Interview: 'Drive' actress Carey Mulligan

London-born English actress Carey Mulligan came to international prominence on the back of her Academy Award-nominated turn in Lone Scherfig's An Education, a role for which she earned Best Actress awards from the National Board of Review, the British Independent Film Awards and BAFTA. She recently starred in Mark Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, with Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield, and also in Oliver Stone's Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, playing the daughter of Michael Douglas's iconic character. She also starred as Kitty in Jane Austen's Price and Prejudice. Additional films include Public Enemies, The Greatest, Brothers, andWhen Did You Last See Your Father. In Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising), she plays Irene, a woman whose life is coloured by two different relationships with two different men…

View some clips and a trailer from DRIVE right here on Cinemas Online. Or read our review of the film here.

Your character, Irene, must've been interesting to play; Irene displays a genuine love of two different men. There's a dichotomy there — they're both appealing…

That's is what we loved about Oscar [Isaac, who plays her husband, Standard] because it could have been about a guy who came out of prison and wasn't particularly likable and it would have made a much more obvious choice for her to go with Driver [Ryan Gosling's character]. It was in the script but Oscar has a real innocence, so when you see him come out of prison you know he was a really good father and really wanted to make things better; he was a good guy and he was attractive. It wasn't like the ugly dude comes out of prison covered in tattoos and then you compare him to Ryan Gosling.

Why do Irene and Driver connect?

The thing with Irene and Driver was a kind of a communion. They both have these very lonely existences, he especially, and she is just struggling along and they found each other kind of peaceful. There is something not real about it. I think maybe they both know that. It is a sort of fairytale what they had. Then it is over and she is back to real life. I think it was different in that sense. She is slightly taken out of herself and I don't know that they could function like that forever. One of my favourite scenes is driving down the river basin; it is all a bit heightened and the reality is slightly different. It is two different worlds really. Oscar and Standard, his character, are from the real world, and Ryan/Driver seem like they're from this slightly fairytale land.

And she doesn't make the conventional Hollywood decision…

I like that she doesn't choose him. She chooses her husband. She doesn't run off with him. She is not bent by his will and she does not want money. She just wants her family and wants to protect her family. So I liked her. So it was an easy choice but also the script with Oscar coming in playing that character made it a different question. Like you said with Ryan and Oscar's characters being inherently good people with bad sides to them it is interesting. That is what Nick does. That's what I loved about Bronson. And then knowing that Ryan was attached and being able to act with him. I knew that being in a room with him was going to be exciting. And also in terms of the character I wanted to see if I could pull off playing a mother because I have always played younger. I am 26 now and playing my own age is always difficult. I have always been a couple of years below.

You're a big fan on Nicolas Winding Refn, the director. Which of his movies first lured you in?

I have since watched the Pusher trilogy but it was mainly Bronson. Then last summer I watched Valhalla Rising, which I thought was amazing. I just loved Bronson so much and I'd heard about Valhalla. I had missed it in England and I got a copy of it when I was living in America.

And it was after watching Valhalla that you told your agent you wanted to work with him?

Yes. I hadn't worked in about a year. There wasn't anything significantly different from anything I had already done and then I emailed my agent, having watched Valhalla, that same night, and I was like, 'I just want to work with Nicolas' and he emailed me back two weeks later: 'Well Nick has this script but you are not right for it. The character is a Latino woman, older. You could just try, go in see him and talk.' Nic and I had met actually in Melbourne, the first time I ever did any kind of press. I went to Australia for ten days, through Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. I did three days in each promoting An Education. So we had already met. He is just the most tender man. He is hilarious. He knows exactly what he wants and is brutally honest. He is also one of the kindest men, honestly, and I feel extremely lucky to become one of his friends as well as working with him.

Why didn't you work for the year beforehand?

As much I wanted to I just couldn't find something that I felt justified in doing. There was just too much that was similar to the parts I'd played before and things I had already done. I felt that until I found something that I felt excited about in terms of something different, I was going to wait.

What sort of roles were you being offered on the back of An Education; characters with quirks?

Yeah. It was like 'The Girl Who Wore Black Eye Make up and was into The Ramones.' It was just lots of stuff like that. And as brilliant as they were, there wasn't a good enough reason for me to do them. And then costume drama, British things — I have by no means done enough work at all in that area but I felt I had just come out of a really long two years of doing lots of British TV, and lots of costume drama, Austen and Dickens, and I just didn't feel like going back into that territory. I just thought that I should wait. Then Drive came along and then I did Shame with Steve McQueen and then I just suddenly found all these exciting things, but there was definitely a time when I thought there wasn't much for me.

Much like Ryan Gosling, rather than chasing big-money blockbusting parts, you've found really interesting pictures…

I have always been interested in human stories and I probably lean towards drama really and those character parts are more interesting, generally. The part that I did in this and in Shame, they just weren't there. I haven't been strategic about picking the size of the project but I have found that a lot of the most interesting stuff has been in the independent films so that's what Drive was and Shame but then Gatsby is an amazingly interesting role and an amazing cast but a massively different budget and scale. It has just been where the parts have been.

The part in The Great Gatsby, Daisy, was much coveted; were you a big F. Scott Fitzgerald fan?

I'd tried to read The Beautiful and The Damned at school, but I only read The Great Gatsby before I auditioned. It's a great role. With Daisy I think her biggest problem is that she feels very two dimensional, she feels in herself that she doesn't have very much to offer to the world but she is continuing this guise of being fascinating and interesting and it pains her that she doesn't have anything to back that up. People talk about whom Fitzgerald drew from to write Daisy and there are elements of Zelda Sayreand of another woman he met called Ginevra King so that's fascinating. I love reading about Zelda and her life and I think Daisy is just struggling with not finding herself interesting, and trying to fill the air, basically. I don't think she is hard-hearted either. I could defend her for hours. I haven't played anything like that before so it is exciting, something different.

And how do the paparazzi treat you nowadays?

I haven't had any problem in London. In LA if they find out where you are living then it is quite hard. LA is worse. I have no problem in London.

What can you say about your Steve McQueen movie, Shame?

We shot it at the beginning of the year. It is Michael Fassbender who plays a guy living in New York struggling with loneliness and I play his sister, his slightly worried sister who comes to stay with him — the sister is a struggling artist and really it is a story about people struggling with loneliness — and incidents of hilarity ensue, as you can imagine (laughs!).

I understand the character is quite terrifying…

The character did terrify me. I had no idea. She's an outrageous person, loud, uncompromising, very unlimited and brash and I begged Steve to give me the job and then afterwards it was like, 'Sh*t. I now have no idea!' But I just felt at that point there was a lot that I wanted to exercise. It was just one of the best experiences ever.

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