In the meantime, I'll be posting some AK related posts until its US theatrical release starting with the cast and characters below...
First, here are quotes from the cast and crew of Anna Karenina taken from the Friends and Family in depth article via Focus Feature's Anna karenina website
“This is a great ensemble; I’d be looking forward to seeing this movie even if I weren’t in it. There are a number of scenes with lots of actors in them, but with Joe’s enthusiasm you never feel like you are getting lost.” (Kelly Macdonald)
“Joe has the knack of making everyone feel they’re like family. He is always interested in actors and their processes.” (Matthew Macfadyen)
“With the rehearsals they’ve had, the actors come to the set comfortable with who their characters are. Joe leaves them room to improvise, and allows for happy accidents that will enrich their process – and his.” (Paul Webster, Anna Karenina producer)
“Joe Wright gives everyone the license and the confidence to go further, while through the performances he will keep the movie grounded.” (Melanie Ann Oliver, Anna Karenina film editor)
Keira Knightley ~ Anna Karenina
“I’ve always loved history – reading about it, playing it out on-screen – because I feel it takes me out of the present; I fall into a fantasy, which I love doing. “But this approach was such a very different concept for this piece, not doing a safe adaptation – and I was so excited. Joe called me into his office and had all these drawings up and explained it to me, and I thought, ‘Let’s go for it!’” (Keira Knightley)
Casting director Jina Jay enthuses, “There were so many rich characters – coming from a great novel – for actors to take on.” Accordingly, Jay was able to secure estimable talent for even the smaller roles, but for the apex of the story’s love triangle no search was ever undertaken; it was on their most recent picture together, Atonement, that Wright and Knightley had first had a conversation about the actress one day portraying Anna.
Wright was confident that Knightley could take on the emotionally complex character and make it her own. He reflects, “We’ve grown up in our movie work together, really. She works so hard, with such attention to detail. Keira is an incredibly strong woman, and utterly fearless – qualities that I wanted to play up in this movie.”
Webster states, “Joe and Keira bring out the best in each other. We knew this was going to be the most demanding role of her career, and that she could fully embrace the challenges of playing Anna.”
Wright muses, “While in real life she is one of the most likable people you will ever meet, on-screen she is not afraid to court dislike if that’s what the character requires. I’m proud of her for what she’s done in our movie. She understands the darker places that some of us can go to, and that was definitely necessary for Anna.”
Stoppard opines, “Anna behaves badly some of the time, and anyone playing her has got to grab hold of this nettling aspect. Neither the novel nor our film is in the business of moral justification.”
Knightley read the novel anew as preparation, and found that her own feelings towards the character had evolved. She says, “I remembered the book as being just incredibly romantic with this extraordinary character. But in re-reading the novel just before we started filming, I found it
magnificent but also much, much darker – and realized that there is the huge question of whether Anna Karenina is a heroine or an anti-heroine. I believe that was so even for Tolstoy. My copy got heavily marked up, and Joe and I were constantly questioning ourselves about Anna; we felt we should show the good and the bad, the kindness and the cruelty. I also discussed this with Tom. I tried to understand Anna and capture her all, so Anna Karenina became the hardest project I’ve done; I knew I had to try to play her without making her ‘too nice.’
“Stories like this one are lasting because they are studies on the human condition as a whole, here within one character. Anna is a great and fallible character, one who speaks to what makes us human; in her, you see the flaws, the heroics, and the terrifying emotions. You care about her, and can’t help but recognize yourself.”
Jude Law ~ Aleksei Karenin (Anna's husband)
“These are people in a world where they are able to play strange social games without feeling hindered by a sense of reality. Joe created an environment where we could step into that world.” (Jude Law)
Law adds, “What’s wonderful about the part is that you see slowly and gradually how his vulnerability awakens; he takes his eyes off his work, which is so much a defining part of him, and the human being comes out to fight for his wife and family. By the end, he’s travelled quite an interesting journey.”
Knightley remarks, “Jude and I both wanted to get at how there is love between the couple; tragically, she doesn’t think there is, and he is unable to vocalize it.”
Law admits, “Those are not the easiest of scenes to play opposite another actor; Keira and I took a lot of time to prepare with Joe, talking about the happier times in their marriage, so that we could push the emotions further on-set.”
Matthew Macfadyen ~ Oblonsky (Anna's brother)
Invited to reunite with the filmmakers and leading lady with whom he made Pride & Prejudice, BAFTA Award winner Matthew Macfadyen leapt at the chance to portray Oblonksy, Anna’s brother. The actor enthuses, “Oblonsky is incorrigible; he’s disarmingly direct and brings humor and warmth to the story as he tries to help the people he loves and cares about, particularly in attempting to be a matchmaker for his friend Levin.
“Oblonsky is one of those people who lights up a dinner party when they come in. He has a wandering eye. He likes the pleasures of the flesh, drinking and eating; to me, he was a very attractive character because he doesn’t suffer from terrible introspection. I don’t see him as ‘a bad man,’ and I hugely enjoyed playing this part – except for the moustache I had to grow.”
“Matthew is a hoot in this role,” enthuses Emmy Award-winning actress Kelly Macdonald, who signed on to play Dolly, wife of Oblonsky and sister-in-law to Anna. “He’s played Oblonsky in just the right way: charismatic, frustrating, lovable – and selfishly addicted to passion.”
The actress felt that she understood Dolly’s temperament, remarking that “Dolly is married to a man she adores, she’s passionate about her family, and she’s pregnant all the time. She is completely happy with her lot in life before finding out about her husband’s affair with the woman who is meant to be looking after their children.
“So it’s devastating for her when she realizes that she’s been made a fool of and her relationship with Anna, whom she admires and with whom she shares a sisterly love, helps her. She refines her focus on family. I feel that in the end Dolly resigns herself to his behavior; she loves her husband and she knows he loves her. But she is not brave enough to attempt what Anna does, which is to seek an independent life – one that no woman in that time and place could really have.”
Kitty is played by up-and-coming Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, in her first English-language role. The role promised an emotional journey for Vikander to undertake, with her character beginning as an innocent and radiant ingénue before experiencing heartbreak upon Vronsky’s rejecting her and then coming to terms with life and love.
The actress’ years of real-life training as a ballet dancer proved beneficial. She notes, “Domhnall and I worked with [choreographer] Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to get into contact with the characters through movement. How Kitty walks or runs into a room at the start of the story and how she is in the last scenes, there’s a complete difference. She proves herself to be very un-judgemental, considering her status in society, and this better prepares her for what comes later.”
Bevan says, “Audiences may not have seen Domhnall or Alicia before, but they are excellent – and, as they are also young people like their characters, there is a freshness to their work.”
“They complement each other,” agrees Webster. “Alicia grasped the opportunity of this role with both hands, and Domhnall shows what a powerful actor he is.”Domhnall Gleeson ~ Levin
As Gleeson sees it, “Levin’s idea of love is at the same time very pure and blinkered, in that he sees only this one person to love; he’s shooting for the absolute ideal, which isn’t always compatible with real life. But in the story, he is one of the only people who spends any time in the real world; he is in a very real place with love, one not based on artifice. That is mirrored in the way he chooses to live his life, which is at a distance from St. Petersburg and Moscow society – away from the theatre, literally. He makes his life in the real world out in the countryside, and is in fact very preoccupied with farming. He is outside sophisticated society.
“Even so, he’s caught between the aristocracy and the serfs; he’s trying to find a home in nature while the woman he loves is in a place which is artificial to him. But they do have a true connection, which means that Levin has to journey to try to win Kitty and bring her back to his real world. He realizes that she’s an even better woman than he thought.”
Countess Vronsky, the cynical mother of Count Vronsky and his brother Alexander, is portrayed by Olivia Williams. Having worked with Wright on Hanna, she was keen to rejoin him on Anna Karenina, having found that “making a movie with Joe and his team is a genuine collaboration.”
Williams was intrigued by her character, “an aging beauty – that’s a phrase which Tom Stoppard put in the stage directions – and to play her I decided to channel [Academy Award-winning actress] Peggy Ashcroft.
“There’s subtext to my character’s introductory scene with Anna; her foremost motivation is ambition, with love a long way down the list. She feels she has a façade to maintain, trying to preserve a fabulous society history. There were many details that I worked out for the character with the costume and hair and make-up departments. But at one point Joe did have to tell me, ‘Don’t wear your subtext!’”
Two-time Academy Award nominee Emily Watson was tapped to play Countess Lydia Ivanovna, who claims the moral high ground in disapproving of Anna’s behavior. The actress opines, “Her fervor is probably repressed sexual energy, and she mistakes her own passion for Karenin for religious zeal. She sails about like a steam ship, and the costumes gave me that sense of posture.
“This story is so sophisticated, set in a time more valorous and chivalrous than our own, and we’re doing it in a way which I found liberating.”
As a two-time Olivier Award winner, Ruth Wilson’s stage experience made her particularly well-qualified for the movie’s theatrical setting; as Princess Betsy Tverskoy, the actress is resplendent in dramatic and exotic costumes amidst high-society artificiality. Wilson admits, “I had free rein from Joe to be more excessive than I would have been in a more traditional period drama. It was great fun to work with [dialect coach] Jill McCullough on Betsy’s speaking voice.
“Betsy also speaks to this film’s themes of love, class, and moral conduct, in that she represents a superficial level of love, lust, and desire; everything is for show, as she exists in a world which is all about beauty and image over anything substantial. Her soirée is like a goldfish bowl for people trying to appear rich and powerful, and real feeling is lacking.”
Thomas Howes ~ Yashvin
Bill Skarsgård ~ Captain Machouten
Alexandra Roach ~ Countess Nordston
Bill Skarsgård ~ Captain Machouten
Alexandra Roach ~ Countess Nordston
Full cast and crew (on IMDB)
Also, the Anna Karenina website has an In Depth articles about Keira & Matthew, highlighting their roles in the film as well as their other past films.
people in film Keira Knightley
people in film Keira Knightley
While ANNA KARENINA marks Keira Knightley’s third literary adaptation with director Joe Wright, it also shows how far Knightley has come as an actress and artist through her numerous cinematic endeavors. Read More!
In playing Oblonsky in ANNA KARENINA, Matthew Macfadyen re-teamed with actress Keira Knightley and director Joe Wright. Although the part’s a far cry from the romantic Darcy, who he played in PRIDE & PREJUDICE, Macfadyen’s made a career out of playing diverse characters. Read More!