There’s a new girl at Woldingham. Carey Mulligan. She’s fourteen and she wears a Les Misérables sweater with jeans. She says she’s not trying to be cool. “It’s not a statement.” She’s boarding because her dad has got a new job in Vienna. She told me she wanted a change because the girls at her old school weren’t very nice. They tried to give her a makeover but this was no Tai and Cher deal—it was a nightmare. They forced her into a mini skirt when normally she “never, ever, ever, ever likes wearing anything above the knee.”
“I hate my legs,” she told me, like she was telling me a secret, her voice kinda deep, in this secret way. But I don’t think she smokes. Claire says she thinks the new girl is really hot, she’s calling her caramel eyes.
Carey told me she’s really into drama, that’s what she’s going to be focusing on. She’ll be fine here. She’ll find friends who are similar to her. I told her some girls in our year lost their virginity on a beach in Minorca, a moment of sandy teenage rebellion. Said she found that “terrifying.” She’s just like me.
23 October Carey and I are getting super close, I think. Already. She’s very warm and open to stuff. Since she likes acting I took her to the common room and started going through the whole collection of the VHS’s. All two of them. Empire of the Sun and Elizabeth.
This was like a couple of weeks ago. Now she keeps watching Elizabeth over and over. It’s not weird, I don’t think. Cate Blanchett is “a personal hero” and she says this like she means it, like the way her face gets. It’s hard to describe. I asked her if she wants to go and see 10 Things I Hate About You with me. There’s this guy in it called Heath Ledger (weird name, right?) who looks like a total babe, and the soundtrack is AMAZING.
20 December Everyone at school is reading Harry Potter but Carey is “completely absent from the Harry Potter thing” as she calls it. Which is weird. I was like come on try it, it’s not like it’s drugs or stuff, and I made her read the first chapter, but she was like she is too old for it. “But I love Lord of the Rings.” She confessed to being totally obsessed by Tolkien for a little bit like I was. But not as obsessed as she was by Les Misérables though. She saw that five times.
Personally, I don’t get musicals. I like films, and a film version of a musical would be really weird and never work.
She’s not so into music like me and doesn’t have posters on her walls but I think I might make her a mix CD. Just like Blink 182, Semisonic and that rapper M&M.
Anyway, that’s all—
15 January Dear Diary,
I asked Carey if she keeps a diary. Always thinking of you my journal! But sometimes I feel like I’m the only one doing this! :(
She said she does after momentous events, like her first kiss. She says she’ll write loads, that will last for a week, but then she just sort of forgets.
When I went over to her house for the weekend, I saw some in her bedroom at her house, a journal with the first two pages filled with manic writing and the rest of it blank, empty.
10 March Dear Diary,
So much is going on. I bumped into Carey outside the Royal Court in London. It was the last night of this play she’s been acting in called The Seagull. It’s this play by Chekhov. It’s basically about people trying to be happy and stuff. I looked at some reviews online, everyone is loving her as this girl Nina. They say stuff like she’s “shimmering with passion” waxing about how “she seems to radiate a visible innocence.”
Carey seemed sort of sad though, a bit lost. She said she only moved to London shortly before starting the role, so she’s going through a transitional time. I could tell that she’s digging her nails into Nina to help her through. I asked her how she prepared for the role and she told me about this scrapbook she made, full of Russian poetry and notes on the play and her performance. She says she thinks she’s found a new way to work, “to make me feel like I’m qualified. This is my dissertation for why I should be able to play this role.” She’s so smart! But she couldn’t talk for long, and I didn’t want to keep her, I felt like I could see Nina oozing out of her skin. I might go see the play when it transfers to New York. The cast sounds incredible, all those sharp, vital actors, fizzing and sparking with electric talent.
btw that cream Camilla lent me stinks awfully and my rash still hasn’t cleared up.
17 March Dear Diary,
Saw Carey in the pub. We talked about the last time we saw each other, about the role she was playing at the time—Nina, I think. I told her I went and saw it afterwards and that it was amazing. She said that she still feels that it’s the best role she’s ever had. “The best writing I’ve gotten to say.”
What’s weird though, she said she returned to the Royal Court the other day to do a read through of her friend’s film and found the experience troubling, “I felt so, almost, devastated that I hadn’t worked there in such a long time, and that I had no real plan or opportunity to.” She’s still making scrapbooks and has done one for most characters she’s played since Nina. But it always comes back to Nina.
It seems like a lot of time has passed but it’s really not so much. Carey looks great, beautiful, a beautiful young woman. But she’s still trying to find parts as “difficult and rewarding” as Nina, but now mainly in film. It’s like being drawn to “dizzy scary heights” she says. Some people have to do that, I guess, to make good work.
15 July Dear Diary
I’ve such good news! I got a chance to talk to Carey again. She called me out of the blue. It was great because I’d just been watching a bunch of her movies, like An Education and Never Let Me Go. She’s good, as always, but she’s always playing this like sweet and intense but ultimately fragile type of woman. And Carey, the girl I know from school, isn’t really like that, she’s funny and warm. I asked her about that and she acknowledged something that I’d been thinking about for a while. The appeal of playing damaged women, these strange creatures men fall apart around is an ego thing. “It’s harder, more showy,” she said, but at the same time it fulfils her desire to be someone else.
I think that she longs for the burst of adrenaline, the thrill that comes with being unlike your self. “When you do things that you don’t understand, or that are really tricky because they’re something you haven’t experienced, that’s almost when it’s the most escapist...You’re not yourself at all.”
I reminded her of the 14 year old in the Les Misérables sweater (or was it Miss Saigon?) who loved A Knight’s Tale. (btw RIP Heath XOXO.) I said maybe she got into acting because when she was a teenager she wanted to escape herself? She told me she really didn’t miss being that age. “I always felt paranoid and concerned—like everyone does I suppose—I just felt constantly, ‘Oh I’ve fucked that up. Everyone hates me.’ I had no hold of myself and it was really unsettling and horrible to be that age so I guess it might have come out of that. Just wanting to do something fixed and steady.”
I told her about re-reading my old diaries the other day and being galled by the emotional wrangling I put myself through and the self-obsession scrawled all over the pages of my pink notebook. I think she got it. Carey is full of empathy. Just like you, diary.
20 September OMG Drive was so amazing. Ryan Gosling was UNBELIEVABLE. I had to call Carey immediately and tell her.
She was totally happy to hear from me. She said she mainly wanted to do that film, not for the role, but because she was desperate to work with Nicolas Winding Refn (he’s the guy who directed Drive).
I asked her who else she wants to work with and she said she would love to do just two lines in a Jacques Audiard film. I must confess diary – I had to google who that was—but he’s like a really great director. Then she told me she still writes letters to people she admires. “I call up my agent and say, ‘Is it weird that I want to write to George Clooney?’”
I asked her what she wrote to people like George and she said she wrote, “I think what you do is really brilliant and if there is some way I could be involved with what you do in the future that would be amazing.” It makes sense to her to tell people she is in awe of them. That’s just how she feels, “I don’t think anyone says, ‘Oh someone saying that they like my work? Fuck you’” nobody says that. I almost told Carey I was thinking about starting to act but then I was like, I shouldn’t make this about me, so I changed the topic to this show I started watching, called Girls and it turns out Carey is actually emailing Lena Dunham! I freaked.
Basically a writer friend of Carey’s has been working on Girls a little bit with Lena and they’ve become really good friends. “After a couple of months I was like give me her email address, and I wrote her the most geeky email in the world. Now we send each other emails about future fantasy projects, although I’m sure she’s going to be busy for the rest of her life.”
Like me, and most women including my mother-in-law, Carey’s fallen completely in love with Dunham’s uncomfortable writing and beautiful figure. “Don’t you find yourself watching Girls more and more and thinking, she looks amazing, and it’s not that she’s changing her shape or losing weight, it’s that the more you watch it, and the more she struts around in tiny tiny shorts ... I’m like, I should wear tiny tiny shorts, we should all be wearing tiny tiny shorts, what the fuck?! There’s this one shot of her lying on the bed, she’s lying on her side, and her curve as a silhouette, she’s like a portrait, she’s stunning.”
I told her I had become so in awe of Lena’s bottom that it made me think that I would want to have any woman’s figure as long as I’d seen it on film or TV. Which is both a liberating and depressing thought.
REMINDER: Get the Tracy Anderson DVD off Lara.
18 October Saw Carey at a swanky coffee shop. I didn’t want to keep her long as she was doing like a thousand things, but she stayed talking with me for ages.
We started talking about The Great Gatsby, the new Baz Lurhmann 3D adaptation with Leo and everyone else in the world.
She’s just started doing promo for the film and I could tell she’s getting scared. Especially because since filming she’s lost her scrapbook for Daisy Buchanan somewhere between here and Sydney and needs that to remind her exactly what to say about it.
She said she’s spent the last couple of weeks, “Trying to figure out if I actually had a virus or if I was just freaking out about this Gatsby stuff. We’ve started doing photoshoots and press in the last couple of weeks” and all of that is stressful. It seems that the pressure of publicly dressing herself in Daisy’s clothes is troubling her, “I’ve never done anything where I’ve felt so nervous of fucking it up. Everything else there’s been no real bar ... but this Gatsby project inspires so much anger or passion from people. Even British people don’t get that upset if you mess up an Austen adaptation ‘Oh that’s fine, we’ve all done it.’ But in America it’s like, ‘Don’t fuck with Fitzgerald.’”
I wanted to tell her it was going to be OK. Loads of people haven’t even read Fitzgerald, they just say they have. Besides, she isn’t going to fuck it up, she’s good. And if she does? So what? She’s strong, she’ll be fine.
Understandably though, she wants to do good work. She’s scared of failing and for the first time she faces the possibility of failing on a big scale. Everything else has been an independent film—or something like independent. I told her she should just trust the people around her, and she said she did trust Baz, a lot. Plus Leonardo DiCaprio was so warm and supportive. He cared a lot about how the rest of the cast was feeling.
“Most people are determined to be brilliant and if everyone else isn’t very good that’s probably fine. Maybe better? But Leonardo is absolutely intent on everyone being at the top of their game, which is so important. They would film him, then they would turn the camera round and film me, and he would carry on doing exactly what he was doing when the camera was on him.” She focused on his eyes because acting to “a piece of plastic, on the side of a lens, on a camera” is horrible. In fact, she hates cameras. Which is why DiCaprio’s care and commitment to the other actors meant so much to her, “I’ve heard horror stories about some actors at his level, or even below his level, who don’t even stay on set, they just walk off, and the stand-in just reads their lines for them. Which is insane.”
That’s all for now,
29 March Dear Diary
Got an email back from Carey. I’d written her asking about Los Angeles. I am in love with Hollywood, I am fascinated by L.A. stories. She said a couple of months ago she went to see the new Coen Brother’s film, Inside Llewyn Davis, that she’s in. She’s playing this woman named Jean Berkey who is the love interest of this 60s era folk singer, Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Issac who Carey worked with in Drive). There’s a scene in the trailer where she tells Llewyn that next time they have sex he should use two condoms and wrap them in electrical tape. It’s really funny even though I don’t think I actually got the joke. But the way she says it is hilarious. Anyway, she said she walked out of the screening and burst into tears. Her best friend turned to her, incredulous. “What the fuck? You’ve turned what you told me was your favorite filmmaking experience ever into a complete disaster by watching it.”
I think Carey now finally accepts that she can’t watch herself act, “I’ve learnt that lesson properly now. I see all the places I could have done things differently, all the ways I’ve gone wrong. I can see myself acting. I think it’s quite natural though, to see yourself wearing a black wig and think, ‘Oh no, don’t do that. Why are you doing that? Stop talking like that.’”
But we laughed together when she talked about Hollywood. “Someone asked me a lot the other day about my skincare regimen.” (Is it terrible that I do actually want to know what her skin care regimen is? I’m an awful person, I really am). Anyway Carey is baffled that some people think it’s part of an actress’s job description to be beautiful. “People have said to me that it’s part of my job to be in shape and to take care of myself. They think these questions are totally normal. How often do you work out? What do you eat? What’s your secret indulgence?”
Carey was happily ignorant of that mentality and was just acting, but one of her first costume fittings in America changed all that. It hit her square in the jaw, the effects of working in a physically obsessed industry. “They made me feel so fat. I’d just come off filming something and I knew I wasn’t fat. At all. And they made me feel that way and I was like, this is crazy.”
When she was 24, someone took her aside and suggested she have botox. “You’ve got some little lines forming under your eyes,” they explained. She was understandably shocked, “I need my eyes for my job!...Wow. This is different.” But I think Carey likes being in L.A. when she’s working, waking up with blue skies and sun every day, seeing some of her best friends. I wish I were there, but whatever. This is my life, at this desk.
5 April Dear Diary
I read blogs and pieces and see paparrazzi shots of Carey all the time now and I’m getting a little obsessed I think. I know she must google herself, I google her, I mean. Sometimes they say such mean things. I know she’s worried her aunt or in-laws will read something negative about her in a review or online and feel sorry for her, or worry that it will upset her. So I know she’s worrying about their worry, which is like this whole thing, spiraling or dovetailing into a bit of maddening madness.
Personally, I know she tries to be none the wiser, because she doesn’t intend to read what people say about her, but the idea that she has to be strong for other people, and that they’re concerned for her must be difficult.
I haven’t told her yet I’m writing about her. Seriously. Can I publish this? My husband says IT IS WEIRD and DOESN’T WORK. I emailed the editor at this magazine and he said weird is better so idk?
“Just your effort to have a go at something is taken so seriously. And anybody can write anything now. It’s not limited any more. Anyone with an opinion, whether it’s remotely intelligent or not can just write it.” But how intelligent do you have to be?
I remember one time when we were younger, Carey and I imagined what it will be like when we’re 40. “I’ll be like, ‘I’m an adult,’” Carey said. Maybe then she’ll feel qualified as an actress? Will she still need the scrapbooks? Carey has always been cast younger, she’s always been treated like someone younger. I know she also became a wife recently. Maybe now she’s married that has started to change.
“So the next decade I’ll think about expanding out of acting,” she told me this a little while ago, but I’m starting to think about it. What do I want to expand out of? She would like to direct films too, but “way down the line. I like the control of film, in that once you’ve done it, you can send everyone away and make all the decisions on your own.” But for now Carey still feels unqualified.
Diary, I think we’re in the same boat. But picture that? It’s a small boat, and the ocean is pretty big.
All the same, and love, as always,