Along with 3-D effects and a soundtrack produced by Jay-Z, Baz Luhrmann’s spectacular, all-star production of The Great Gatsby casts the inimitable Carey Mulligan as Gatsby’s bewitching obsession, Daisy Buchanan.
“Here,” says Carey Mulligan, alighting excitedly on a page in a well-thumbed paperback biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. “ ‘She had no more worries than a puppy would have, or a kitten. . . .’ That’s Zelda. That’s Daisy.”
We are in a café in Covent Garden, and the 27-year-old actress is taking me through her research for the role of Daisy in Baz Luhrmann’s forthcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Her blonde hair newly grown out, Mulligan is wearing some battered cowboy boots she bought in Montana (“I was thrown from an actual horse in them”), leggings, and a much-loved brown sweater with holes in the elbows, shrunk with too many washes. Last night, she stayed with her parents in order to take her mother to a cooking class as a belated Christmas present; she has just emerged from a five-hour marathon of pasta-making: “one big table and everyone mucking in, all tasting from the same pot.” Hence the jumbly, just-pulled-on clothes.
“I still haven’t moved everything into my grown-up house,” she explains, that being the house she has just bought in London with new husband Marcus Mumford, of the Grammy-winning British folk band Mumford & Sons. While she was home, she also looked for her Gatsby workbook. “My mum and I were in my bedroom last night because that’s where all my stuff went when I got back from Sydney. We were tearing through, trying to find it. I had Marcus check at home. I think I’ve lost it.”
She doesn’t seem too concerned, having brought with her instead a collection of battered paperbacks and a large sheaf of photocopied letters to F. Scott Fitzgerald from Ginevra King, the sixteen-year-old Chicago debutante with whom Fitzgerald first fell in love and who gave him the outline for so many of the women in his fiction. Princeton University Library copied the entire unpublished set for Mulligan, who devoured them as bedside reading, “soaking up her view of the world, the way she spoke,” she says, turning to one of the letters. “ ‘Yours ’til the little devils in hell go skating.’ I love that. ‘There’s so little to me that I’m not hard to forget quickly….’ That dichotomy between Daisy having that attitude but meaning the exact opposite….”