Carey Mulligan’s breakout performance as a teenage schoolgirl seduced by an older man in “An Education” earned her an Academy Award nomination and led to offers in a string of films most of which she turned down, but “Never Let Me Go” was an exception. It was, she says, simply too good an opportunity to pass up.
“Never Let Me Go” is a beautiful, hauntingly sad and very faithful adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguru’s 2005 novel directed by Mark Romanek with a screenplay by Alex Garland (author of The Beach).
Three friends, Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley), meet at a boarding school called Hailsham and form a bond that will last into adulthood. The school, on the surface at least, is a normal if somewhat rundown establishment in an idyllic English country setting where the pupils are encouraged to express themselves through art and to take particular care of their young bodies.
But Hailsham has a sinister secret hidden behind its veil of respectability – each of the youngsters there are clones, being prepared to be ‘donors’ for organ transplants and their lives will be brutally, tragically short as a result.
Q&A with Carey Mulligan
Q: What’s it like to make a film that deals with such heartbreaking material?
Carey: We didn’t observe ourselves in this tragic world, we just played the parts, and so it was actually much lighter for us than it comes off. Part of what makes it so sad is that they live believing that this is their only choice, their only world, and there were a lot of very emotional scenes.
Q: A question that seems to crop up a lot with the story is why they don’t try and run away?
Carey: The book doesn’t deal with that. When people ask Ishiguru about it he always says that he wasn’t writing a book about people who ran away – he didn’t want to write a slave rebellion book. It’s about people who accept their circumstances and that’s probably more truthful than people running away.
Q: Your character, Kathy, is a clone. Does that affect how you play her?
Carey: No, because we never thought of ourselves as clones. The whole point of the story is that they are as human as people who are conceived naturally. So it was more about a group of orphans growing up together and not really having any kind of nurturing. They were just normal but segregated and treated differently, for no reason.
Q: Had you read the book before you were offered the part?
Carey: Yes, I read it when it came out. I always saw it as an amazing love story and then everything else played into it. It was also about friendship, between those two girls, and then the love story.
Q: Do you think success is changing you? We all have this perception what fame does…
Carey: No, I don’t think it’s changed me. Because I don’t feel famous in the classic sense of the word. When I’m doing press stuff, I wear heels and someone does my makeup, and it’s like a completely different side, a work thing, but then when I’m not working it’s completely different. And no one really photographs me when I’m on my own; I never get stopped in the street, so it’s not like Justin Bieber fame (laughs).
Q: You don’t read anything that’s written about you?
Carey: I read some reviews for the theatre I did and a couple of reviews for An Education but I didn’t read anything for Wall Street because I think if you start thinking about the end result and going into films thinking about how people perceive you then your choices are rubbish. You hate all the bad things that they say, so it’s just best just not to read any of it because then you can’t take any of it in.
Q: What’s your idea of a perfect day off?
Carey: Well, I always get up early; once I’m awake that’s it. I’ve been in New York watching plays; I’ve been in London seeing my friends. I took French lessons for a couple of weeks and then got bored. I enjoyed being off for a while and then I got sick of it and I thought ‘I must do something active.’ It wasn’t like I spent four months travelling to Tibet or anything – I wish I had. I read a lot of scripts but just didn’t find anything until Drive came along.
“Never Let Me Go” opens March 2 exclusively in Ayala Cinemas from 20th Century Fox distributed by Warner Bros.
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