Carey Mulligan on choosing roles and why she doesn’t think about the “big picture” when playing a character
“You can still understand a character and go with them on their journey even if you don’t approve of them or feel totally comfortable.” – Carey Mulligan
Writer / Director Emerald Fennellmovie Promising young woman has made waves for its way of dealing with sexual assault and its portrayal of revenge for past wrongs. Receiving much of the praise for the film is Carey mulligan, which portrays a woman who seeks to make male characters pay for their misdeeds against women. Speaking of the movie at Variety, Mulligan explains how she feels about playing such an ambitious and sometimes dark character.
Mulligan points out that she has been very particular about the roles she has played, but still has certain types of projects that she would like to do. She explains, “I’ve been reluctant to play characters who are just the wife or the girlfriend, and I’ve avoided that quite regularly so far. You can still understand a character and accompany them on their journey even if you don’t approve of them or feel totally comfortable. I’m trying to find characters that are a little less straightforward, and you don’t get all the answers. I constantly want to surprise the public. I loved working with actors. I feel so open to this stuff, but, for me, it never struck the right tone. I want to be in a Richard curtis film and live in a beautiful apartment. “
She says she enjoys acting in provocative projects and specifically remembers an example of a fight that happened while she was performing in a play. She remembers: “When I did Girls Boys, I did this monologue at the Royal Court, and in one of the first previews we did, a huge brawl broke out where someone almost got hit in the gallery. It was so exciting – not to be deliberately provocative, but I think there’s something to be said about something that makes people feel so strong in the moment.
With such a serious subject, Promising young woman had some difficult scenes to shoot. However, Mulligan says she felt emboldened by the material, especially knowing how much it would resonate with others:
“I don’t think about the bigger picture at all when I’m playing a character. But it was funny: when we shot the climactic scene, there’s a brilliant monologue that Emerald wrote, and I remember when I read that monologue my heart was racing, thinking, ‘Oh , my God, if I can do that… ”
But it really felt a lot more of a sense of collective outrage at that point, just as we were shooting this scene. That doesn’t mean I really understand how it must feel, because I don’t. I have no idea how difficult it must be to be a survivor or to support someone who is a survivor. But at that point, I felt very supportive of the people who went through something like this. And that was really powerful, because I’m usually so short-sighted when I’m filming, and it’s just that one person. But at that point, because of this direction Em gave me, it felt a little bigger for a second.
While Mulligan says it doesn’t affect her afterwards when she has to portray a character doing something nasty, she admits that she finds this type of work extremely exciting. She said, “It doesn’t affect me afterwards. The only thing I’ve ever been sitting in the car on the way home and thinking is, ‘Oh, I didn’t do that very well! Why didn’t I do it like this? But that’s the really rich and delicious thing that, as an actor, you’re so excited to do. That’s the reason I work – stuff like that.