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by Nigel M Smith
December 10, 2013 9:40 AM
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Carey Mulligan on Playing a 'Horribly Rude Person' in 'Inside Llewyn Davis' and the Pressure of Singing Alongside Justin Timberlake

Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan is an actress in demand. Nowhere was that more evident than at this year's Cannes Film Festival where Mulligan was on hand to promote two high profile entries, opening night selection "The Great Gatsby," and the Coen brothers' latest "Inside Llewyn Davis," which walked away with the Grand Prix prize.

Since nabbing an Oscar nomination for her breakthrough turn in "An Education," Mulligan has stuck to 'auteur-ish' projects from the revered likes of Steve McQueen ("Shame"), Nicolas Winding Refn ("Drive") and Oliver Stone ("Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"). In "Inside Llewyn Davis" (which opened in select theaters last Friday and goes wide December 20), Mulligan is barely unrecognizable under a mop of long black hair as Jean, the bitter and potty mouthed ex-flame of the titular folk artist, played by Oscar Isaac. Up next for the actress is Thomas Vinterberg's adaptation of "Far From the Madding Crowd."

READ MORE: The Coen Brothers and T-Bone Burnett on Reuniting for 'Inside Llewyn Davis' Soundtrack and Whether It Can Match Success of 'O Brother'

Mulligan called Indiewire from LA to discuss working with the Coens and her amazing run this year.

You were quite the belle of the ball at Cannes this year. What was that whole whirlwind like?

It was so much fun this time. I've been there a couple of years before with "Wall Street" and was kind of overwhelmed by the whole thing, much more nervous. This time I was really excited to be with the people I was with. Getting to go there with two totally different films was really amazing, and getting to do it with people I really, really liked... I like the thing about Cannes where you all stand together as a cast on the carpet and represent your film together. I had two totally amazing moments, thinking how lucky I was to be working with these groups of people.

You've come such a long way since "An Education." Do you pinch yourself sometimes?

Yeah, to get to work with Baz (Luhrmann) and the Coen brothers in the same year was amazing. I have pinch me moments constantly. At a certain point you have to acknowledge how bizarre it is to be in a film with Leonardo DiCaprio who's the actor you grew up watching in movies. I saw him in "Romeo & Juliet" when I was 15-years-old and thought it was the best movie I'd ever seen, and so acting with him was surreal. It was a heightened experience being in that place.

You're married to a musician (Marcus Mumford, who contributed to the soundtrack). Did your obvious love of music play into you wanting to make this film?

I liked folk music a lot but it was the character that drew me. I never, ever dreamed that I would get to be in a Coen brothers film. Maybe because I'm English, I just never thought it would happen. Just to get to audition for them was amazing. I spoke with them on the phone and I don't remember any of it because I was so nervous. I got the job and then didn't meet with them for four months. So it was strange. The first time I met them was in the rehearsal room for the music.

What led to the Coens even thinking of you for the role? You're not known for playing such hard edged characters.

Ethan said in Cannes that he'd seen "An Education" and he thought it'd be really funny to see me play a horribly rude person. That really did seem to tickle him while we were filming. We'd film it and he'd push me to be nastier and swear more and be more unpleasant. He found that hilarious (laughs). I think that is where it came from. They saw me as someone who plays sweet people.

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