She was the model pupil. Hard-working, high-achieving, and obedient.
After attending Woldingham School in the English countryside, it was expected that Mulligan would attend university.
But at 17 years old, Carey Mulligan did something she had never done before. She asserted herself.
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Instead of applying to university, as her parents expected, Mulligan applied to three London drama schools.
"My parents were completely against it," the now 35-year-old told The Hollywood Reporter.
"They wanted me to go to a university. They didn't know any actors; no one in my family was an actor. They were scared."
In the end, Mulligan was rejected from all three acting schools. But her determination didn't end.
That same year, Mulligan received words of encouragement from actor Kenneth Branagh after she wrote him a fan letter.
"I explained that my parents didn't want me to act, but that I felt it was my vocation in life," she said, according to The Telegraph.
Branagh's sister replied: "Kenneth says that if you feel such a strong need to be an actress, you must be an actress."
Months later, Mulligan sent a letter to Julian Fellowes after the screenwriter urged Mulligan to "marry a lawyer" instead of pursuing acting.