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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Carey Mulligan makes her mark

Get ready to hear a lot more about indie films' newest It Girl

PARK CITY, Utah -- Some things can't be taught.

Such as how to manage the whiplash stardom that arrives with being Hollywood's newest overnight sensation.

Just ask little-known British actress Carey Mulligan, who finds herself hailed as the industry's It Girl after breaking big at this year's just-wrapped Sundance film festival.

Until a week ago, few outside the industry knew Mulligan's name. Now the 23-year-old is being compared to everyone from Ellen Page to Audrey Hepburn.

No pressure or anything.

"It's a crazy circus, quite an out-of-body experience, very surreal," she tells Sun Media. "This is my first festival, period, so I've got to enjoy it because I'll never have it again -- it's all downhill from here."

Don't bet on it. Mulligan is a stand-out in two very different films: the tear-jerker The Greatest and the coming-of-age memoir An Education.

In the latter, she plays Jenny, an English teenager in the 1960s seduced by an older man played by Peter Saarsgard. Adapted by High Fidelity and About A Boy author Nick Hornby and directed by Lone Scherfig, it's generated the most critical accolades of any film at this Sundance.

Reviews for The Greatest have been more tepid -- aside from raves for Mulligan's turn as a pregnant 18-year-old who, after the baby's father is killed in a car accident, moves in with his mourning parents, played by Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon. And yet, as with all Next Big Things, it has been a career years in the making for Mulligan.

"It's been a very long process," she says, recalling how she first auditioned for An Education in 2006.

Shortly thereafter the production collapsed before eventually being remounted with Scherfig at the helm.

"It's always touch and go on all independent films. I never let myself believe it would really get filmed until I was on the set," says Mulligan, who has small roles in two upcoming high-profile movies: Michael Mann's Public Enemies opposite Johnny Depp and the war-themed drama Brothers with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire.

Now, though, An Education is both finished -- and poised for release. After a bidding war, distributor Sony Pictures Classics snapped it up for $3 million, buoyed by the buzz for Mulligan's performance as a 16-year-old who transforms from middle-class teenager to worldly woman.

"Playing 16, you are so bad -- or I was at least -- at capping emotions and holding back and not saying the first thing that comes into my head. And that's what Jenny does a lot of," she says. "I was quite socially awkward. Not an introvert but I could say the wrong thing quite a lot. I was always massively enthusiastic. I never had a cool thing. Even now I'm not cool."

For proof of this, she offers up her recent appearance on the Sundance party scene.

"We went to see some big DJ. We got in, right next to the speakers and deck, apparently the best seats in the place. But it was so loud and unpleasant. I'm sure he's brilliant at what he does, but it's so not my scene."

Moreover, Mulligan is swiftly learning that once you have success as an actor, you no longer have your characters to hide behind.

"I love telling stories and love being somebody else. I'm not so good at being myself. I can't public speak and a lot of the time I can't articulate myself very well, so I think I really enjoy playing other people more than I like being me. I find that whole photo-taking quite difficult.

"When I get here and I'm wearing a dress and they're taking my picture and saying, 'Give us something' you're like, 'Give me a character.' It's very hard to just be you when you're used to being other people. This public side of things is tricky. I don't know what kind of look to pull. I can't stand there with my hand on my hip. I just kind of stand and stare and hope that's good enough."


This fame lark is quite an education

Carey Mulligan has been turning heads. The 23-year-old London-born actress had a meeting with Warren Beatty in Los Angeles.

'It's surreal!' she told me. 'I was thinking: "I'm talking to Warren Beatty - what is going on?"'

When I spoke to Geoff Gilmore, the director of the Sundance Film Festival, and mentioned Carey's name, his eyes lit up. 'Where did she come from?' he asked.

Well, London, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Wales - and Bleak House and Dr Who - is the short answer.

Harvey Weinstein called her the 'belle' of the festival, and her gamine beauty has been compared to that of a young Shirley MacLaine or Audrey Hepburn. She arrived in Park City, high up in the snowy mountains above Salt Lake City, Utah, with two films: An Education and The Greatest. And she's beyond sublime in both.

In An Education - written by Nick Hornby from Lynn Barber's brief memoir about class, sexual mores and education in the early Sixties (before they started swinging) in Twickenham - Carey plays a 16-year-old schoolgirl whose eyes are opened wider than is polite by an older Lothario.

Then, in The Greatest, which is a big weepie, she plays an American college student who is forced by circumstances to live with her boyfriend's parents, played by Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan.

Carey has two other films due out this year, which explains why, whenever I bumped into her, she had a different hairstyles.

She went Jean Harlow-esque peroxide-blonde to play a Thirties flapper - a small role - opposite Johnny Depp's John Dillinger in Michael Mann's Public Enemies. 'I'm in a nightie, smoking a cigarette, playing a high-class hooker - and then Dillinger dumps me for Marion Cotillard,' Carey said with a laugh.

She was struck by the difference in scale of working on An Education, where every penny counted, to the set of Public Enemies in Chicago, where one scene might feature 300 extras, 50 vintage cars and enough food to feed a small country. 'You could eat anything you wanted, at any hour!' she marvelled.

Carey's a film festival virgin and was pleasantly shocked by the circus-like atmosphere.

'I've never had my photograph taken in the street before, other than when I've been with Keira. But it's happened here - although it hasn't got to a madness level,' she said, referring to the intense paparazzi attention on Keira Knightley, with whom she worked on Pride And Prejudice (Carey played Kitty Bennet). She also met Rosamund Pike on that movie and they're together again in An Education.

She has more movies to make this year, but next spring Carey hopes to return to the stage (she was in The Seagull at the Royal Court and on Broadway with Kristin Scott Thomas) in another Chekhov, Uncle Vanya, starring Ralph Fiennes and Ken Stott, and directed by Matthew Warchus.

When we chatted in Park City, Carey told me she felt jetlagged, even though she wasn't. 'It's like I'm out of my body and looking down, going: "What's going on?" '

What's going on? A star is being born, that's what.


Carey Mulligan is a Sundance sensation

A 23-year-old British actress called Carey Mulligan (pictured) has become an overnight Hollywood sensation at the Sundance film festival, now underway in Utah. She's the star of An Education, a coming-of-age drama based on the Observer journalist Lynn Barber's early 1960s memoir about a 16-year-old schoolgirl who falls in love with an older man.

Directed by Lone Scherfig, the Danish filmmaker known for her 2000 comedy Italian for Beginners, and with a script by the London writer Nick Hornby, the film has been receiving rave reviews since it was screened on Sunday night. “There's no movie in this festival that's quite as ravishing, as witty, as well-acted or as satisfying overall as An Education," writes Andrew O’Hehir on He goes on to describe Mulligan’s turn as the precocious 16-year-old Jenny as “a performance of Audrey Hepburn-esque starmaking intensity”.

The ”older man”, a 30-something bounder who drives a sports car, charms her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) and steers Jenny off the path to Oxford, is played by the American actor Peter Sarsgaard. Emma Thompson plays Jenny’s strict headmistress and Olivia Williams her favourite teacher.

But the break-out performance comes from the little-known Mulligan, who until now has had parts in Waking the Dead and Doctor Who and the regulation costume dramas. According to a review on, Mulligan is "fantastic, utterly believable as a schoolgirl who desperately wants to be seen as a sophisticated adult".

An Education began as a 12-page story by Barber, best known for her newspaper interviews, in Granta magazine. Some critics are already claiming it’s the best film at Sundance and, to the delight of Hornby and Scherfig, Sony have snapped up the US distribution rights for between $3m - $4m.


An Education’s Carey Mulligan on Not Playing a Lolita

Carey Mulligan had this year’s one true star-is-born moment at Sundance. She’s on her way to being a serious movie star, with a sharp ensemble part in The Greatest and a gobsmacking star turn in the Nick Hornby–scripted An Education. We spoke to Mulligan about having an “out-of-body experience” at Sundance and realizing how young she looks in a school uniform.

You’re the talk of the festival. Are things getting busy for you?
It’s been mostly photos and TV-thingies. This is the first day I’ve really interviewed all day. I am not bored or jaded. I’ve never really done very much of this. I am having an out-of-body experience.

You’re such a newcomer, I know next to nothing about you — sorry! Where are you from?
I was born in London, lived in Germany until I was 8. My father ran hotels. And then back. Now I’m just outside London. I acted all the way through school. My first job was Pride and Prejudice when I was 18 turning 19, and then I just carried on after that.

You’ve worked on stage and TV, but this is your first starring film role. How’d you nab it?
I got the job about five months before I started shooting, but I’d read it two years before. I felt like it’d just been going on for ever and ever and ever, and I’d wanted it forever. It’s so disheartening and sad when independent films collapse. So I tried to not get my hopes up. When we started shooting, I was like, “Really? Okay.”

Was there any advice from Susan Sarandon or Emma Thompson for the newcomer?
You learn a lot about how to handle yourself on a film set from people like Emma. At the end of the day, she bought three crates of wine and beer, and pizza for the whole crew, and I thought, “Now that’s a proper leading lady…”

Most people will assume you’re 16, but you’re really 23. How’d you tap into a teenage self?
Mainly it was just thinking about the awkwardness of being 16 and your inability to cap your emotions — your inability to stop yourself from saying what’s on the tip of your tongue. Then I watched it, and I was like, “I don’t think I look that young.” And when I am in a school uniform, I’m like, “I am a child, it’s so horrible!”

You don’t play a victim, and Sarsgaard doesn’t play a predator. But she’s clearly being taken advantage of…
I wouldn’t want it to be that sort of young girl, completely being taken advantage of — and I don’t think you’ve seen a film with this kind of dynamic. There are scenes where she initiates things, actually flips it round. He is not a bad guy; he is not a villain; there’s nothing sexual about what they have together. When it collapses, it collapses because he is just [such] a lost soul.

There’s been a bit of silly controversy in America over The Reader, since Kate Winslet’s middle-aged character seduces a teenage boy. Has that been on your radar?
I don’t know how an American audience would view it, but for an English audience, sex is consensual from 16. Sixteen or seventeen seems fairly respectable to most people, I think.

So what’s next?
I am doing Uncle Vanya in spring 2010. And I just finished this film with Jim Sheridan, my first time doing an American accent, improvising, whilst holding a 3-month-old baby. It was just intense.



PARK CITY, Utah - A little-known 24-year-old British actress has emerged as the "It" girl of this year's Sundance Film Festival. Carey Mulligan is being compared to Audrey Hepburn for her vastly different performances in two films directed by women that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

MORE: Lou Blogs From the Sundance Film Festival

In Lone Scherfig's "An Education," which has garnered perhaps the best critical response of any film so far, she plays an English schoolgirl in the early 1960s who is seduced by a sophisticated 30-something man played by Peter Saarsgard. Scripted by novelist Nick Hornby, "An Education" co-stars Dominic Cooper, Emma Thompson, Alfred Molina and Sally Hawkins.

Mulligan plays an 18-year-old American in first-time director Shana Feste's "The Greatest," which premiered in the dramatic competition. Critical response to this tearjerker shot in Nyack, NY, has been mixed.

But Mulligan was acclaimed for her performance as a young woman who becomes pregnant during a one-night stand with a classmate. He dies in a car accident - and she goes to live with his grieving parents, played by Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan.

Mulligan, who had small roles in "Pride and Prejudice" and "And When Did You Last See Your Father?," will be seen later this year in a pair of big-budget American flicks, "Public Enemies" opposite Johnny Depp and "Brothers" with Jake Gyllenhaal. In the meantime, buyers are reportedly pursuing both of her Sundance titles. The producers of "An Education" accepted a $3 million bid yesterday from Sony Pictures Classics.

Searchlight did snap up a low-buzz title, "Adam," for an undisclosed sum. Max Mayer's romantic dramedy stars Hugh Dancy as a Manhattanite with Aspberger's syndrome who falls for neighbor Rose Byrne.

And Magnolia was reported to have paid in the low to mid- six figures for rights to "Humpday," one of the most talked-about starless titles at the festival.

Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard, veterans of the DIY, improvised genre known as mumblecore, star as two straight guys who plan to make a gay porn movie together in the comedy, directed by Lynn Shelton.

In a sign of the rapidly changing direction of distribution for small indie features, "Humpday" will be made available on video-on-demand a month before its theatrical debut this summer.And IFC announced it would use its video-on-demand network to make five features available simultaneously with their debuts at March's South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.


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A Young Actress Wins Over Sundance

It would be an understatement to call actress Carey Mulligan busy. The newcomer spent the better part of the last year shooting two films back-to-back — “An Education,” and “The Greatest” — followed by making her Broadway debut as Nina in the acclaimed revival of “The Seagull” opposite Kristin Scott Thomas. And so far, critics and audiences alike have been pleased to meet the button-nosed 23-year-old: “An Education” sparked a bidding war at the Sundance Film Festival after its premiere before finally selling to Sony Classics for a rumored $4 million, and her turn in “The Greatest” also won strong reviews at the festival.

“It’s been a really good year,” says the London native, who manages to exude Brit appeal while in Park City, Utah, thanks in part to a pinstripe blazer pinched from her “An Education” co-star Peter Sarsgaard’s significant other, Maggie Gyllenhaal. “I went to her house and she had bags and bags from cleaning out her closet, so I did rather well,” Mulligan says.

Costume played an important role in “An Education,” a Nick Hornby-scripted film based on famed British journalist Lynn Barber’s coming-of-age memoir set in swanky Sixties London and Paris. As Jenny, a precocious 16-year-old whose aspirations for Oxford are derailed by an older man (Sarsgaard), Mulligan alternates between little-girl kilts and sophisticated frocks. “It was really funny. The male camera crew couldn’t adjust to a 22-year-old actress in a schoolgirl uniform,” she laughs. Of the more sophisticated dresses she dons as Sarsgaard’s arm candy, she says, “I wanted to keep all of them.” She only made off with one, though, plus the Prada heels that went with it.

“I just thought Jenny was such a brilliant female character,” continues Mulligan, whose co-stars include British actresses Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams, Rosamund Pike, Sally Hawkins and Cara Seymour. “When you’re 16, there’s a lot going on with hormones and becoming a woman. It’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind and that’s what she does.”

Mulligan had to switch gears — and accents — to make “The Greatest,” a contemporary film costarring Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon as a couple who lose a child. “We shot ‘The Greatest’ in 25 days, so it really was the fastest you could work,” she says. “It was brilliant because it was my first American lead role, so that was a real challenge.”

Although she never had formal acting training, Mulligan landed her first film role at an open casting call for 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice,” starring Keira Knightley. Having such experienced co-stars has certainly helped the budding starlet find her footing. “It’s like one great drama training for me every time I meet someone like Pierce or Emma,” she says. “I just try and watch and learn as much as I can.”

And despite her burgeoning film career, Mulligan vows to act in at least one play a year. “Next year I’m doing ‘Uncle Vanya’ in the West End [in London]. I’m trying to knock out all the Chekhov while I’m still young,” she laughs (as it turns out, Gyllenhaal has reportedly been approached to appear in the production as well).

Between jobs, Mulligan heads to her family’s house in the Austrian Alps to ski and hike, and goes to the theater. “I’m going to fly to New York on the way home to see my friend Jenna Malone in ‘Mourning Becomes Electra’ and I’m seeing ‘The Cherry Orchard,’” she says.

She may also do some shopping — her favorite labels include Chloé and Miu Miu. “I borrowed my friend’s Miu Miu handbag for Sundance because I’m completely obsessed with it, but I can never shell out the money to buy it,” she sighs.


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The Greatest - News Round Up

The Greatest

Starring Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon, The Greatest marks the debut of a young filmmaker and screenwriter, Shana Feste, and follows a family coping with the sudden death of their teenage son. Newcomer Carey Mulligan plays the girlfriend of the son who shows up to further complicate the grieving process for the parents. There's some buzz about both Brosnan's and Sarandon's performances as well as talk that this could be a "career-launching" role for Mulligan.

Pierce Brosnan Makes Up For Mamma Mia!

Pierce Brosnan, in search of a career path post James Bond, didn’t do himself any favors singing in the film of “Mamma Mia!” He was awful in a cheap looking, terrible movie that was an inexplicable hit.

But with “The Greatest,” which premiered last night at Sundance, all is forgiven. Brosnan and the remarkable Susan Sarandon are just perfect in a film that clearly echoes Robert Redford’s classic “Ordinary People” but has enough new twists to make it very interesting.

In the film, Allen (Brosnan) and Grace (Sarandon)’s 18-year-old son has been killed in a car accident just after losing his virginity to the girl he loves and graduating from high school. Director Shana Feste indicates well enough that Bennett (Aaron Johnson) has been the apple of their eyes. But they still have a younger teenage son (Johnny Simmons) to deal with, plus Allen’s been having an affair with a fellow professor at his college, so you know the marriage hasn’t been perfect.

Grief envelopes the family. Grace is obsessed with the man whose truck collided with her son’s and keeps vigil at his coma bedside to find out what Bennett might have said in his final moments. Allen bottles up his emotions until they make him ill. Ryan has a teen drug problem, and goes on the sly to group therapy. And there’s Bennett’s girlfriend. She’s pregnant.

Feste could have turned this all into bad “Ordinary People” or a soap opera. A first time director and screenwriter, she takes her team into a field already well trodden with clichés. But she manages to avoid most of them, and carve out a simple new take on an old story with class and subtlety. Carey Mulligan makes a powerful debut herself as Rose, the pregnant and scared girlfriend. Sarandon is a knockout as the grieving and not necessarily sympathetic mom. And Brosnan, this time, is in right key.

Sundance Review: The Greatest

As I was walking out of the theater after seeing The Greatest, I had the urge to find myself a broom closet or some other nearby private place so I could cry for at least five minutes. It’s that type of movie and not just because it’s so sad. It’s a very emotional film all around that will likely have people dabbing their eyes as they watch two parents come to terms with the loss of their son. The Greatest is both heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once.

The film opens with a semi-steamy scene between Bennett (Aaron Johnson) and Rose (Carey Mulligan). Afterwards when they’re in the car together, Bennett is about to confess his feelings to Rose when a truck hits them from behind and Bennett is killed. The story follows Bennett’s mother (Susan Sarandon), father (Pierce Brosnan), his brother Ryan (Johnny Simmons) and almost-girlfriend Rose (Carey Mulligan) as each of them grieves both separately and together for the loss of Bennett, whom we learn throughout the movie, was an all around great guy.

Bennett’s mother grieves day and night for her son, while his father is attempts to detach himself from the loss in an effort to stay strong for his family. Ryan has lived in the shadow of his brother all of his life and now even after his brother’s death he’s still playing second fiddle. He turns to a teen grief support group where he meets Ashley (Zoe Kravitz), another grieving sibling who understands what he’s going through. Rose, shows up at Bennett’s family’s house to introduce herself and having no where else to go, they agree to take her in. Her presence adds a new layer of grief as Rose wants to know Bennett better through them, yet no one in the family is really emotionally capable of talking to her.

As we watch Bennett’s family and Rose grieve, we get the occasional flashback of Bennett through Rose’s memory. It is through these flashbacks that we come to understand just how unique their relationship was. While the flashbacks are happy, they’re bittersweet because we know how things are going to turn out for Bennett and Rose’s budding romance.

The Greatest has moments of levity that keep the movie from becoming entirely too depressing but for the most part, this is a film about love and grief. Sarandon in particular delivers such a raw performance that at times, it becomes uncomfortable to watch her because it’s clear her character is on the verge of falling apart and though her husband wants to help her, he doesn’t know how. Brosnan delivers a fantastic performance as the helpless husband who’s bottling up his grief for the sake of his family. As Ryan, Simmons carries the role well as the occasionally strung out and slightly bitter younger brother who secretly admired his big brother despite always being outshined by him. Surrounded by exceptional acting, Mulligan holds up well as Rose, the sweet girl who’s dealing with her own grief and looking to get to know the man she believes was the love of her life.

In general, I’m apprehensive to see films that seem to be sad for sadness’ sake, however The Greatness really does successfully capture the heartbreaking grief involved in the loss of a child as a family tries figure out how to move past it. The grief in the film feels real and if you can handle the almost painful realism, this could be a cathartic experience for anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of losing a loved one. What’s more, there’s a love story here that is both happy and sad, as we see how Bennett and Rose got together and how their relationship played out up until the final moments of his life. I let the theater wanting a good cry and not just because the movie was sad but because there’s an emotional depth here which rings true.


The actress is sublime in this film. British newcomer Carey Mulligan deserves a special mention as Rose, the 18-year old who fell in love with a boy only to have never gotten to know him before his tragic death. This is a ferociously talented actress to watch for.

Mulligan dismisses Sundance buzz
Monday, January 19, 2009, 14:22

Carey Mulligan has dismissed the buzz around her at the Sundance Film Festival as "a bit blah".

"No [I don't feel pressure]," the British actress said, when asked how she felt about being touted as "the next big thing" at the festival, where she is promoting two films.

"It's all sort of blah. It's just good to be here with two films that I really love and that I had a good time working on."

The 23-year-old was speaking at the Sundance premiere of her new film The Greatest, in which she stars alongside Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan.

She also appears in An Education, adapted from the Nick Hornby novel and starring Alfred Molina.
Click here!

"Sundance is a circus but it's really cool," she said. "I love it. We were so excited when we got in."


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