Carey Mulligan: The Brit It Girl

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She’s been lying low since the Oscars, living in New York, thinking about her next film. Now Carey Mulligan is back with an Oliver Stone movie and a Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation. But she’s still searching for that perfect role, she tells Dave Calhoun

Have you had an opportunity to rest and take stock since the Oscar campaign and winning the Bafta for ‘An Education’?
‘Oh yes, I haven’t shot anything since “Wall Steet” last autumn. All of the awards season stuff went on until March this year, and it was impossible to work. Then when it came to scripts I couldn’t find anything different enough from stuff I’d already done.’

A chance to take a breather, then?
‘God, yes, I’ve literally done nothing.’

Did you take advice from anyone on how to handle all the Oscar fuss?
‘Yeah, kind of, there’s a gang of people I went through it with. I stuck with Colin Firth and his wife a lot. Whenever I went to a do, he was there and I’d stick with him and his family. That always felt comfy and easy. He doesn’t let it go to his head.

‘Then, when it came to deciding what my next film should be, I remember my agent saying to me that you should only ever take parts that you can’t bear the idea of anyone else doing. I was looking at stuff and thinking: I wouldn’t mind if someone else did this. There was nothing that was so exciting that I couldn’t say no.’

The new ‘Wall Street’ film opens next week. Oliver Stone must have cast you in that before ‘An Education’ became a hit?
‘Yes, I think he got a screener and saw it over last summer.’

You play Winnie Gekko, daughter of Gordon Gekko and morally at the opposite end of the dial from him. DId he say why he chose you?
‘No, I was kind of scared because I thought the character in “Wall Street” wasn’t similar at all to what I was doing in “An Education”, and I think that’s the only film he’s ever seen me in. I came out and met Shia LaBeouf and Michael Douglas and did a read-through. It was scary as I’d never been offered something without an audition. I didn’t feel like I’d proved myself.’

Stone says he thought a British actress would stress how outside corporate culture Winnie Gekko is.
‘Oh, he never said any of that to me. He was always trying to make me more American: “Go to a baseball game, you need to be more American.” He wanted me to watch football games and eat hot dogs. He said it a couple of times: “Don’t be so English,” meaning my sensibility, I think, not my accent.

‘He was very insightful and calm, which I wasn’t expecting. I think I expected a chaotic set and a manic American. I’d never done a big American film; I’d done tiny roles in Michael Mann and Jim Sheridan films, so I was expecting something crazy. But it was the same, just slightly larger and I had a trailer for the first time.’

Another film you shot last year, ‘Never Let Me Go’, an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s book, is opening the London Film Festival.
‘Yeah, I’m coming back over to London for the opening next month.’

Did you have much contact with Ishiguro himself?
‘He came into rehearsals for a day and we bombarded him with questions. But I think the film’s writer, Alex Garland, and him have been friends for about 15 years, so he felt he  could just let it go. He visited the set once, I think.’

You play Kathy, the book’s narrator.
‘I wanted to play Kathy because she’s so far from other characters I’ve played. Most of them have been emotionally articulate and expressive, and she isn’t. She’s an observer, she defers to other people’s emotions and lets other people speak. In the script she had the least dialogue of all three main characters and so I wanted to see if I could make a character like that engaging and not passive.’

So have you chosen your next film yet?
‘I’m doing “Drive” with the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, and that’s shooting here in the US in about a week. That was mainly because I wanted to work with Refn. I loved “Bronson”, I loved “Valhalla Rising” and the “Pusher” trilogy.

‘I’m playing a single mother whose husband has been in jail and she  comes across Ryan Gosling, who takes it on himself to rescue her. The character was a late-twenties Latino woman at first, so we’ve rewritten a lot. It’s been good to sit around with a writer. I’ve never been able to do that before.’

Are you still doing an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s book ‘On Chesil Beach’ with Sam Mendes?
‘Definitely. We didn’t have enough time this summer. There wouldn’t have been any leaves left on the trees by the time we started, and Sam wanted to do it a certain way. It should happen next year, I hope.’

Any plans for theatre?
‘I’m hoping to do “Through a Glass Darkly”, which Ruth Wilson just did at the Almeida in London. They’re bringing it to Broadway. Hopefully, that’s my plan for the spring.’

And is there a perfect film role you’re still on the lookout for?
‘Well, in “Drive” I’m playing someone quite different from before, but I’d still like to do something in which I’m completely unrecognisable.’

Read our reviews of ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ and ‘Never Let Me Go

Author: Interview: Dave Calhoun



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