The Wall Street sequel shows Carey Mulligan's rising stocks in Hollywood and it's made for a merger with co-star Shia LaBeouf. She talks to Helen Barlow.

One would think Carey Mulligan would have been on top of the world at the Oscars when she was nominated in the best actress category for An Education, and when she went on to win the Bafta, the British equivalent, as well as the British Independent Film award.

"I really, really don't like that part of my job," announces the cute 25-year-old, who has been likened to Audrey Hepburn. "You know, I get really nervous, and there's no way around it. But I realise how lucky I am to have even gotten into that room, let alone to have been nominated amongst those people ... and it happened very fast. It's the scariest thing and you're never prepared.

"Someone asked Colin Firth when we were at the Oscar launch 'how do you feel?' and he was like 'ask me in six months'. And it's true. When you're in the middle of it you have no idea what you think about any of it."

Understandably, by the time the awards season was over, all Mulligan wanted to do was to discard the glamorous garb and get back into jeans and sweaters. "A couple of years ago I would have loved it, but having to wear so many dresses and shoes, you're like, 'urgh!' You kind of lose interest. [I] do have a greater respect for fashion, that it's like art, but I don't feel the need to spend money on it or dress up when I don't have to."

Yes, this daughter of a hotel manager, who has enjoyed a happy, close-knit family life, admits to being frugal. "My parents aren't incredibly wealthy. I had a very comfortable upbringing, but we never had, like, five cars. I feel horribly guilty if I spend more than £200 [$425] on anything. I feel like my parents are judging me somewhere silently.

"When I first started acting and getting paid, I put a deposit down and I have a mortgage. How boring is that?"

A well-rounded, down-to-earth young woman, Mulligan is trying not to be taken in by her current celebrity.

While her upbringing couldn't have been more different to that of her actor boyfriend, Transformers and young Indiana Jones star, Shia LaBeouf (who grew up in poverty with his mother after she split from his drug-taking father) they share a disdain for the limelight and seem to be a successful match. They have an enormous amount of talent between them and that's one of the reasons, perhaps, why they were drawn together as they worked on their new movie, Wall Street : Money Never Sleeps.

"I did 15 days on the film, Shia did the whole shoot," Mulligan explains. "Most of my scenes are with him - he's an incredible actor, and I enjoyed working on those scenes so much."

Once she became used to his ways she recognised their similar acting methods. "We both love improvising and ad-libbing", she says. Meanwhile their budding relationship remained separate from their acting. "It doesn't really have any effect on anything else. At work we were doing our job."

One might imagine the cute pair being thrown together in an effort to deal with the considerable heft of the actors around them. Mulligan's tough scenes - and some of the film's best - are with Michael Douglas, who plays her estranged father, the eponymous Gordon Gekko, who has just been released from prison. LaBeouf is the young hotshot stockbroker who wants to learn as much as he can from his girlfriend's old man. The only problem is, she refuses to speak to her father, so he sets about trying to make things right.

Interestingly the older Americans in the cast, and even her director Oliver Stone, were quite taken by Mulligan's quiet power and deep authoritative English voice - even if she failed to realise it.

"They all terrified me. I just pretended to not be terrified. Oliver has this reputation, and I was nervous and so I didn't want him to mess with me. So I thought if I go in and pretend to be really strong and not nervous and unafraid of all of these actors, then they won't be able to treat me like a girl. So I went in trying to be like a boy and he treated me like one of the boys. Well, he didn 't give me special treatment because I was the only girl at least. He was just very honest with me as he is with everyone. That's his best quality as a director. He'll come up and say 'I don't know what that was. That was really bad! Do it again!'

"I've never worked with someone who's quite so direct. I mean Lone Scherfig on An Education was blunt, but you know, sweet blunt. Oliver is like tough blunt."

One might view Mulligan's Winnie as the moral centre of the film, Mulligan disagrees. "I think Shia's character is. Winnie's more of an idealist. But there are no black and white villains.

"You see how his life just got blurred by money and power. For me I was just nervous that Winnie would be the boring emotional storyline, the token girlfriend who distracted from the exciting finance side of things. You know, the f***ing girlfriend crying all the time. I said that to Oliver when we met, and he agreed. So we worked to make sure that didn't happen."

Even if she has a supporting role - she had an even smaller one in Jim Sheridan's Brothers - in the end it's the experience that counts, she says. "I loved the experience on Wall Street so much - just to work with many of the people on the film. It was huge."

LOWDOWN
Who: Carey Mulligan
What: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
When: Opens at cinemas on Thursday

- TimeOut