Park City » When you see Carey Mulligan's pixie haircut and easy smile in the Sundance Film Festival entry "The Greatest," you think you're seeing the next Winona Ryder.
But when you hear Mulligan speaking in her normal British accent -- in person or in her other Sundance drama, "An Education" -- you think you're seeing the next Audrey Hepburn.
Either way, the 23-year-old Mulligan is emerging as the breakout star of this year's Sundance.
Even without Sundance, Mulligan's career is taking off. In 2009, she will appear in Michael Mann's gangster drama "Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as Eliot Ness -- and she has a supporting role in "Brothers," Jim Sheridan's remake of the acclaimed Danish drama about siblings torn apart by the Iraq War.
"She's just starting to happen with the press due to the wow reception to ['An Education']," Jeffrey Wells wrote on his movie-industry blog Hollywood Elsewhere. "But the talent community has been on to her for a while now."
"The Greatest" centers on a married couple, played by Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon, grieving over their teen son's death -- and dealing with the son's pregnant girlfriend, played by Mulligan. In "An Education," Mulligan plays a London teen in the '60s who is intrigued by a much older man, played by Peter Sarsgaard.
Mulligan took her first look at Shana Feste's script for "The Greatest" after finishing her work on "Public Enemies." "I was just reading a bunch of scripts, and I got this one through, and they said they were having a hard time finding the girl," Mulligan said after a screening of "The Greatest." "It was the biggest American part that I had auditioned for, and it was a little bit nerve-wracking."
Feste gave Mulligan the part and gave the cast plenty of rehearsal time. Mulligan said the time allowed her to "get over the terror of working with people like Susan and Pierce."
Another challenge for Mulligan was the American accent. "I think it's just a case of relaxing," she said of the American accent. "A lot of time it's just your inhibition about sounding silly. If you let go of that, and you're around people you're comfortable with, the inhibition goes and the accent sort of flows a lot easier. And there were an awful lot of Americans to copy."