The Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH)
Date: 8/15/2003


Byline: Matt Wolf Associated Press Writer
LONDON -- Ciaran Hinds is used to supporting roles. So imagine his surprise at landing the title role of the doomed Michael Henchard in the latest adaptation of "The Mayor of Casterbridge."
At last, he's playing a lead.
"You wonder why you get picked sometimes," Hinds said, laughing. "But somebody's got to do it."
The Belfast-born 50-year-old actor has the glowering intensity to play a reformed drunk whose life is taken over by the youthful misdeed of having sold his wife and child for five guineas.

But Hinds also has the refinement needed to stir empathy toward one of those 19th-century literary characters defined by an inescapable destiny. Based on Thomas Hardy's 1886 novel, "The Mayor of Casterbridge" inhabits a merciless Dorset landscape where doom is only a plot twist away.

The three-hour film, directed by David Thacker, premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday on A&E (with repeat showings later in the month).

Juliet Aubrey and Jodhi May co-star as the wife and child who return to Henchard after nearly two decades, and James Purefoy plays Donald Farfrae, Henchard's assistant-turned-rival for the affections of the Casterbridge townsfolk.

Hinds knew his performance would have to anchor the film, saying: "It is a responsibility."

The challenge, Hinds said, is that Henchard is "a man who, although not touched by evil, has done terrible things and always had a sense of doing wrong that he couldn't put right. ... Everything for Henchard seems to be difficult; every scene, every confrontation is blinkered."

And although he has acted in period dramas before-- in screen versions of Jane Austen's "Persuasion" and Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" -- Henchard is a breed apart.

"Bronte and Austen write a different class of people; they're not from the earth," Hinds said.

As for the mayor? "He's very earthbound; there's nothing effete about him. When you play him, you carry thoughts in your head of being disgruntled, bitter, confused, arrogant and yet somehow aware. He has an extraordinary sense of pride, male pride, while still regretting what he has done."

"In Hardy's world, fate is the master of everything. It is vain to fight against it, so I suppose you go, 'Whatever will be, will be.'"

Ciaran Hinds stars as Michael Henchard in A&E's "Mayor of Casterbridge," based on Thomas Hardy's 1886 novel.

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