Educating Carey

AN EDUCATION directed by Lone Scherfig, written by Nick Horny from Lynn Barber’s memoir, with Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina and Emma Thompson. A Mongrel Media release. 95 minutes. Opens Friday (October 23). For times, venues and trailers, see Movies.

You may not know the cool, sophisticated, up-and-coming Carey Mulligan just yet.[rssbreak]

Her onscreen appearances have been limited to a bit part in Pride And Prejudice, some TV work and an embarrassingly brief cameo alongside Johnny Depp in Public Enemies (obviously her scenes were cut down to mere frames).

But the British actor’s stirred up the perfect storm on the festival circuit from Sundance to Toronto, where comparisons to Audrey Hepburn and a whole lot of Oscar chatter have stalked Mulligan’s revelatory performance in the coming-of-age story An Education.

Smartly dressed in a comfy, comely black-and-white ensemble, Mulligan sat down for an interview at the Intercontinental Hotel before the film’s opening night premiere at TIFF.

New to red carpets, acclaim and subsequent “madness,” the 24-year-old Mulligan shows the same in-over-her-head sense of awe that Jenny, the character she plays in An Education, does. In fact, like Jenny, the 16-year-old wannabe-existentialist in 1960s suburban London, who’s whisked away by a charming older gentleman, Mulligan got an early start on adulthood. She was fresh out of high school when her profession came knocking.

“I was 18 when I started Pride And Prejudice,” she says. “Being around a lot of adults makes you grow up a bit faster. Pride And Prejudice was trial by fire.”

She had her own coming-of-age experience – in the thespian sense – while onstage, playing Nina in the Broadway production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. “That was the first time I found a way of working that helped me,” Mulligan explains. “I came away from that job understanding how I was going to approach characters.”

Mulligan passionately wanted her role in An Education as a rare multi-dimensional teen character. “I would have hated for anyone else to play it. I would have cried.”

Kleenex wasn’t necessary. After three auditions, Mulligan got a phone call… or two.

“I have an English agent and an American agent,” she recalls. “When I get a job, they ring me at the same time. They’re both on the line and I’m thinking, ‘I know something good is going to happen.’ I was over the moon. I was about to go to some other meeting and I was like, ‘Screw this, I’ve got An Education.'”

Apart from earning her “madly flattering” acclaim, Mulligan’s performance has won her a leading role in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street sequel. And if early forecasts prove right, she’ll be buckling up for the biggest red carpet ride of all come Oscar time. The humble Mulligan doubts that will happen.

“I’d bet my mortgage against it,” she says. Any takers?

Interview Clips

On her role in Public Enemies:

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On betting against Oscars:

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On being an actress:

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Mulligan talks about Emma Thompson:

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