Carey Mulligan is on a roll. Over the past two years, the actress has landed one meaty part after another, with one of them resulting in a prestigious Oscar nomination (An Education). This fall she has two films opening within a week of each other, Never Let Me Go and the highly anticipated sequel Wall Street Money Never Sleeps. The actress has worked with some heavy hitters in her day but Michael Douglas‘ Gordon Gekko is a different kind of monster.
In Money Never Sleeps, Mulligan plays his estranged daughter Winnie Gekko, a young journalist who runs an alternative website that focuses on exposing corruption in politics and big business — she’s the antithesis of her dad in every sense of the word. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mulligan in a one-on-one interview, where we discussed her experience working alongside Douglas and being under the direction of Oliver Stone. She also spoke about her future goals and whether or not she’d ever tackle a comedy (paging Russell Brand).
Check out the interview…
How do you go from An Education to playing the daughter of Satan in a suit?
Carey Mulligan: Good question! I don’t know. It was completely mental. You know I got a phone call from Oliver Stone asking me to come to LA and read the script. He had seen An Education so for some reason he equated that with Wall Street. Very strange, but lucky for me. That was the first time I hadn’t had to audition for a job, which is rare. So I went out and met him and read the scenes and said yes pretty much right away. But it was sort of out of nowhere and it’s the first time that could have happened. I’ve never even been called up by a director before.
Did you meet Michael shortly after or did you guys do the method thing where you didn’t speak because you’re estranged in the movie?
CM: Well, we did that to an extent, but we rehearsed together. We did rehearse because we had to figure out so much stuff. When he was invented, she wasn’t in the first film, so we had to make up her whole life really. So me and Michael and Oliver sat down with three weeks of rehearsal and we used a lot of that time to figure out their relationship and how much time they spent apart. And then when we were shooting, we did keep a distance. We weren’t sort of hanging out off set. And we kind of both knew that’s what we had to do. It wasn’t deliberate, like “I’m not going to talk to you for three months.” It was just sort of staying away. It helped scenes. If we had been very fond of each other off set, those scenes would have been much harder to play, so we just sort of kept a discreet distance.
If your character Winnie dislikes her father and what he does so much, why is she dating someone in the exact same field?
CM: I know. Well, there’s kind of a Freudian thing going on where it’s like you date your father and all that insanity. There’s also, you know, the fact that you can’t really help who you fall in love with. In the beginning of the film, he is the best version of a Wall Street trader. He’s ambitious and he’s in that world, but he’s using his skills and he’s using that world to make this great energy thing happen. He’s trying to use it for good. It doesn’t sit easily with her and she doesn’t enjoy the company of the people who are in that world. Especially that ball that she goes to, she’s sitting with him and Bretton. He’s the devil to her. And she’s irritated because he’s sort of charming and she doesn’t want to be charmed by him. So that whole world is kind of not something that she’s comfortable with. But if anything Jake is the best version of a Wall Street trader. He’s trying to do something positive, so I think that’s how she kind of reconciles it with herself.
I don’t think she hates her father because whenever there’s an emotional scene, and you guys are going at it I see more hurt than anger. How does she, from your perspective feel about her father?
CM: Just completely abandoned, you know. I think she just wishes that things could have been different. It’s more of the pain of like life could have been so much better and so different had he been there. I think she’s convinced herself, whether it’s true or not, that if he had been around and he hadn’t been in prison, her brother wouldn’t have killed himself. That if he had been around, he wouldn’t have gone off the tracks and started taking drugs and fucking around with other people. He would have been there. And that’s the pain of it. It’s more that she felt like she just lost her father. And it’s less to do with the crimes that he committed and all that stuff. I mean that’s painful, but that’s forgivable. The fact that he wasn’t there was sort of the ultimate pain for her. Her whole life was altered by him going to prison and losing her brother, which is something she’ll never recover from.
How was it to be directed by Oliver Stone?
CM: It’s great. You know, I heard all the crazy Oliver Stone stories before I signed on. And I was nervous, but I never saw a negative side to Oliver. He’s kind of awesome. He’s just the most unique person I have ever met. And also one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He’s so, so clever and so knowledgeable about everything: politics and finance and current events. He really knows everything. And he was really supportive. He treated me kind of like one of the boys. He didn’t really coddle me and treat me like a girl particularly. He was really focused on the work. He was insightful and he knew the script back to the front. He also knew our backstory that we invented and so every time I had a struggle with anything, he would just bring me back to the story. And that’s kind of how I like to work. I like somebody who lets me basically do what I want, but keeps me on the right track and doesn’t let me go off into completely terrible territory.
What do you think Stone is trying to say with Money Never Sleeps that he didn’t touch on in the original Wall Street?
CM: I think he never would have made it unless there’s something to say. There were two things. I think he wanted to articulate what happened in 2008 in an accessible way, and the way of doing that is to make a family drama and surrounding it with the crash. And also, I understand it better than I did before, and that’s sort of one of the key things about it. It is about greed and the same things that got us into trouble last time are the things that cause the crash this time. But it’s sort of imbued with a little bit of hope this time. It’s sort of trying to say that there has to be another way, that capitalism or just accruing wealth… It will constantly come back to this problem if we continue like that, so we need to find ways to get out of that system or make things better.
Were you on set the day that Charlie Sheen did his cameo?
CM: Yes. Everybody came in that day early to watch that happen. I mean everybody was behind the monitors like: “What? This is crazy!” Yeah so everyone was there. We were so excited. It took like two hours to shoot. I just wanted to watch him. I couldn’t believe he was in the room. It’s an awesome reveal.
I know that you’re British but you play an American in the film and you did a great job with your accent. Who was your dialect coach?
CM: Tim Monich was my accent coach. He’s sort of one of the best in the country, I mean if not the best, basically. And he made me tapes and he wrote out my script in phonetics and we had coaching sessions together throughout the filming and he was on set everyday listening in and kind of nudging me in the right direction here and there. You know, I didn’t want it to sort of dominate. If it was distracting, if I started thinking more about the accent than the scene, then I would just forget the accent and just fix it afterward. Especially in sort of big dramatic scenes, I would say to Oliver like, “If I go into English, just let me and I’ll fix it when they dub it later.” Which didn’t happen that much, I think we fixed like one or two lines in the edit. Most of the time, I kind of felt all right. It’s difficult. It’s like wearing a veil. You feel like you can’t quite see people properly. I didn’t want it to detract. And I think the truth of the character was more important and if the accent suffered a little bit then it wasn’t a huge problem.
You’ve been very busy over the past few years. Never Let Me Go was released on the 15th and Wall Street will open on the 24th and then when you’re done promoting, you’re going to shoot Drive. After that what’s your plan?
CM: Holiday [laughs]. No I’m doing a play next year on Broadway, which is an Ingmar Bergman film that’s been adapted for the stage called Through the Glass Darkly, which is sort of a weird play set in Sweden.
When did that come out?
CM: Oh, decades ago, I think, its an old old film. A 70s film. They did it in London just recently and then its just sort of transferring to Broadway and they’re recasting it, so hopefully do that, we don’t have a director yet but that’s the plan.
You’ve done stage work prior to films, is that where your career began?
CM: Yeah, mainly in London but I did a play on Broadway as well.
You’ve done a lot of drama thus far, could you see yourself in a comedy?
CM: Yeah, maybe I’ll give it a go, I don’t know. If I was going to do it, it would be something that had a heart to it.
When was the last time you laughed at something and was like, “Oh, this is hilarious!?”
You and Russell Brand should do a movie together.
CM: I’ll do it.
Your accents would kind of clash though. You’re both British but from different areas right?
CM: I’m posh British and he’s Cockney British. He’s got a London accent and I’ve got a boring middle class accent.
Wall Street Money Never Sleeps opens in theaters nationwide September 24th.