Carey Mulligan is a beautiful, articulate, charming young woman. Her breakout role in “An Education” earned her an Actress in a Leading Role Oscar nomination. The theme of “lost virginity,” is also in her latest film, The Greatest, in which she co-stars with Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon. The story is about a young woman who becomes pregnant by her boyfriend who dies and the subsequent impact she has on his grieving family. The following interview has been edited for print purposes.
Mirror: You lost your virginity in your last two roles. Is this going to be a recurring theme?
Mulligan: In An Education it’s never actually seen and is motivated by completely different reasons. I don’t think she’s ever in love with David (character in An Education), but she made a decision to lose her virginity and goes through with it. With my Rose character, she believes that Ryan is the greatest love of her life. He’s her first love and she believes they will spend the rest of their lives together.
Mirror: Do you think it’s challenging for the audience to see the love scenes?
Mulligan: I am reluctant to take off my clothes, but the way it was shot, it was not gratuitous. It was very pure and sweet. The remembering of that one special night was in her head and everything was beautiful and colorful and perfect and she will keep that memory forever. The audience had to see it, especially because she is carrying his baby.
Mirror: How great do you think the death of Ryan impacted on Rose?
Mulligan: It wasn’t as though she lost a member of her family. She didn’t have a lot of memories with Ryan, but I can well imagine how terrifying it must be to go to a grieving family and tell them you’re carrying their dead son’s baby.
Mirror: Do you draw on your personal experiences in developing a character?
Mulligan: I don’t use emotional recall or my own life. Without sounding ridiculous or pretentious, I create a person. I make up a history of the character’s life, including memories, images and things that are special to that person and then use that profile in building my character. Besides, being more honest, it makes me bolder because I would do things as the character that I would never do as Carey.
Mirror: Did this method of developing a character grow out of an acting experience that you had?
Mulligan: I use to draw from my own life. When I did Pride & Prejudice, I had to do a scene where I cried and I spent three hours imaging my mom’s funeral. I imagined coffins and all sorts of terrible things to try to conjure up the tears and did that for a couple of years. It was really horrible and untruthful because I was basing my characters on experiences connected to me, not to the character and it became more about how I would act, not how this person would act.
Mirror: You shot the film in 23 days. Did you like that fast pace?
Mulligan: Yes. I wouldn’t necessarily do it in every film. It was a low-budget film with a small cast, so we didn’t have trailers and were thrust together most of the time both on and off the set. You have to be prepared to work as you only get four or five takes and then have to move on, so it makes the other actors listen and to try to help each other. I had to do this scene with Pierce where I tell him I’m pregnant but when I woke up that morning, I had forgotten how to act. We tried a few takes but I couldn’t get it. Pierce could see how I was struggling because after every take, I would swear to myself, getting a little “actorey.” Half way through the third take, I got to the point where I should have been at the beginning, so he flipped back and said the first line and we started the scene again.
Mirror: Was there one moment in your childhood when you decided you wanted to be an actor?
Mulligan: I don’t know because I started acting when I lived in Germany. I was six and was one of the kids in a school production of The King & I. I loved it and just kept doing it. Until I was fourteen, I wanted to do musical theatre, but realized that I wasn’t good enough, so I decided to go into straight acting and got my first professional job when I was eighteen, which was Pride & Prejudice.
Mirror: What did you love about your character?
Mulligan: The thing that I liked about Rose was that she has a generousity of spirit. She walks into this family trying to find a base, but defers to their grief as she soon understands she is there to facilitate their recovery. The reason she wants to tell Pierce’s character about the love she and his son had, was that her greatest fear is that someone will trivialize what happened, like it was young love and didn’t mean anything.
Mirror: Is there any truth to the Emma Thompson rumor that you will be doing Eliza Doolittle and is there any danger in being compared to Julie Andrews or Audrey Hepburn who originated the stage and screen roles respectively?
Mulligan: I honestly don’t know. (The answer is a bit confusing since My Fair Lady is listed as being in pre-production with Mulligan in the role of Eliza Doolittle.) I think with every remake people feel a connection to the actors who originated the roles. I don’t think you should put yourself up against other actresses, but just do the best you can to nail it.
Mirror: We look forward to seeing you in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Mulligan: Thank you. It was quite an extraordinary experience working with him.