Carey Mulligan Interview For The Coen Brothers’ ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’
‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is at a crossroads. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles-some of them of his own making. Written and directed by Academy Award-winners Joel and Ethan Coen, the film also stars Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham and Justin Timberlake. Grammy-winner T Bone Burnett produced the film’s soundtrack which includes music performed by, among others, Oscar Isaac, Marcus Mumford and Justin Timberlake. ’Inside Llewyn Davis’ is set for a December 6th release in the US and a January 24th release in the UK and Ireland.
What was it about this character that grabbed you? She has no filter towards Llewyn, and you get to perform some great dialogue scenes with her…..
Carey mulligan: Yeah. When I read the script I hadn’t read a character… and I said this to Joel Coen, I hadn’t played or read a character where I had more than two lines of dialogue strung together. So that was kind new (laughs), in that usually even if I have a lot of lines in a film they’re not usually so bunched together. I have this whole scene in Washington Square Park where I’m ranting away and it’s this whole paragraph and I thought, “I can’t remember the last time I had more than a couple of lines strung together at one time.” So it’s very wordy compared to what I’ve played recently. Jean is sort of the anti to every character that I’ve played over the last couple of years. I loved how witty she was and how unkind she was and how brutal. I loved the writing. I hope I’m not like Jean – she’s horrible (laughs)! We’re meeting her at a very difficult time in her life, so she’s not particularly pleasant. That’s what I loved about her; she’s as far away from me as anyone I’ve gotten to play before.
She’s pretty venomous towards Llewyn….
Carey Mulligan: I think she has a real romanticism about their lives, this group of musicians together. I think she has more faith in Llewyn than pretty much anyone and she really thinks he can make it. So I think she’s sort of upset, probably the most upset, with how his attitude is towards his work. She believes these people can get somewhere and she’s constantly annoyed with his inability to reach his potential or his bumbling attitude and his mistakes and his laziness to how he treats people. She wishes she could change his flaws, and he just frustrates her. And then there’s a whole host of other factors (laugh).
I understand you started filming ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ just two days after wrapping ‘The Great Gatsby.’ How was that experience, especially given that those films are so very different?
Carey Mulligan: It was crazy because I wrapped filming ‘The Great Gatsby’, got on a plane, and started shooting in New York two days later on a Coen Brothers film. It was a totally different world and a completely different character. ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ all happened really quickly. I got the script and they asked me to do an audition. I spoke to them on the phone, and freaked out that I was on the phone to the Coen Bros. Then I taped this audition and sent it over to them and they offered me the job the next day. They’re probably my favorite filmmakers, and I can’t believe that I get to be one of their characters. It’s ridiculous and so exciting.
And how was it actually getting to work with them?
Carey Mulligan: I don’t tend to ever study the picture as a whole when I’m making a film, I always walk into things based on a couple of factors: usually the director/directors, the character, the script, and then the people I get to work with. But with this, obviously the people I got to work with were amazing, on every level, but the opportunity to work on a Coen Brothers film comes along once…. or five times if you’re John Goodman (laughs), but normally once if you’re a regular, normal, lucky person. So I just wanted to be in one of their visions, and I didn’t really study what it was going to be and I couldn’t really imagine it until I saw it.
I never wanted to see the monitor, I wanted to be surprised and give the Coens what they wanted. It’s probably the coolest job I’ve ever had. The Coen Brothers are so cool, unbelievably cool. It was a completely different set. They sort of tend to stand behind the monitor and you occasionally hear them chuckle, and you think, “I’ve done something right!” (Laughs) And then they’ll come out and chat to you and they’re wonderful.
While we’ve seen you sing on the big screen for ‘Shame,’ in a a very different way, you got this role without singing for Joel and Ethan….?
Carey Mulligan: Yeah. Honestly, I’m very nervous of singing in front of people. We had a week before we started shooting the singing to discuss the music and tone of things, and thankfully T Bone, Joel and Ethan have the ability to make you feel very comfortable. I think the music in this film is a huge part of it. Aside from the film, I think it’s going to be one of the soundtracks that stays in people’s lives forever – like ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?.’ That’s a soundtrack that me and my friends have as one of our things that is influential and inspirational to all of us – and especially for my friends who are musicians. I think the music of ‘Inside Llewyn Davies’ is one side of it, and the film…. I can’t even describe it, it’s not big and it’s a wondering tale of a really sort of delicious character. I love it.
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