CAST and crew in the star-studded adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd have praised west Dorset for its beautiful countryside and warm welcome.

Producers hailed the area as exceeding their expectations as they enter the third week of filming in the Beaminster and Dorchester areas.

And hopefuls still have a chance of appearing as extras with large crowd scenes coming up soon for the Hollywood blockbuster.

The film stars Hollywood A-lister Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba alongside Tom Sturridge as Troy and Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel Oak.

Producers Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich said: “Filming is going extremely well in the heart of Hardy country in Dorset.

“We are now into our third week with our amazing cast, Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge and Michael Sheen.

“When we came down to Dorset for our initial recces we were hoping to film in Hardy country, but never expecting to find such idyllic locations here.

“The countryside is breathtakingly beautiful and the area is so untouched, it is exactly as described in the book and perfect for the film.

“It is also full of the architecture we were looking for.

The people of Dorset have been extremely welcoming. “We have recruited a lot of locals – farmers, thatchers and others with specific farming and agricultural skills – and they have all been fantastic growing their beards and really getting into the Thomas Hardy spirit.”

The Thomas Hardy adaptation is a collaboration between British production company DNA films, Fox Searchlight and the BBC.

Producers held open auditions for extras earlier in the summer and many will be contacted about appearing in scenes soon.

Guy Campbell, crowd second assistant director, said: “If you have attended the opening castings in Bridport and Dorchester, you are still in contention for a number of large crowd days coming up.

“So, please do keep growing the beards and I will be in touch soon.”

Celebrities have been spotted in Beaminster as filming continues.

Residents have seen stars Tom Sturridge and fiancé Sienna Miller going in and out of shops in the town.

Starred on our screens in the past

West Dorset is famous for having been used as one of the backdrops to the classic Thomas Hardy tale in the original 1967 film starring Julie Christie and Terence Stamp.

A number of locations were used in 1967 including Abbotsbury, Maiden Castle, Portesham and Durdle Door but all of the locations to be used this time have not yet been disclosed.

The script has been written by David Nicholls, who wrote the 2008 BBC version of Tess Of The D’Urbervilles.