Carey Mulligan - Promising Women at Sundance

by Tina Jøhnk Christensen January 27, 2020
actress Carey Mulligan, Golden Globe nominee

dia dipasupil/getty images

Carey Mulligan is Cassie, the protagonist in Promising Young Woman which some at Sundance have called a brilliant #metoo-inspired answer to the spate of films centering on toxic male rage. In the film directed by Emerald Fennel, the Killing Eve showrunner, Cassie turns the tables on the men who normalize predatory behavior. The HFPA”s Tina Jøhnk Christensen spoke to Mulligan in Park City.

What is it like being here at Sundance with the mostly female team behind the film?

I love Sundance and I think that festival audiences are great. People who come to film festivals love film and they are all sitting forward in their seat and I love that. It is just so nice to play a film for an audience who is excited to be there and An Education came here and I have very fond memories of Mudbound, The Greatest and Wild Life and it is always a lovely place to be and it is also so beautiful. It has been great.

Mudbound, The Greatest and An Education were directed by female directors and now you are here with Emerald Fennel’s debut as a feature film director. What is it like for you to see her get celebrated here?

It is so cool. It is so amazing to see people recognizing her and seeing what she has made. It was great to be associated with it and with Ashley and Margot’s company making the production. It is very cool.

The film is dark and deals with a very serious subject but it is also very funny. Did the audience react as you had expected it to?

They did and it was really cool because it does twist and you have to turn on a dime and there are moments where you are laughing and suddenly you are not and vice versa. The audience really went there and did that. Emerald gives credit to the audience. So often we play things down and dumb things down and don’t give the audience enough credit, and she has made a film that is not easy. It is very entertaining and I was pleased to see that the audience was absolutely with us the whole time. It was so cool.

There is a lot of focus on female directors at Sundance. How important is it for you to be in a film directed by a woman?

I generally get really excited when I get sent a script that has a female director attached to it because I know that in all likelihood she has had to go through a gold nut to get there which historically a man has not had to in the same way. It is always difficult to get films made when you are starting out regardless of your gender, but I think this is particularly the case for women and it is particularly the case for women who have made their first film. The statistics are there. It is that much more difficult for a woman to get a second feature financed than it is for a man. The disparity is huge. So I feel that when I get a script from a female director, that it is probably going to be good. It is probably going to be really worth paying attention to.

Do you agree that ‘if it is going to be about us, it is going to be with us’ in terms of filmmaking?

Yeah. One hundred percent and say, Paul Dano, when we did Wild Life. It was a weird thing doing press because I felt anger from the audience about this character. There was one man in the audience who stood up and he was outraged and said: ‘’Jeannette is just a despicable mother and this character is just awful, unbelievable and despicable.’  But Paul as a filmmaker is so with Jeannette. You don't hate her. She is by no means a perfect mother but who is? She is by no means handling the situation very well, but You empathize with her. She is trying to survive. There was zero criticism for the husband, who just runs off and leaves his family. But that is what Paul did: He was with Jeannette and he was telling a story about a woman and a marriage and a boy but he is with that character. He is not against her.

This film fits into the #metoo debate. Was that a subject while shooting the film?

Yes, to a degree. But when have we all not talked about it? We have been talking about it but no one has been listening. Until now, it might be a little bit more so. To be honest, the environment on set was so jovial. I think you have to when you are dealing with a subject matter that is quite dark. Do you have to have levity unless what is the point in going to work? We are storytellers, so there was a huge amount of sensitivity to the darker material that we were dealing with but at the same time, you have to be able to walk away and have fun in your lunch break.