Julian Fellowes on the rise of Carey Mulligan

Posted by · 7:47 am · February 8th, 2010

Carey MulliganRemember when Oscar pundits were calling this year’s Best Actress race a coin-toss between Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep? It was a dispiritingly long time ago. With the unexpected explosion of “The Blind Side” arose an industry narrative about the unprecedented box-office muscle of middle-aged female stars, and awards season adjusted accordingly — making this one of the rare Oscars years where ingenues find themselves on the outside looking in.

Not that Mulligan has too much to be upset about: an Oscar nod for one’s first leading role is nothing to sneeze at, and with prominent and/or prestige projects like “Never Let Me Go” and  “Wall Street 2” on her 2010 slate, the “next big thing” talk can continue unabated. (And without the pressure that accompanies an Oscar win, at that.)

The latest contributor to this conversation is Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”), who cheers the actress’s Oscar nomination with a rather touching personal tribute in the Daily Telegraph. (If the near-miss of Emily Blunt for the Fellowes-scripted “The Young Victoria” dampened his mood, he doesn’t mention it.)

It’s an anecdotally interesting piece, revealing the small but helpful hand Fellowes had in Mulligan’s career ascent. It turns out he initially met the then-aspiring actress at her high school, where he had been invited to give a speech. She followed up on the encounter by requesting another meeting, upon which Fellowes’ wife Emma was sufficiently impressed to arrange an audition with Joe Wright for what would be her debut role in “Pride and Prejudice.”

Claiming no credit for her success (“If Emma hadn’t helped her, someone else would”), Fellowes instead holds up Mulligan’s initiative as a demonstration of the career savvy that should stand her in good stead in Hollywood — a nice change, I must say, from the media’s tendency to portray female ingenues as wide-eyed fawns. I also like his final paragraph, in which he dismisses another bad journalism habit:

She is described, in the flood of purple prose that invariably greets a new star in the cinema firmament, as the next Audrey Hepburn, but she is not a new Hepburn, nor a new Vivien Leigh, nor a new Mia Farrow. She may belong in that exquisite group, who combine bird-like fragility with a core of steel, who make us confident of their triumph, just as they demand our love and protection, but she is not a new version of any of them. Carey Mulligan is herself. And, like all true stars, she is not quite like anyone else.

Of course, Fellowes kind of makes the comparison by not making the comparison, but it’s hefty praise at any rate. Nicely done.

→ 14 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

14 responses so far

  • 1 2-08-2010 at 8:17 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    “With the unexpected explosion of ‘The Blind Side’ arose an industry narrative about the unprecedented box-office muscle of middle-aged female stars, and awards season adjusted accordingly…”

    That may be the best explanation I’ve read yet for Bullock’s seemingly inexplicable success this awards season.

  • 2 2-08-2010 at 8:23 am

    Mary said...

    I see a bright future for this girl, especially since she seems focused on working with great directors and doing serious work. And I am not just saying that because of AN Education. She worked hard to get really small roles on Public Enemies and Bothers because she really wanted to work with Sheridan and Michael Mann. Her next project NEVER LET ME GO seems to be really interesting.

    I cant see her being a very commercial actress, she doesn’t seems to focus on that, but I can see her being one of the best at her age.

  • 3 2-08-2010 at 9:25 am

    Bia said...

    She would’ve never stood a chance against Meryl, this race became about star power too. Meryl and Sandra have it, Carey and Gabby do not…at least not yet. I have felt bad for at the award shows though because she always seems genuinely disappointed when her name isn’t called, it’s refreshing in a way.

  • 4 2-08-2010 at 9:38 am

    billybil said...

    What I find most interesting about the last paragraph by Fellowes is the inclusion of Vivien Leigh in with the other women “who combine[ed] bird-like fragility with a core of steel”. Gosh, maybe because my first exposure to Ms. Leigh was GWTW, but I never imagined her in the same vein as A. Hepburn or M.Farrow – very interesting. I mean, I know Ms. Leigh suffered mental challenges as she aged (and I’ve read some say she exhibited them throughout her life as an actress) but fragile…wow…thanks for exposing me to new insight into a great and accomplished screen actress and movie star.

  • 5 2-08-2010 at 9:51 am

    Theoriginal.andrew said...

    I am not a fan of Mulligan but she will go very far in this business IMO. I don’t like her boy-ish look though. And she’s far from being a “new Audrey Hepburn”. She lacks the beauty and glamour Hepburn exuded.

  • 6 2-08-2010 at 10:25 am

    Jessica said...

    “That may be the best explanation I’ve read yet for Bullock’s seemingly inexplicable success this awards season.”


  • 7 2-08-2010 at 1:06 pm

    Nel said...

    Guy pretty sure the wonderful Andrea Riseborough replaced Mulligan in Brighton Rock after she chose to do Wall Street 2.

  • 8 2-08-2010 at 1:10 pm

    Jim T said...

    With all this praise she is getting for her first lead role, she will have to put much effort to her future projects. People might say “oh, she’s not as good as in An Education”. I hope she ignores all the acclaim and just do what her artistic instinct tells her to do. Let’s see what she has done in “Never Let Me Go.

  • 9 2-08-2010 at 1:12 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Nel: You’re quite right. I’d forgotten.

    I’d mention the big-screen reprise of her brilliant turn in “The Seagull,” too, but it’s still not clear when that’s happening.

  • 10 2-08-2010 at 1:12 pm

    daveylow said...

    You really do get the impression from what little we’ve seen of Mulligan in the spotlight that she just wants to concentrate on the work. If she keeps working with fine directors, she’s just going to get better. And she can combine that with stage work and get far.

  • 11 2-08-2010 at 1:16 pm

    JFK said...

    What really amazes me about all of the Mulligan talk following An Education is that scarcely anyone mentions her riveting performance in Bleak House. Anyone who saw that should not be surprised about the critical acclaim she is receiving.

    I am quite excited to see how far her career goes and will definitely be checking out “The Greatest” if/when it is released.

  • 12 2-08-2010 at 2:18 pm

    JR said...

    Spot on, JFK!!! She made an indelible impression in Bleak House. In lesser hands, her role could have seemed the typical pretty, mindless, helpless girl. Mulligan, though, gave her real spine.

  • 13 2-08-2010 at 2:22 pm

    juligen said...

    @ Jim T, all early reviews from NEVER LET ME GO seems to describe Mulligan as the best thing in the film.

  • 14 2-08-2010 at 10:12 pm

    Brian said...

    I could look/listen to her all day. Damn you Shia!