Everyone is buzzing about Carey Mulligan — aka “the it girl” who stars in director Lone Scherfig’s upcoming romantic drama An Education alongside Peter Sarsgaard — and for good reason. There is a certain sophistication and ease to her on screen that is reminiscent of many Hollywood greats before her. Her unique beauty and personality only add to her obvious charm. And I have yet to mention her talent, which after you see this film cannot be questioned.
Last week I had the privilege to sit around a round table and talk to Mulligan about her edgy role in the film, becoming “the next big thing,” and the doors that An Education has opened up for her (it’s not everyday Oliver Stone calls up a young actress and tells them that they’re the only one for a part in his new film). Sitting across from her was refreshing, she was humble and charming, and you could see why so many people are enamored with her.
Check out what she had to say in our interview below…
How did it to feel to play the young, naughty girl in An Education?
Carey: Fun, playing young was fun. I usually play younger characters than myself so that was never daunting thing. It became fun when Peter Sarsgaard and I became a double act playing the scene when we convince them to let her go to Oxford. We started figuring out this routine and the routine we used to get her to Paris, that was fun.
Was it love or a dream about another kind of life?
Carey: I think it starts off as escapism. I think he represents a life that she has no access to and that she wants for herself. First of all, he presents her with another world that she’s been in, but then I think she grows to love him. I don’t think she’s ever in love with him or there is a sexual passion between them, but she finds him endearing and sweet. It starts off as just a way out of feeling kind of stuck in this life with her parents, and her school teachers who aren’t on the same level as her, but she does love him, if she’s not in love with him.
How does it feel to be referred to as the ‘next big thing’?
Carey: The ‘It girl’ thing sort of implies that I go to the opening of a mobile phone party and drink champagne. ‘It girl’ such a weird term. I’d never been to film festival before and I’d never played a lead in a film before. Peter said to me when we went to a play on Broadway last year, that he wasn’t going to come to Sundance because he was doing another play. He would give me these pep talks, “Don’t be upset if no one buys the movie because they probably won’t.” My expectations where beyond managed. I thought there was no hope. So when it was well received at Sundance and sold, that was kind of it. That was as good as it gets. It has afforded me opportunities that I wouldn’t of had last year and I met people I would’ve of never met. The first five years I was acting I would never be enough of a name, so I’d read parts I knew I had no hope of getting. That’s slightly easier this year. I still don’t get 17 scripts a day, but it does make it easier. Out of the Sundance thing, that’s been the best things for me that I got to meet interesting people.
You’re also playing Winnie Gekko in Wall Street 2. Did that come as a result of your performance in An Education or was that already on the books?
Carey: Oliver saw An Education and offered me Winnie. He offered it to me while I was shooting Never Let Me Go and I was with Andrew Garfield who’s in Never Let Me Go with me, and my agent rang me and said Oliver Stone is going to call you. We were sitting having sushi and Garfield was sort of like, “Oh man, we’ve got to get a hands-free, speaker thing,” so we got a hands-free and we both sat over the sushi listening to Oliver pissing ourselves. That all came from An Education, which was brilliant. It’s a completely different character. I get to play an adult which it mad because I usually play kids. And I play an American and a Gekko. It’s another world from An Education.
How is it working for Oliver in terms of working for the director of this film Lone Scherfig?
Carey: Completely different. It’s funny because when I did my first part in an American film, I did a part in Brothers, which was a tiny, tiny role, but I went out thinking it would be so different. I had this impression that America would be vastly different that what it was to work in London, but it’s just not. Even on Wall Street, which is a huge film, it’s still the same guys on the crew. You still end up hanging out with the same people and there’s still that commodity that you get on a film set in a larger scale — there’s bigger trucks and better food. Oliver is so different from anyone I’ve ever worked with and Lone is different from anyone I’ve ever worked with. They work in different ways. Wall Street is a man film. I’m in the man’s club and that was part of why I wanted to do it and to work with Oliver, it was sort of a daunting prospect in a way. Luckily it’s been brilliant.
Can you describe working with Lone?
Carey: She doesn’t see filmmaking as stressful, she sees it as a joy. She ran the whole thing in a calm way. She never got upset or over-excited. It felt like a chilled out vibe. Everyone always says, “Oh the cast, we all loved each other,” but we really did. Especially with me and Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper and Peter, all the stuff with Danny and Helen running around Oxford, we just had a really good time. She had a joy for the film that I don’t know anyone else could’ve had. She found things funny about British culture that only an outsider could find that funny. She finds Battenberg cake hysterical and then she makes it funny for the audience.
Paris and London held a certain mystique for Jenny, as an actress did Hollywood apply?
Carey: No. New York did, when I first went to New York. LA didn’t for me. The month I got this job — September 2008 — I came out here for the first time to meet a couple of agents and then I signed with my agency here. I felt that way towards New York because I had these Broadway dreams when I was little. I always wanted to be a theater actress. I wasn’t that interested in film until I started acting professionally. I was still set on being on stage. When I did “The Seagull” and I was standing on stage, I had a real life moment.
What do you think is the future for your character in the film?
Carey: The real Jenny went to Oxford, fell in love and married him and is still with him now. The real David is out there too, but we don’t talk about him. She also wrote a book, which Nick Hornby gave to me a couple of weeks ago called, “How To Improve Your Man In Bed.” I mean it’s hard because Lynn Barber, in real life, went on, became a really fames journalist in England and is happily married so she found the ideal life so I suppose I want Jenny to find the same thing. You see an idea of that in the end. She’s with this new guy and he’s of an appropriate age, they own bikes, which is fun. She’s sort of reinventing herself.
There was actually a different ending that got cut. I don’t know… well they’re releasing the screenplay and it will have this at the end. David comes to Oxford, in the film you see his car in the back of the frame, which we couldn’t cut out. He came to Oxford, after he had been in prison – which he did in real life, he was put away for fraud and — He comes back and says “I’m getting a divorce, I want you back, you’re still my ‘Mini-Mouse’ I’m still your ‘Bubble-Lub” and she goes “Psh! Please” (laughs) and then says “look I found my own life” and walks away and that’s the end of the film. But we filmed it in Oxford and we had this glorious sunshine. The filmed Peter’s side and they they turned around we ran out of time and then we tried to re-shoot it a couple of weeks later and it was in the rain. It never matched. And it just felt like it wasn’t saying anything, so it was cut. But you can see his car! Car lovers will see the car.
What do you love about acting?
Carey: That’s such a tough question because I never want to do anything else. I just feel happiest when I’m acting, when I’m working. I guess it’s sort of an escapism. There’s a lot of bonuses you get from being an actor. You get to learn about things that you normally wouldn’t learn about. Doing Wall Street, I’m learning about finance and that’s not part of my world. I like inhabiting other people. I’m more comfortable being somebody else. I’m happiest when I’m being somebody else.
Watch Mulligan in An Education in theaters October 9th.