Carey Mulligan on her post-performance tears and learning to accept nude scenes

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British actress Carey Mulligan has spoken candidly about feeling uncomfortable with nudity, the lows of her career acting in theatre and feeling starstruck meeting Meryl Streep for the first time, in a rare interview. 

Speaking in the December issue of Harper's Bazaar , the star said "I don’t think anyone relishes getting naked on set."

"In Shame it was the perfect introduction to her character; she was just one of those people who have no qualms about their body. In Suffragette (Mulligans latest film set to release next year) it felt like the right thing to do. I didn’t want the lead actor to be protected from the same ordeal that the other people were going through in prison. So for work I’m fine with it," she continued.

"But in my own life... the last time I wore a bikini on the beach was three years ago on a private family holiday. On the red carpet I won’t wear anything above the knee, ever."

The actress also spoke about dieting for various film roles, revealing that for her upcoming role in Suffragette - in which she plays an imprisoned suffragette who went on a hunger strike - she went on an extreme diet of no sugar or fruit.

"The idea was to make me look kind of malnourished, but not in a serious way, it was more of a psychological thing...But it turned out to be complete bollocks. I gained weight. Even though I had no sugar or fruit or any of those things, I was told I could have nuts. So I ate massive packets of nuts every day. I never weigh myself, but I did weigh myself before and after, just to see, and I gained three kilos and all of my trousers didn’t fit."

Mulligan, 29, made her West End debut in June this year starring alongside Bill Nighy in the revival of Olivier Award-winning play Skylight. She recalled a disastrous night when acclaimed director Steve McQueen came to see "the worst show of the entire run". 

"It was hands-down the worst show I did, and for the director I most admire," she said. "It was the same on The Seagull, the night that Sam Mendes came," referring to the 2007 production she starred in at the Royal Court, London.

"Someone came to our dressing-room and said: ‘Oh, my God! Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet are here.’ And I was like: ‘Are you kidding?’ And I burst into tears. Everyone else from the cast went to do a meet-and-greet with him and I went out the back door. I didn’t want to go anywhere near them, I was so ashamed. I just got into a cab, went home and cried.”

She also spoke about feeling starstruck the first time she met Meryl Streep, whose daughters, Mamie and Grace, she is now good friends with.

"The year I was nominated for An Education, I hadn’t met Meryl. We had that Academy luncheon, where you go onstage and shake someone’s hand, like at graduation, and as I walked off, she grabbed me by the hand and said: ‘Darling, I just got the best photo of you. I’ll send it to you.’ I was like: ‘Holy shit!’"

"Later, through her daughters, I met Meryl as the ‘Mum’, in the kitchen, having big dinners. When she came on the set of Suffragette I was very nervous because it was the ‘Actress’, with this incredible power."

Mulligan grew up in Germany until she was 8-years-old, when her family moved to England. "I moved around a lot, so I always had to meet new people," she said. "I was never the most popular or the most interesting person...It took me a long time to stop adapting my personality to others."

But she now takes acting cues from the leading actresses in Hollywood. "I also constantly watch people like Marion Cotillard or Cate Blanchett or Kate Winslet. I have a fear of being passive and what I admire about all of those actresses is that every choice they make is really strong. Even if they’re playing something very quiet, it’s visceral and bold."

Speaking about fame and the repercussions of tabloid journalism, the star said: "I remember being completely blindsided while we were shooting Suffragette. It was a Sunday, my assistant went out and got the papers and we were sitting in my trailer. I opened this magazine and this journalist had written this horrible attack on me. I hadn’t been to a premiere or done an interview for six months; I hadn’t done any press. I was not expecting to open a paper and see my name. It made me immediately cry and I called my mum and was really sad."

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