Interview: Carey Mulligan on Drive

Recent work includes roles in Drive, Shame and The Great Gatsby

For a film that she thought no one would see, An Education did a remarkable job of changing Carey Mulligan’s life. The 26-year-old star was immediately snapped up to star in A-list movies such as Never Let Me Go and Wall Street 2. Perhaps sensing burn out, the actress removed herself from the limelight for a year, before making an appearance in the off-Broadway adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly. She had previous acted to rave notices on Broadway in The Seagull opposite Kristin Scott Thomas in 2008. Now though, the London born star is appearing in two of the coming month’s most anticipated films, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Cannes award winning picture Drive and Steve McQueen’s Shame.

What first attracted you to playing Irene in Drive?

Mainly it was the opportunity to work with Nicolas Winding Refn. When I saw Bronson, I just loved it, and made everyone I know go see it. I then missed Valhalla Rising when it came out in England because I was in America. When I finally got hold of a copy and watched it, I was completely blown away.

How do you feel about the director now that you have worked with him?

Nic is just on his own level really. I knew that he wasn’t going to make a conventional movie and that the result would not be typical of any genre. When I sat down and started watching the film for the first time in New York a couple of months ago and the credits kicked in with the pink italics and the soundtrack, I thought, of course, it’s completely insane. Parts of Drive are really wild; parts are really romantic and other parts gruesome. He does nothing in a commercial manner. He is single minded and knows exactly what he wants to do. With that strength of vision I knew it was going to be such a singular film.

The on-screen chemistry with Ryan Gosling is sizzling, was there much rehearsal?

We didn’t really rehearse anything. Nic’s house in LA became the hub of the whole film. I lived there for a while because I didn’t have anywhere to live and Ryan came over almost every night looking at stuff.

What’s intriguing is how much of the relationship is relayed without the use of dialogue?

Between Ryan and I, we had very little dialogue and we had scenes to fill. We kind of understood that the idea for these characters was to be a fairy tale, the calm in the centre of a very chaotic film. She was stuck in a tower and he was the knight in shining armour. It was kept on very simple terms.

Are you excited to now be starring in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby alongside Leo DiCaprio?

I’m really excited. Leo’s level of fame is not exciting. So it’s not like making the film is more exciting because he’s more famous than Michael Fassbender. Working with Michael on Shame was equally exciting as working with Leo, in terms of just being in a room with an extraordinary actor, but the size and scale of celebrity makes no difference.

You seem to do a lot of characters that have had a previous life in books. Do you read them to prepare?

I’ll admit to having read half of Pride and Prejudice and I think sometimes it’s really exciting, particularly with Never Let Me Go, that is and still is one of my favourite books. I read that the year it came out and always wanted to play Cathy so it was a real privilege. Sometimes it’s very helpful, especially with Cathy because she had such an inner monologue and didn’t have much dialogue, as you can draw so easily from the novel. I thought that was good for the process. Sometimes it is just happenstance, Drive is based on a novel, but it’s very different from what we ended up making in the film, inspired by but not necessarily based on and so there the book wasn’t so much of an influence.

Drive is out now on general release.

Drive Trailer

Shame Clip: Subway

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