Issue Date: October 4, 2009
Meet Hollywood's new Lolita
Newcomer Carey Mulligan already has critics talking Oscar.
By T.J. Walter
What happens when you cross Audrey Hepburn with Lolita? You get Carey Mulligan in the movie "An Education," the new millennium's answer to that cross section of pixie beauty and lost innocence -- a charismatic combo that already has film critics talking Oscar.
The British actress, 24, plays the 16-year-old object of a much-older man's desire in the movie, opening in New York and Los Angeles next week, then gradually in more cities. The coming-of-sage drama, also starring a beguiling Peter Sarsgaard, was the talk of the Sundance Film Festival, where it debuted earlier this year.
Mulligan is the first to admit that the lascivious theme makes some moviegoers queasy.
Her role as a not-so-sweet 16-year-old is seducing critics.
"I have sat and watched the film with five or six different audiences, and each time they have reacted differently," she says of the movie, with a screenplay by Nick Hornby, whose books-turned-films ("About a Boy" and "High Fidelity") so successfully blend the slightly edgy with the sweet. "Some have been completely creeped out, while others have thought it was hysterical."
The range of responses might make some budding thespians nervous, but Mulligan is upbeat. "Our intention was never to make it a controversial film,'' she says one recent morning from her hotel room in New York City's trendy SoHo.
Mulligan sounds confident, and she has good reason to be. In addition to winning raves for An Education, she has a slew of movies coming up that feature big-name co-stars, including the drama "Brothers" with Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman, due out in December, and Oliver Stone's sequel, "Wall Street 2," scheduled for April, with Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf.
For now, the fresh-faced star is still enjoying some anonymity, unless you count her much-touted "budding romance" with LaBeouf. Mulligan insists that they're not dating, despite reports to the contrary.
The actress's relative obscurity still allows her to enjoy one of her favorite activities -- "wandering around the city shopping at vintage stores and antique markets" -- although she bemoans her "impulse-buying" tendencies.
"I end up purchasing so many things that I don't like or will never wear, and each time I go back to London, I end up donating bags and bags of clothes to charity," Mulligan says, laughing.
Clearly, she feels the lure of a new life ahead as she talks about returning home.
"London is great,'' she says, in her lilting British accent. "My family, my flat and my best friend are there. But there is something so amazing about New York City. I don't want to leave."
Mulligan plays a teen, but here are three real youngsters on the rise:
Max Records, 12
In only his second film, Max takes on the lead role of the fictional Max in the movie version of Maurice Sendak's classic kids' book, "Where the Wild Things Are" (Oct. 16). Judging from fan reaction at Comic-Con, where Max's adult demeanor belied his pint size, this young newcomer is set to steal the film.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, 13
After an exhaustive worldwide search, Kodi snagged the coveted role of "The Boy" alongside Viggo Mortensen in the sci-fi thriller "The Road" (Nov. 25). Kodi, with coaching from his actor dad, looks to join the ever-expanding list of Aussies in Hollywood.
Saoirse Ronan, 15
This Irish actress came out of nowhere two years ago, garnering a best supporting actress nomination for "Atonement." Now, Oscar buzz surrounds Saoirse yet again as she plays a young girl who's looking down on her family from heaven in Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" (Dec. 11).