“I like to play parts where on the page, I can't quite figure them out,” Carey Mulligan tells PEOPLE

By Kara Warner
December 29, 2020 10:36 AM
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Carey Mulligan hopes her buzzed-about new film Promising Young Woman will move audiences to laugh, cry and cringe.

Written and directed by Emerald Fennell (The Crown, Killing Eve), the provocative #MeToo-era revenge thriller revolves around Cassie (Mulligan), a med school dropout who experiences a personal tragedy that moves her to exact vengeance against rapists, misogynist men and those who protect them.

"It's not about a sort of goodie and baddie situation," the British actress, 35, tells PEOPLE in the latest issue. "I like the fact that the film makes us kind of reexamine, 'How have we all been complicit in this?' There's so much to unpack about the way people talk about consent."

Carey Mulligan PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman
| Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

Mulligan admits to being scared of the role initially — and says her reaction was a sign she had to take it on.

“I like to play parts where on the page, I can't quite figure them out,” she says. "There are elements of it that are very serious and need to be handled delicately, but for the rest of it, it's a comedy.”

And one that boasts a pop-heavy soundtrack full of memorable, mostly-female-performed, catchy songs (i.e. Britney Spears' "Toxic," and Paris Hilton's 2006 hit "Stars Are Blind")

"I really enjoy being in a film where people are very excited about Britney Spears being on the soundtrack," says the actress.

Carey Mulligan PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman
| Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

For much more on Carey Mulligan and Promising Young Woman, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands now

Promising Young Woman also features a supporting cast of very familiar faces including: Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Max Greenfield, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Adam Brody, most of whom are playing opposite the types of characters they're known for.

"Everyday was different," says Mulligan of the very quick 23-day shoot. "There was a different, amazing actor coming in every day. And [filming] was going from full romantic comedy to revenge movie to thriller. The whole thing was quite exhilarating."

Carey Mulligan Marcus Mumford
Marcus Mumford and Carey Mulligan posed together in April in support of a Comic Relief fundraiser
| Credit: Marcus Mumford and Carey Mulligan - Comic Relief via Getty

In addition to her hope that audiences will find the film both entertaining and thought-provoking, Mulligan looks forward to when her two children, daughter Evelyn Grace, 5 and son Wilfred, 3, with her musician husband Marcus Mumford, 33, are old enough to see it.

"I want them to see this film or something like it," she says. "Ideally they won't grow up with the same kind of influences that we did that normalizes this kind of behavior. I think the world has moved on, to a degree, or is in the process of moving on."

Promising Young Woman is now playing in theaters.