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Saturday, April 19

Austen Actress Carey Mulligan: A Passion to Perform

English actress Carey Mulligan wanted the part of Kitty Bennet in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice so passionately, that she contacted the director and pleaded her case. This was a bold move for a young stage actress who up until that point had not worked in film. Happily, her persuasive abilities and talent secured her the role as the fourth Bennet sister in the big-budget film adaptation of Jane Austen classic novel co-staring Keira Knightley as her sister Elizabeth, and Matthew McFadyen as Mr. Darcy.

Born Carey Hannah Mulligan in 1985 in London, Carey spent her early childhood in Germany until age 14. She credits her love of acting to her early experiences at Woldingham School, an indepentant Roman Catholic boarding and day school for girls in Surrey, whose previous famous students include actresses Vivien Leigh, Maureen O’Sullivan and Rachel Weisz. After graduation, her family doubted that she could succeed as a professional actress and planned a University education. Undeterred, she connected with actor Julian Fellowes who mentored her into an audition with Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright.
As an aspiring young actress, being cast in Pride and Prejudice has “thrown her in the path” of other great acting opportunities. After filming wrapping up, she was cast as Hermia in Forty Winks at the Royal Court Theatre. Ms. Mulligan then won the plum role as Ada Clare, the impassioned ward of John Jarndyce in the BBC/Masterpiece Theater adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic, Bleak House. This performance earned her a nomination for "Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture of miniseries" for the OFTA television awards in 2005.
In 2006 she appeared in The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard, another drama for the BBC/Masterpiece Theater, as Emily the unruly young daughter of the newly elected Prime Minister of the UK. Ms. Mulligan showed great depth of character in her portrayal of a young woman thrown into the national spotlight with her family as her mother runs the nation. Other roles that year included Violet Willet in Mystery: Miss Marple, The Sittaford Mystery with Geraldine McEwan as Agatha Christie’s sleuth Miss Marple.

For a second time Ms. Mulligan had the chance to portray a Jane Austen character as Isabella Thorpe in the ITV/Masterpiece production of Northanger Abbey co-staring Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland and JJ Feild as Henry Tilney. Well suited for Regency finery and language, Ms. Mulligan excelled as the saucy and slippery Isabella, allowing us to enjoy her diversity and ingenuity as an actress.

In certain scenes in Northanger Abbey, I was struck by Ms. Mulligan’s remarkable resemblance to the famous British actress, Dame Wendy Hiller at the same age. But it is more than just her face that evokes the memory. Her carriage and diction harken back to an elegant and inspiring era of British stage and film actors, a style that we see less frequently as of late.

Dame Hiller excelled as the confident but confused heroine in my favorite film, I Know Where I am Going (1945). If some clever producer has the guts to remake this cinematic classic, please cast Ms. Mulligan as plunky Joan Webster. I have every confidence that she will not disappoint.
This weekend we have an opportunity to see Ms. Mulligan in another challenging role as Elsie Kipling in Masterpiece Classic’s presentation of My Boy Jack on Sunday, April 20 th at 9:00 pm on PBS. Set in pre-World War I England, Carrie stars as the fiesty sister of John (Jack) Kipling (Daniel Radcliffe) whose ferverently patriotic father, poet, author and national celebrity Rudyard Kipling (David Haig) is determined to send his son to war, even though he can not pass his army physical because of poor vision. Elsie and her mother Carrie Kipling (Kim Cattrall) are sanguine on the scheme, and some of the best scenes in the film show their passionate opposition to the men in their lives dogged determination to prevail, but true to the times, they are women and must watch and wait, and then grieve over the folly and loss. The script by David Haig who also stars as Kipling senior is excellent, so don’t miss the chance to see a polished cast, and a performance by Carrie Mulligan, a bright star with a passion to perform.

6 Degrees of Austen Actress Carey Mulligan Separation Triva quiz!

Ms. Mulligan had first degree Austen connections to all of these actors listed below. Can you name them, or the production that they were in?
  • Actress Maureen O'Sullivan starred as which Jane Austen character?
  • Vivien Leigh married which Mr. Darcy in real life?
  • Julian Fellowes starred as the Prince Regent in which two productions?
  • Anna Maxwell Martin starred with Carrie in Bleakhouse. Which Jane Austen relative did she portray in the movie Becoming Jane?
  • Sylvestra Le Touzel starred with Carrie in The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard. What two Jane Austen characters has she portrayed?
  • Laurence Fox starred with Carrie in Mystery: Miss Marple, The Sittaford Mystery, but he was also one of Jane Austen's love interests in which film?
If you know the answers, leave a comment, and add more connections!

Posted by Laurel Ann, Austenprose


Vic said...

The first two are easiest, so I'll tackle them (hah!): Maureen O'Sullivan played Jane in the 1940 P&P adaptation, and Vivien Leigh married Laurence Olivier. the first Mr. Darcy I ever saw and who also starred in the 1940 production.

Dina said...

Anna Maxwell Martin starred with Carrie in Bleakhouse. Which Jane Austen relative did she portray in the movie Becoming Jane? Cassandra 'Cassie' Austen

Unknown said...

Great article on an up and coming actress. I've been wanting to see "My Boy Jack".

Jane Odiwe said...

I think Carey Mulligan is a fabulous actress - but I wish they had cast her as Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. I think she would have been perfect!

Anonymous said...

Sylvestra Le Touzel starred with Carrie in The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard. What two Jane Austen characters has she portrayed?

Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey and Fanny Price in Mansfield Park

Sibylle said...

I must say she's one of my favourite actresses. She was perfect in Bleak House, Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice ( I have yet to see My Boy Jack ). I linked to this post on my journal, and I may be doing one similar on Anna Maxwell Martin ( a great favourite ) if you don't mind me stealing the idea :)

Unknown said...

Check out

Thanks, Peter

Anonymous said...