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Carey Mulligan on acting, and her other life

Mulligan knows her film choices may have given her a certain reputation.

Tracy asked, "Are you a serious person?"

"No. No, I'm not!" she replied. "I think I'm drawn to serious material because I find it difficult, and that's exciting and challenging. But I'm not a serious person in my own life. And I don't do serious things. I don't go home and read Nietzsche! I'm pretty kind of relaxed. But yes, the material I'm drawn to is often quite serious.

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Carey Mulligan starred in the 2015 adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd."
Alex Bailey/Fox Searchlight

The acting bug bit her early. She was born in London, and from about age six Mulligan was in every school play that would have her. Her first love is still the stage.

It was during a trip to New York that she realized exactly what she was going to be when she grew up. "I saw Kevin Bacon doing a one-man show. I can't remember what it was about. But I do remember I was sitting somewhere in the back with my mum," she laughed.

Several years later, in 2008, she would find herself on the New York stage, starring as Nina in Chekhov's "The Seagull."

"There's a line in the play where my character sort of, you know, she's falling in love and she's a young actress and she wants to be on the stage, and everyone leaves the stage and she looks out across this lake and says, 'I'm dreaming.' And I remember the first night when I came on stage and I said that line in the theater that I had seen Kevin Bacon acting in when I was 14, I said that line and felt it was just a complete dream come true."

Mulligan's dream got even bigger in 2009, when Hollywood sat up and took notice. She starred in the British coming-of-age film, "An Education," which earned her an Oscar nomination and a comparison to Audrey Hepburn.


She played Jenny, a 16-year-old girl dutifully living up to her parents' expectations until love leads her astray. In Mulligan's own life it was acting that almost came between her and her family.

Tracy asked, "When you told your parents, 'I want to be an actress,' what was the response?"

"They wanted me to go to university and then pursue acting once I had a degree," Mulligan said. "I went off and did auditions and lied about where I was going and, you know, it was the most deceitful I've ever been, and probably the biggest fight I've ever had with my parents when they found out."

"You paint a picture of being a very good child," said Tracy. "Did you ever have a real rebellious phase?"

"When I was 16, I asked to have a party, and I'd never had a party before," she said. "I had a superheroes party at my house, and it was a complete disaster. The police came twice. There were cigarette burns in the carpets and, you know, it was carnage! And my parents were so, so disappointed in me!"

"So I have to ask, what superhero were you?"