AN ASPIRING actress who has been catapulted to stardom with a role in the new Pride and Prejudice film says she owes her success to her old school.
Carey Mulligan plays the giggly Kitty Bennett alongside Keira Knightley, Dame Judi Dench and Donald Sutherland, in the latest film version of Jane Austen's famous novel.
And the young star believes her love for the stage and screen was first kindled at Woldingham School.
The 20-year-old said: "I had wanted to act for a really long time, but other schools I had been to did not have such good drama departments.
"Everyone was so encouraging. You could do anything you wanted to, although you had to take it seriously. If you missed rehearsals, you were out."
Carey was thrilled when she got the job of theatre prefect and made sure she spent every moment working in the department, helping out with workshops for younger students and putting on productions.
Now her hard work has paid off and after a spell working in a pub worrying she might never make it as an actress, she got her big break.
Carey said: "I was on the train going to work when I got the call saying I had the part. I had to go and work at the pub that evening - I was pulling pints with a massive grin on my face."
Although she admits she was terrified when they first started filming, at Groombridge Place in Kent, she soon took to it like a duck to water.
Carey said: "We were like one big family. We took over the house. It was so much fun. Brenda Blethyn (Mrs Bennett) mummied us all - when we had days off she took us on day trips to a llama farm."
Since finishing the movie, the actress, who lives in Covent Garden, has been kept busy with a host of job offers, performing in Forty Winks at London's Royal Court Theatre and starring in the BBC's adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House, which will be broadcast later this autumn.
But her amazing success has come as no surprise to her former drama teacher, Judith Brown.
She said: "We are all so proud of Carey and everything she has achieved in her career since leaving Woldingham School.
"We always knew she was someone special.
"Not only is she very talented but she also has the right temperament and determination to succeed in what is a very difficult profession."
Sep 23 2005
By Emily Attwood And Brian Haran