Carey Mulligan is the first to admit that her latest film, the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, was a role very close to her heart, having fallen in love with the novel before a film was even planned.
Nominated for an Oscar last year for her performance in An Education, 25-year-old Mulligan is quickly developing an impressive resume. She sat down with Metro to discuss the themes of the novel, playing a part she never thought she’d get and ignoring the noise of awards season.
Were you a fan of the book before auditioning?
Yes. My mum was a big Ishiguro fan, and I read it immediately after her. I loved it, and didn’t really think it was a part I could get because of all the usual reasons. So when it came around, to get to audition for it was huge for me. It was sort of the biggest part I’d auditioned for — and kind of the best phone call I’d ever had when I got the job.
How have promotions for the film been going?
I really like talking about it. I loved the book so much. I like that it’s sort of divisive in a way, and I like answering that “Why don’t they run away?” question. The world is so interesting, it’s kind of fun to analyze it. Because there are no real answers to those questions.
So why do you think the characters don’t run away?
I don’t see any reason why they would, having kind of briefly lived in that world. You know, they’re brought up to believe if they leave the confines of their school, it’s certain death. There’s nothing out there that’s better than what they have, in their minds. The people that they grow up with are their only family and the only people that they know. And also they have a sense of duty. They’re brought up believing they’re special and that this is the purpose of their lives.
How was it bringing to life a character you loved so much already?
I loved it. My agent said to me a while ago, you should only ever play the parts that you can’t bear the idea of anyone else playing, and I think that’s how I felt about Kathy. I thought, “No one else could play her.” I mean, I’m sure they can. They can do it brilliantly — better than I can — but they shouldn’t be allowed to. I should play it. I’d never really played this character who let other people speak before she did and allowed other people to feel more. It was sort of like that feeling of being in a funeral of somebody who has died but you’re not the family, so you can’t cry. Like it’s not my place to be upset.
We’re heading into awards season again soon. How is living in that world so early in your career?
It sort of feels like that’s somehow always the ultimate goal, and for me that’s not the ultimate goal. It’s sort of like the only merit you can have as a film is if you win an award, and I think the merit you have with the film is if you take a book that people love and you make a film that’s faithful to that book and doesn’t hurt the book and tell a story that moves people in whatever way. And so the awards stuff, with An Education, it was completely out of left field. And with this, it’s not a consideration. I just have huge fears about fans of the book not appreciating the film, because I wouldn’t want to ever disappoint people who love the book.