Film interview: Carey swaps the Great Gatsby for role as a failing folk singer

DULCET TONES: Carey Mulligan stars in Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis.
DULCET TONES: Carey Mulligan stars in Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis.
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Blessed with a dulcet singing voice and hired to play an aspiring chanteuse in the new Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis, it might seem a natural progression for Carey Mulligan to dip her toe into singing.

She could, after all, lend her honeyed tones to husband Marcus’s band, Mumford & Sons.

“Oh no,” she says, laughing at the suggestion. “I only sing for jobs.”

Born in London in 1985, her silver screen debut came as Keira Knightley’s sister in the 2005 remake of Pride And Prejudice, in which Knightley played Elizabeth Bennet.

She landed the role after learning about it from Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, who’d delivered a lecture at her school.

It was certainly a commendable first acting job, but it was as clever A-Level student Jenny in 2009’s An Education, that Mulligan really showed off her acting muscle, gaining herself an Oscar nomination and a Bafta win for her efforts.

Since then, she’s had her fill of blockbusters, playing leading lady Daisy in last year’s The Great Gatsby, indie hits, including 2010’s Never Let Me Go (which saw her reunited on screen with Knightley) and edgy, hard-hitting drama in the form of Steve McQueen’s Shame.

And yet despite her Hollywood status, the rising star – who cites Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Samantha Morton as her acting heroines – admits she was overwhelmed to land the part of no-nonsense singer Jean in Inside Llewyn Davis.

“It was amazing, I wasn’t expecting [it] at all. I was filming Gatsby when I got the script and did the audition tape in Los Angeles.

“I had fallen in love with it, but was completely unaware that there was any chance of me getting the job.”

The film, which Mulligan calls a “valentine to folk music”, follows a week in the life of failing folk singer Llewyn Davis, who lives in New York in the Sixties.

Mulligan’s on-screen husband, Jim, is played by Justin Timberlake and her real life spouse Marcus, who she married in 2012 in a ceremony in Somerset, was the film’s associate music producer.

Though she sang in Shame, she confesses that she was apprehensive about blasting out a number with Timberlake.

“I’m always very nervous about singing in front of people,” she says.

“Singing, for me, seems to be the most nerve-racking thing to do. And when you’re surrounded by actual musicians like Oscar and Justin, it’s even worse.”

l Inside Llewyn Davis is released on Friday, January 24.

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