A life less ordinary
Playing a frustrated housewife in a dysfunctional home is a far cry from Carey Mulligan’s happily married life of kids, long walks and warm fires, she tells Michele Manelis
DESPITE being married to one, Carey Mulligan insists she’d never lived a rock star life.
The Oscar-nominated British actor wed fellow Brit Marcus Mumford, lead singer of the Grammy-winning folk-rock band Mumford & Sons, six years ago and the pair are raising their daughter, Evelyn, 3, and son, Wilfred, 1, in London.
In Mulligan’s new film, Wildlife, she plays Jeanette, an unhappy, resentful 1960s housewife who makes some questionable and irreversible choices that shatter her family. In short, she experiences a wild life of her own. But Mulligan insists she prefers the simple pleasures to the celebrity glare and A-list trappings.
“I’ve never had a wild life,” says Mulligan. “I started working when I was 18 and I just kept going. I think I’d been an idiot and cut loose when I was a teenager but I’ve never been rebellious,” she says.
“I know that’s pretty boring but I never had one. My wild life is more to do with country walks and warm crackling fires,” she laughs. “Not really sort of this territory.”
She does, however, marvel at just how far she’s come since her acclaimed breakthrough performance in the 2009 drama, An Education, which she followed up with compelling roles in Never Let Me Go, Shame, Drive and Baz Luhrmann’s Sydney-shot The Great Gatsby.
“Sometimes I say to myself, ‘My God. I’m 33 and I have two kids and I’m married. How did I suddenly become a grown-up?’,” she says with a smile.
“I think that is what Jeanette is experiencing but it strikes fear into her heart that all the possibilities laid before her and all of these people she could have been are now gone.
“She is just a wife and a mother who has lost her identity.
“It’s that feeling you have when you hear a song you knew when you were 21 and you hear it again in the here and now and you can’t believe how much of
“WHAT I LIKE IN THIS FILM IS THAT SHE WAS DOING THE WRONG THING. SHE DIDN’T HAVE A PLAN AND LIFE WAS GOING HAYWIRE”
your life has gone and where you are.”
Set in rural Montana in 1960, Mulligan’s Jeanette is a woman dissatisfied with her lot in life and her perpetually unemployed husband Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal). Theirs is a marriage of tension and dysfunction which blatantly unravels in front of their 14year-old son, Joe, played by Melbourne-born Ed Oxenbould (The Visit, Paper Planes).
A disturbing yet compelling take on the disintegration of a family, it’s as much a coming-ofage story as it is about feminist plight at a time when the Women’s Liberation movement had just emerged. Women asked themselves, ‘Is this all there is?’ and Jeanette exemplifies that angst. Mulligan says she was thrilled to play against type in the drama that also marks actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut.
“This role wasn’t like anything I’d done before, which is why I wanted to do it,” she says.
“I’ve loved playing heroines, even if they were passive but always had a noble cause and a really strong moral background.
“They were doing the right thing. But what I like in this film is that she was doing the wrong thing. She didn’t have a plan and life was going haywire.” Mulligan grimaces then smiles. “It was a fun thing to explore.”
Dano, whose acting skills have been critically lauded in Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood, 12 Years a Slave and Love & Mercy, co-wrote the script with longtime girlfriend and actress Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick). Says Mulligan: “Paul and I have been friends for a really long time. We’ve known each other for 10, 11 years. And Zoe and I did a play together when we were 21, so we have all known each other forever. It was so nice. He’s a friend and he’s also a brilliant actor so he understands acting very well,” she says. “And as far as directing, I just knew he’d be good at it. And he was just brilliant.”
Oxenbould has also garnered positive reviews for his nuanced performance as the sensitive and intelligent son.
“It didn’t feel like we were working with a child actor,” Mulligan says of the rising Aussie star. “He was 15 at the time and he was brilliant and really easy to work with so we formed this little family quickly.”
In contrast to Jeanette, who yearns to be anywhere other than where she is, the happy and relaxed Mulligan wouldn’t change a thing about her life.
“I had such a lucky start to my career, which I didn’t imagine I would have, and I am very happily married. So I’ve never wanted out of that stuff. To be honest, I am still kind of amazed that I am in it.”
SEE WILDLIFE opens tomorrow at exclusively at Cinema Nova
MOTHER-OFTWO CAREY MULLIGAN, AND BELOW, IN WILDLIFE WITH CO-STAR JAKE GYLLENHAAL