Coming out of Sundance this year, one name rang out as a talent to watch. Carey Mulligan made her big-screen debut in Joe Wright‘s 2005 Pride & Prejudice adaption, but as she premiered An Education and The Greatest in Park City, Utah, tongues started wagging about her obvious talent. Now RT profiles a name you’re likely to hear a lot in 2009.
It was a letter to Julian Fellowes asking for advice that led to Carey Mulligan’s big-screen acting debut as the youngest Bennet in Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice in 2005. She’s barely stopped since then and the 23 year-old actress has no fewer than four projects on her slate for release this year. Two of them premiered at Sundance in January to stellar reviews, with Park City audiences celebrating Mulligan as one of the festival’s finest performers. She presented an award at the BAFTAs, announced intentions to star in The Electric Slide alongside Ewan McGregor and travelled to the Berlin Film Festival to represent Britain in the Shooting Stars programme — all this month.
A ferocious appetite for acting seems to inspire Mulligan to work so hard, and it’s clearly paying off. This year her co-stars include Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan. And all indications are that she holds her own alongside such seasoned thesps, delivering performances that belie her short CV.
It’s April 2008, and RT has come to the West London set of An Education to meet Mulligan. Her passion for her craft is immediately obvious – when we arrive she has her head buried in a script, emerging occasionally to seek advice from her director and co-stars and laugh and joke with the whole crew. She has the good sense to enjoy what she’s doing, and that seems to give her the necessary confidence to deliver as a performer. Most would be intimidated by the starry names around them — Mulligan seems to be thrilled by the opportunity to learn from them. “I had a dream day working with Emma Thompson last week,” she gushes when we finally sit down with her. “I have literally dreamed about getting to do stuff like that.”
It’s not without irony that she’s decked out in period school uniform on the day we visit — the eager student surrounded by masters – though the costume is having a rather odd effect on the crew. “They’ve started talking to me differently,” she laughs. “I feel 16 again! The first day of filming in the school I kept falling asleep on set because I was in a classroom. It was some kind of psychological thing, as soon as I was put in a classroom I started nodding off. I was on all sorts of caffeine pills trying to stay awake!”
As her 2009 releases start unspooling for audiences, what’s clear is that while she may be keen to keep improving her skill, there’s plenty of natural talent already present. Salon claimed her performance in An Education was full of “Audrey Hepburn-esque starmaking intensity,” while Collider calls her “outstanding … she allows us to watch her become a woman onscreen, the resulting portrayal intimate and lovingly crafted.” Todd McCarthy writes in Variety that her performance in The Greatest is “a revelation … [she brings] a bracing resilience to a teenager for whom one night changed the rest of her life.”
It’s clear that she’s won over the critics, but with Michael Mann‘s Public Enemies due out in July, Jim Sheridan‘s Brothers in October and The Greatest and An Education expected before the end of the year, Mulligan is ready to make her mark with audiences. That she balances enormous talent as an actor with a classical, natural beauty and beguiling charisma should ensure that impact is wide indeed.
Read RT’s report from the set of An Education right here and join us again soon when we’ll be profiling more fresh talent.