Carey Mulligan’s rise to fame has been nothing short of meteoric. Here she talks to Keeley Bolger about her new film, her career and why she’s not about to move to Hollywood any time soon.
Blessed with a dulcet singing voice and hired to play an aspiring chanteuse in the new Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis, it might seem a natural progression for Carey Mulligan to dip her toe into singing.
She could, after all, lend her honeyed tones to husband Marcus’s band, Mumford & Sons.
“Oh no,” she says, laughing at the suggestion. “I only sing for jobs.”
Modest though she might be about her talents, the unaffected 28-year-old has the surprise honour of terrifying the Coens with her audition.
“Carey was an actor we wanted to work with. We’d seen her in An Education and she was really great in that. We weren’t thinking about her as a singer, but she can sing,” reveals Joel Coen. “We saw a lot of actresses for the part but Carey sent us a tape and it was very funny.”
“Funny because she was angry,” adds his brother Ethan. “It was a really angry reading of the scene with an American accent, and we were a little scared of her. And surprised. She had just done a movie with Oscar Isaac in which she couldn’t have been sweeter.”
That film was Drive, fronted by Ryan Gosling, which saw Mulligan and Isaac, who also stars as the eponymous hero in Inside Llewyn Davis, play an unhappily married couple.
It’s a role that’s helped to seal Mulligan’s reputation as a leading light in Hollywood. And it’s no wonder, looking at her CV, that she’s received such attention. Born in London in 1985, her silver screen debut came as Keira Knightley’s sister in the 2005 remake of Pride And Prejudice. It was certainly a commendable first acting job, but it was as clever A-level student Jenny in 2009’s An Education, that Mulligan really showed off her acting muscle, gaining herself an Oscar nomination and a Bafta win for her efforts.
Since then, she’s had her fill of blockbusters, playing leading lady Daisy in last year’s The Great Gatsby, indie hits, including 2010’s Never Let Me Go and edgy drama in the form of Steve McQueen’s Shame.
And yet despite her Hollywood status, the rising star admits she was overwhelmed to land the part of singer Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis.
“It was amazing, I wasn’t expecting [it] at all,” says the actress. “I was filming Gatsby when I got the script and did the audition tape in Los Angeles. I had fallen in love with it, but was completely unaware that there was any chance of me getting the job.”
The film, which Mulligan calls a ‘Valentine to folk music’, follows a week in the life of failing folk singer Llewyn Davis, who lives in New York in the Sixties.
Mulligan’s on-screen husband, Jim, is played by Justin Timberlake and her real life spouse Marcus, who she married in 2012 in a ceremony in Somerset, was the film’s associate music producer.
Though she sang in Shame, she confesses that she was apprehensive about blasting out a number with Timberlake.
“I’m always very nervous about singing in front of people,” she says. “Singing, for me, seems to be the most nerve-racking thing to do. And when you’re surrounded by actual musicians like Oscar and Justin, it’s even worse.”
Insistent that she ‘got away’ with the scene by trilling away in the background, Mulligan jokes that she told the Coens she could sing ‘to get the job’.
For her next role as Bathsheba Everdene in a new version of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd, she’s been in the UK, where she’s certainly felt a change in conditions.
“We’re outside a lot filming – 70% of the film is exteriors and fields and outdoorsy, which is really great, but cold and tiring. It’s fantastic.”
Despite contending with the elements, Mulligan’s happy to stay in the UK.
“I lived in New York for a while,” she explains. “I did a couple of jobs and some plays there, so I’ve been there for six months at a time and I love it. But I moved home a couple of years ago because I love being near my family.”