Carey Mulligan on the power of quiet love with Ryan Gosling in ‘Drive’

SAN DIEGO – Comic-Con is not necessarily the first “festival” that springs to mind when thinking of British ingenue Carey Mulligan.  An Oscar nominee for her sparkling turn in “An Education,” Mulligan career has seemed more suited for the red carpets of Cannes, Toronto, Venice and Park City.  And yet, last month, Mulligan and a few of her co-horts found their way to Comic-Con’s massive Hall H where they pitched the new thriller “Drive” to the pop culture festival’s more genre-friendly audience. 

Awarded the Best Director Award at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, “Drive”  is a stylish and exhilarating drama centered on a drifter (Ryan Gosling) who is making a living as an auto mechanic during the day, a movie stunt driver in his free time and a get away driver for criminals at night.  Audiences never find out “Driver’s” real name during the picture, but it’s made clear he is much more interested in the challenge of the getaways than the cash he makes off it.  After moving into a downtown tower, he slowly makes acquaintances with his next door neighbor, Irene (Mulligan), and her young son.  Irene’s husband Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac) is in jail and she’s tempted to jump into an affair with Driver until Standard is suddenly paroled.  Before then, however, director Nicholas Winding Refn (“Bronson”) chronicles a realistic and striking romantic dance between the two characters.  This pairing is even more impressive considering how little is actually said between the two.

Sitting down to discuss the picture in a large hotel ballroom, the always elegant Mulligan brought some welcome glamour to the usual t-shirt and jeans proceedings of Comic-Con press. It was when I brought up the idea of how quiet both Mulligan and Rosling’s scenes are in the picture (actually, Driver doesn’t say much in the film at all), the 23-year-old actress lit up. 

“We would sort of sit around in in the morning and Nic would say, ‘Do you want to say this?’ And I would say, ‘No.’  And Ryan would go, ‘I don’t wanna say that.’  So we’d end up with four words and then we’d sort of shoot the scenes and look at each other,” she says. “It was weird. It just kind of felt like that was the part of the film that was going to be quiet and the rest of the film was going to be chaotic and action and killings and awesome stuff.  This was the part of the film was hopeful.”

Mulligan also spoke about how much she wanted to work with Refn that when she heard he was making “Drive” with Gosling, she tracked him down to try to land a part.  Her role was actually intended for an older Latino actress, but Refn was so impressed with Mulligan’s pitch he cast her instead (having never seen her earlier films). It also turns out the production was so tight that Mulligan crashed in LA with Refn and his wife which prompted her, for the first time, to watch dailies of herself (something she hasn’t done since).  All and all, it was one of the most enlightening, somewhat deep and enjoyable conversation’s I’ve had with Mulligan since first meeting her on the circuit for “An Education.” 

You can watch our discussion in its entirety in the post above.

“Drive,” which will also screen at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, debuts nationwide on Sept. 17.  Don’t miss it.