Carey Mulligan is getting An Education in stardom as she continues to work with big names in film direction, this time with award-winning Danish director Lone Scherfig.
A Star Is Born, Again
Actress Carey Mulligan Channels Audrey Hepburn in An Education
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
It’s only supposed to happen in movies. A totally unknown British actress lands coveted leading role in a film and becomes the toast of Hollywood, drawing constant comparisons to Audrey Hepburn and stirring an Oscar buzz to boot.
In the case of Carey Mulligan, this scenario is happening in real life. She’s the star of An Education, in which she plays Jenny, a precociously bright London schoolgirl in 1962 whose wish for an escape from her bourgeois boredom comes true when an older man sweeps her off her feet. But the audience is swept away by Mulligan’s performance, which is one for the history books.
I recently got a chance to sit down with her to discuss the film. I quickly found out that not only is she talented, she’s one of the most charming people I’ve ever met.
Ten minutes into An Education, and I don’t remember having been more seduced with an actor or a performance than with yours. Thank you!
You’re 24 years old, yet you play a 16-year-old. Ever since I started my first job, when I played a younger sister in Pride & Prejudice, I was 19 and the character was 16. Then I did a play when I was turning 20 where I was supposed to be 14. So I’ve always played kind of younger than myself, and it’s rare now when I play an adult. I think the screenwriter Nick Hornby was worried about the age gap, because he initially thought someone in their 20s couldn’t play the part.
So you were not at all concerned about playing young in such a big role? I loved the way [Jenny’s character was conveyed by] the way she treated the people around her, the way she sort of idolizes her teacher, or the way her relationship changes with her friends when she starts going out with an older man-she becomes the most popular girl in the school-the way she treats her parents, and the way she throws out French lines. That’s what made her 16, so I really didn’t have to think about it. I kind of look 16. When I saw it, I was kind of disappointed with how young I look, because I always think I look a little bit cooler than that, but I don’t. So that obviously worked, and everything else came from the way it was written.
Was it important for you to not portray her like a victim, given that she was underage having an affair with a 30-year-old? We talked about that a lot, especially the sexual relationship between them. Jenny was always driving that more than really he was. She leans in for the first kiss. She says that she will wait till she’s 17, implying that she will sleep with him. There was a bit in Paris on the island with the sunset in the background where I sort of stroke his back, and I wanted that to show that she was not being thrown into bed or manipulated. She has enough warning signs. She finds out pretty early on after the visit to Oxford that he’s got some secrets, and she compromises in her values because she understands that that life is more exciting than what she has. So she is not being manipulated-she knows what is going on; she just accepts it because it’s better than what she’s got.
In the central role of Jenny, Mulligan plays a teenager in 1960s London who ventures to have an affair with an older man (Peter Sarsgaard).
For showtimes, check the Independent's movie listings, here.