‘THEY’RE ASK­ING ME TO DE­FEND JEANETTE A LOT’

Ac­tor Carey Mul­li­gan, who has sel­dom cho­sen the beaten track, plays a woman who is ‘out of line’ in her new movie, and the au­di­ence re­ac­tion has been very dif­fer­ent from men and women, she says

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For Carey Mul­li­gan, who had her break­out mo­ment with the Os­carnom­i­nated An Ed­u­ca­tion (2009), the role of Jeanette, in Wildlife, is the lat­est in a se­ries of com­pli­cated lead­ing women that led her to Mud­bound last year and the play Girls & Boys, which she per­formed off Broad­way. Mul­li­gan dis­cusses her re­cent ca­reer path.

Has it fas­ci­nated you to see how other peo­ple judge Jeanette?

It re­ally has! I’ve been do­ing a lot of Q&As with real au­di­ences, and they’re the punchi­est Q&As I’ve ever done. They’re ask­ing me to de­fend her a lot, in a round­about way. We had one guy in New York who went af­ter me and the char­ac­ter — never had he seen such an “ap­palling woman”. No women have dis­liked her in the Q&As, but we’ve had a cou­ple of men who do.

Why do you think that is?

Be­cause they don’t like see­ing a woman who’s out of line, you know? They’ve been raised to see women in a very par­tic­u­lar way and have very par­tic­u­lar ex­pec­ta­tions of women, and al­low­ing a woman on screen to screw ev­ery­thing up for a minute just seems so out of what they’re used to.

Have you been of­fered a lot of “wife on the phone” parts?

I’ve been of­fered the wife to a great man mil­lions of times — the wife of the bril­liant politi­cian, the girl­friend of the tech ge­nius. Not many parts like Jeanette ex­ist.

Do you feel like you have a good idea of what Hol­ly­wood thinks of you?

They think I’m “se­ri­ous,” prob­a­bly.

Do you ever get of­fered come­dies?

Barely. And the ones I’ve been of­fered are in­cred­i­bly broad, not-great ones. I would to­tally do com­edy if the right thing came along, but it’s so scary. What if you tell a joke and no­body laughs?

By and large, you work in in­de­pen­dent movies. The Great Gatsby (2013) was a big­bud­get stu­dio film, but that’s a rar­ity on your ré­sumé.

Af­ter An Ed­u­ca­tion, my agent told me, ‘You shouldn’t take a job un­less you can’t bear the idea of some­one else do­ing it,’ and that’s how I’ve cho­sen ev­ery­thing since. If I’m read­ing a script, I think, ‘How would I feel if In­sert-Name-of-Other-Ac­tress was do­ing this, and I saw the poster up out­side the theatre?’ And if that makes me feel gut­ted, then I want the part.

So you don’t have any­thing against Mar­vel movies, in the­ory?

If I found a part in a Mar­vel movie where I was like, ‘It’s go­ing to kill me if some­one else take this,’ then I would do it. But I could never make my­self do some­thing that I’d be mis­er­able in, where I’m just do­ing it to in­crease my box­of­fice draw or make money. Now I have two chil­dren, so if I’m miss­ing bath time with them, it has to be a good rea­son.

Have you ever gone back and watched an older film of yours?

I’ve caught bits. Most of the time I’ll switch it off, but if they play Pride & Prej­u­dice on some movie chan­nel, I’ll flick over and watch some of it.

Could you watch An Ed­u­ca­tion now?

It was so long ago, that it feels like a dif­fer­ent per­son, so maybe. There were no ex­pec­ta­tions about any­thing I did back then, which in ret­ro­spect is so lovely.

It feels a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent now: I would worry about play­ing a part and get­ting ter­ri­ble re­views. Maybe that’s very self-in­volved to say, but there’s an ex­pec­ta­tion now to be good that I gen­uinely didn’t feel then. I could do what­ever I wanted to and no one was watch­ing me.

[View­ers] don’t like see­ing a woman who’s out of line, you know? They’ve been raised to see women in a very par­tic­u­lar way and have very par­tic­u­lar ex­pec­ta­tions of women. CAREY MUL­LI­GAN AC­TOR

PHOTO: TAY­LOR JEW­ELL/ INVISION/AP

Ac­tor Carey Mul­li­gan

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