiercely independent, she first attracts the calm and sensible Oak, a shepherd played by Schoenaerts. However, Bathsheba is a proto-feminist character; she sees more to life than surrendering herself to marriage. This vitality attracts two other suitors. Well-to-do bachelor farmer William Boldwood and dashing soldier Sergeant Troy are among the men insinuating themselves into her life while Oak works on her farm and becomes her sole confidante. Sadly, disaster soon strikes, and Bathsheba learns the risks of opening her heart.
Schoenaerts’ role as Oak was one of the most sought after in the British filmmaking scene. Alan Bates immortalised the part in the famous 1967 film, but people are saying Schoenaerts may surpass the rugged yet gentle earthiness of that interpretation. All we know is that we’ll be first in line to see the movie when it hits Irish screens on May 1st.
Here are the key Matthias Schoenaerts facts you need to know.
He’s from Belgium
Schoenaerts was born in Antwerp on the feast of the epiphany in the year of our Lord 1977. He has been acting since his teens, and the first film he appeared in aged 15, Daens, got nominated for an Oscar. His 2008 appearance in Flemish thriller Loft was an indie hit, and Schoenaerts reprised his leading role in the Hollywood remake, released last month.
He’s very good at intensely dramatic roles
If you’re planning a Schoenaerts movie binge, you’re in for a compelling treat. The actor is drawn to intense roles and has stunned critics in a parade of award-winning dramas. Bullhead saw Schoenaerts plays a cattle farmer caught up in the murky criminal trade of cattle hormones. In Rust and Bone he starred opposite Marion Cottilard as an amateur fighter helping her come to terms with an accident that left her with amputated legs.
He’s the next Colin Firth
Schoenaerts most recent cinematic choices have been a smorgasbord of thoughtful historical dramas, AKA catnip for our ovaries. A few weeks ago we fell for his sensitive German soldier in the swerving moral compass that is Second World War drama Suite Française. As pianist and German commander Bruno von Falk in the adaptation of Irène Némirovsky’s novel, he attracts Lucille, played by Michelle Williams. However, complications arise because Bruno happens to be part of the force occupying and oppressing Lucille’s native France.
Schoenaerts can also currently be seen on screens in gardening drama, A Little Chaos. He’s working longer-than-usual hair as André Le Nôtre, a famous landscape architect who created the gardens at the Palace of Versailles. Kate Winslet plays his rival and love interest, the talented Sabine de Barra, as they compete to design a fountain for King Louis XIV.
However, the part we can’t wait to see Schoenaerts playis that of Gabriel Oak in Far from the Madding Crowd. Oak is a young, poor and handsome shepherd who falls in love with Carey Mulligan’s enthralling and independent Bathsheba Everdene, a proud and beautiful woman like no one he has ever met before. Theirs is a relationship of ups and downs as Bathsheba comes to terms with an unexpected fortune and three vastly different rivals for her affection, including the steady Gabriel. Forget Mr. Darcy, Gabriel Oak is the real man of the land, and our daydreams.
His next bit of time travel will be in The Danish Girl, opposite Eddie Redmayne. The movie is Eddie’s first since his Oscar win and tells the sounds-fascinating story of Lili Elbe, one of the first known women to have undergone sex reassignment surgery.
Carey Mulligan chose him for the role of Gabriel Oak
The English actress chose Matthias after seeing him in Rust and Bone. She told Total Film that as soon as she watched the French film she rang Far from the Madding Crowd Director Thomas Vinterberg, saying, “That’s who I want!” In the same interview she described her co-star as “effortlessly manly”, a descriptor we can’t help but agree with.
Remember, we saw him first…
Far from the Madding Crowd goes on general release May 1st.
Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun