Oct 18, 2009

My interview with Carey Mulligan: brainy elf

'Carey Mulligan has had quite a week. First, she flew from New York to LA for the premiere of her movie An Education, making her way down the red carpet in rented dress and high heels. On Sunday, she flew back to New York for the East Coast premiere — more heels, more dresses, this time fending off tabloid flashbulbs — before returning to the set of Wall Street 2, in which she plays Gordon Gekko’s daughter. On Wednesday, she took the evening off to appear on Late Show with David Letterman, followed by another screening of An Education, waking up on Thursday with a terrific hangover to endure five hours in hair and make-up while they dyed her hair red again for Wall Street 2.

“The continuity should be interesting,” she says, ruffling her reddish locks when we sit down for a late lunch on Friday in the TriBeCa district of Manhattan. She orders salmon and tucks in, hungrily. “For two months I had healthy hair, then they whacked a ton of peroxide on it. And I get so excited, I go, ‘Yeah, yeah, red hair.’ Then I realise it’s going to be red.” She laughs. “I have to learn how to say no.”

She is a little taller than I expect: a slim 5ft 8in, in a floral skirt, tights, ballet slippers and a beaten-up leather jacket. She has a pretty, round face, with a seriously dimpled smile, but the real show stopper is her voice: rich, low, musical, with just the right amount of posh. If her face plays a lot younger than her 24 years, her voice plays older — a paradox that lies at the heart of her performance in An Education, adapted by Nick Hornby from the journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir about her love affair with an older, worldlier man while still a schoolgirl in the early 1960s. Since the film’s debut at the Sundance Festival earlier this year, Mulligan’s performance has been attracting glowing reviews, comparisons to Audrey Hepburn and intense Oscar buzz.

Even before Sundance, Warren Beatty called her for a meeting, and when he found out she had been using the bus to get around Hollywood, he drove her around himself. “Everyone was, like, ‘What? You don’t drive? That’s crazy. I’ve never been on the bus my whole life.’ I told them there was a subway. It goes from Hollywood and Vine to Universal, so you don’t have to go over the hill. They were, like, ‘There’s a subway?’”

She and Beatty have become firm friends. “He just liked the cut of my jib,” she says. “He’s like a godfather. I hear stories about a completely different generation. It’s just wild. He has the best stories of anybody I’ve ever met.” In another era, the news that a young actress had been befriended by Beatty would have been a clear signal to her family and friends to lash her to the nearest heavy object and barricade the windows. It says something for Mulligan’s charm that the story instead comes off like the oldest fairy tale in the book: the fresh face who comes to town and turns the place upside down' — The Sunday Times

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