You'll never be an actress," said the heads of three drama schools who turned her down and her parents were delighted. They didn't want her to be an actress either.But unluckily for them, their daughter Carey Mulligan had other ideas. "The more people tried to stop me the more I realised just how much I wanted to act," she says. And when in 2004 the unknown 18-year-old won the role of Kitty Bennett in the latest movie version of Pride and Prejudice and was hailed as the new Audrey Hepburn, even her parents had to admit they might have been wrong. Today at 27, and commanding $5 million a picture, Carey is being hailed as one of the brightest new star in movies. Pundits are predicting a massive hit for the soon to be released Baz Luhrmann remake of the classic The Great Gatsby in which Carey stars with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.
And even before it's release the movie is being tipped for an Oscar nomination - and Carey as best actress. In fact winning things has become almost routine for the London-born star. She won half a dozen for her lead role in An Education including a Golden Globe.
Now as Hollywood bosses fight for her signature on million dollar contracts, Carey says her greatest pleasure is still being able to walk down the street without being recognised. "It's great. Long may it continue!" she says.
Certainly everything is going right for Carey. She was distraught when her relationship with her Money Never Sleeps co-star Shia La Boeuf ended. But then she met pop singer Marcus Mumford — and they were married last April.It was Marcus who persuaded Carey to venture out from the budget $100 a night Best Western hotel in Hollywood where she had fled after the break-up with Shia.
"It was a great place to stay while I got my thoughts together," Carey said. "I'm not sure what the fuss is about — I love it there. They've got the best sweet potato fries in town!"A friend explained: "Carey is very low-key and feels much happier in a budget hotel than she would at a five-star place. She found the fuss about where she stayed really funny."She's a lovely girl and she and Marcus just hit it off. He made Carey laugh again and she hadn't done that for a while. Although she puts a brave face on things, she was devastated by the break-up with Shia."Now she is loving being married to a great guy and although they both have very busy lives they seem to be able to arrange things so that they spend maximum time together."
Carey remembers that her parents were keen for her to go to university after leaving school but by then she had been seriously bitten by the acting bug."I even worked in a pub for a while but I was desperate to act and persuaded my headmistress to introduce me to a friend who was Julian Fellowes the screenwriter. "He was writing the Pride and Prejudice screenplay at the time and introduced me to the casting agent who was apparently looking for an unknown to play Kitty." Carey and Shia started dating after co-starring in Money Never Sleeps. Director Oliver Stone said: "You could see their chemistry right away. It was pretty powerful.
"They were completely professional on the set but there was no mistaking what was happening." Later Carey left the UK and moved into Shia's Hollywood apartment but, sadly things didn't work out.A friend said: "Carey was homesick and had doubts about the future. She was lonely and moving from the UK was hard on her. "On top of that, they were both working so hard that they only had a couple of days a week to spend together."
So how did Carey cope with Never Let Me Go, which is an intense movie about love, jealousy and loss? "I was playing another person and nothing she did or suffered had anything to do with the real me," Carey says.