Carey Mulligan & Emerald Fennell for The Guardian

Written by Elise on March 24 2021

The GuardianPromising Young Woman’s five [Oscar] nods include the first for a female British director. Its star and writer-director discuss telling women’s stories, tackling difficult subjects – and feeling shellshocked.

Photoshoots & Portraits > 2021 > Session 08 [+03]

[…] How are you feeling, a day after the Oscars announcement?
Carey Mulligan: “The thing about awards season that gives it value is celebrating film, obviously, but also highlighting films that might not otherwise have had an audience. That’s brilliant. So it’s really cool to see Another Round up for the best picture and best director Oscars. And the Bafta nominations bringing forward films like Rocks.

I haven’t seen everything, but I loved Minari so much. And Daniel Kaluuya is probably the best British actor working today, so I’m big-time rooting for him. Amanda Seyfried is so brilliant in Mank. Emerald should win everything, obviously. But I am biased.

The very fact that Emerald and Chloé [Zhao] are record-breaking is crazy. That we have got to 2021 and still Emerald is the first British female film-maker to get nominated for best director? That’s wild.”

[…] Promising Young Woman has been called a #MeToo revenge movie. Was that your intention?
CM: “This is all very familiar stuff. We’ve all seen it in so many romantic comedies told from the guy’s perspective, who has to get the really hot girl really drunk to persuade her to have sex with him, because sober she wouldn’t go home with him. We’ve seen it in films and thought it was totally normal. Well, I did. I never thought: “Oh, that’s actually quite fucked up.” I’ve always watched it and thought: “Yeah, that’s life, that’s what we all do.” This film is saying: “Hang on, wait a minute.””

[…] Would your younger selves have benefited from seeing this film?
CM: “I do wish this film had come out when I was a teenager.

[…] How do you prepare for a role like this?
CM: “When I read the Promising Young Woman script, I felt the way that you do when you watch Parasite. Constantly wrongfooted, like: “Oh my word, what is this?” In a good way. I also felt the thing that I always want to feel: that I would be gutted if anyone else played this part. I had to do it, but also I didn’t know how to do it.

I’d been exclusively playing mums for a bit. I had a teenage son in Wildlife and then I had children in Mudbound. And I had been performing this Dennis Kelly monologue [Girls and Boys, at the Royal Court in London and on Broadway] in which I had two children.

And then, suddenly, I was a bit like: “Can you still buy me as pre-kids?” It wasn’t anything I’d massively articulated, but I was like: “OK, I’m gonna be in that zone again.” There were lots of things about it that I felt like: “I have no idea how to do this.””

[…] Did you feel any responsibility as feminists when making the film?
CM: “I have not had to experience what Cassie has gone through in this film and I wanted to make sure that it felt accurate, so that it didn’t sit wrong with people who’ve got real pain. That’s the last thing you ever want to do when you’re in this job and it’s why I didn’t want to speak to anyone who’d been through anything related to this film. I would never ask someone to relive something terrible for the sake of a film. There are heightened elements of this film, but the truth is that this situation is so common and what happens in the film is such a sad reality. You want it to be really clear about that.”

[…] How has the past year been for you?
CM: “I haven’t worked much. I did a few audiobooks just to try to do some acting. A Matt Haig book called The Midnight Library and a kids’ book called The Worst Warlock, which was really fun, with trolls and wizards. And the EM Forster short story The Machine Stops. Published in 1909, it’s about an apocalyptic society where everyone lives in their own bubble and nobody has any human contact and everyone communicates through what are essentially iPads. It’s just nuts.”

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