Time travel is tough on the brain — as Carey Mulligan knows better than most. Her latest movie, the ’60s-era Inside Llewyn Davis, is her latest foray into period films, part of a list that has already taken her through the 1800s (Pride and Prejudice; Bleak House), back to the 1960s (An Education, her 2009 break-out role), the 1930s (Public Enemies) and the 1920s (The Great Gatsby). And, Mulligan says, this latest time shift was a bit of a doozy.
“It was difficult on this one, headspace-wise, to come out of Gatsby and flip into the ‘60s,” she says. “I was shooting Gatsby when I got the job. I went straight from Gatsby to the Coen brothers with, like, two days.”
Though she usually does historical research for her roles, there was no chance this time, so she was just working with personal familiarity with the folk music that’s at the center of the story and what she says was “enough” knowledge about the history of Greenwich Village. (For the very first scene she shot, she was singing with Justin Timberlake — “I was obviously nervous, as you might expect,” she says — and no, she did not ask her husband, Marcus Mumford, for advice.)
But even without extensive research, there are tricks to placing a character in time, the actress says. For example, in The Great Gatsby, Daisy’s manners would have required her to speak and move slowly. “You have to look at the etiquette of the time and how people behave in society. There are changes all the time, and women most especially. Then there are differences between classes as well.” For a singer in the 1960s, that slowness was nowhere to be found — instead, Mulligan’s Inside Llewyn Davis character says everything that comes to mind, which was part of what attracted her to the part.
Mulligan continues to attempt to claim the time-travel crown with her next parts, an adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd and Suffragette, a movie about early feminists — but she says she’ll try mix it up after that. “It would be nice to do something modern,” she says, “I haven’t done as much of that.”