Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Twenty-six year old Carey Mulligan has to this say about advising other young aspiring actresses: "I think you have to be desperately serious about pursuing your passion."  The Irish blood, British born star,  has successfully broken through the critically acclaimed box with great reverence on her side.   

Her first biggest role on screen was in Pride and Prejudice, as Kitty Bennett; she played a negligible partat the age of 18—she found herself along side Keira Nightly and Judy Dench (fulfilling a life-long dream, at the time).  And then just four years later, at 22 years old, Mulligan was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress for lead role in An Education.

Carey Mulligan with NY Times Film Critic, Charles McGrath
This passed Sunday Mulligan sat down with Charles McGrath for the hour, (the Film Critic for the New York Times) at the Times Center, as part of the Arts & Leisure Weekend Series.  (The two are pictured right.)

As you listen to the young British actress describe her drive to work as a performing artist, two things come to surface: One is that she consistently strives to be a serious actress, and even now—with an Academy Award nomination under her belt—she seeks out characters whom she knows are different, and more importantly diverse from the previous one she'd played before.  

It appears, that Mulligan's worse fear when it comes to her career, is to be pegged as one note.  Thus, she makes it her business to literally run after and audition for parts of such intense and complex characters, enable to erase whatever perception you've had of her before from her previous films.  Second, she's also very much guided by a very well written script, the talented film-maker and actors she'll be working with.   

Needless to say, the slightly awkward, shy yet determined emerging-actress is quite resolute about her craft.  Mulligan has admitted that with her latest films Drive and Shame—after taking a year off post filming Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps—that both have been quite challenging for her to execute.    

"[With Drive], I had a horrible time trying to do the accent, and had nightmares about nailing it."  And in fact, she does do a pretty good American vernacular, it's only if you pay very close attention to perhaps a word here or there, that one might suspect a slight English accent seeping out.  

In the movie Shame on the other hand, apart from attempting to master an American accent, Mulligan had to do nudity, too.  

"You're not going to show that clip are you?" She asked McGrath, as she squirmed in her seat, attempting to find a position that could possibly make an uncomfortable situation more comfortable. "No, no, no," McGrath ensured, "But why are you drawn to these psychotic characters?" he followed. "Well because it's hard: I like challenging myself. But I would never do "sexy nudity" even if you put a gun to my head."  

Mulligan elaborated that her nude scene in Shame represented raw nudity, which was essential to creating her character's behavioral symptoms.  The actress also permitted that she was going by British Director and renowned Artist, Steve McQueen's artistic direction, "I was trusting in his vision. With Steve it felt like I was doing a play."  

Carey Mulligan in her off-Broadway play: Through A Glass Darkly
Indeed, the young thespian, has always found herself more so at home on a stage, rather than in front of a camera.  "I love standing in front of a stage and not being able to see anything; and no-one gets to tell me anything for three hours."  

Growing up in an affluent family—Mulligan's father was a manager of a high-end hotel chain across Europe, hence, the actress ended up living in luxury hotels until she was about eight.  At five, she saw her older brother perform in a King Lear play, and she's been quite in love with acting since. But it wasn't until her teen years when she started to do plays where she attended boarding school—divulging that because she went to an all-girls-school, she always had to play the male characters.  

On her last year in high school, she was lucky enough to meet Actor and Film Director, Julian Fellowes after a talk he gave at her school once, begging him for advice on how to become an actress—because get this: she had been rejected by three universities to pursue a degree in acting.  Thankfully, she ignored Fellowes's outdated and inappropriate response to marry a banker; instead she insisted that she wanted to follow her dream.  The old mentor wasn't so bad after all: it was him who introduced her to someone in the film industry, who helped her land her a role in, Pride and Prejudice.

Carey Mulligan filming, The Great Gatsby
Post Drive and Shame, she's currently working on a rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic American novel, The Great Gatsby directed by Baz Luhrmann, also starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. Quite a big departure from her recent indie projects.  "I struggled with it at first because it such a big production, with its big big cameras, They come charging towards you as if it was War of The Worlds." The actress then also happily welcomed that's she's finally gotten used to it after a couple of weeks, and is now enjoying making the film.  

Today, Mulligan is undoubtedly on her way to successfully carving out an accomplished acting career—paving the wave for a new generation of serious female leads in the film industry.  And yet, it's clear that she's still on her way to fully developing from being the once insecure school-girl who was forced to play strictly male-characters—and as the three-time-rejected-student, who could have easily missed the opportunity to pursue her ambitions on stage if it wasn't for meeting Fellowes. Mulligan now in her mid-twenties , outlines her affinity for theater in that, "I like doing theater because it's fleeting, if it's bad it won't be there three hours later. With film, if it's bad, it'll be out there forever."

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