Rarely does an actor find work through an aggressive letter-writing campaign. But that’s pretty much how it happened for 23-year-old British newcomer Carey Mulligan. “I had no idea how to become an actor,” Mulligan confesses. “So when I was 16, I’d write letters to people like Kenneth Branagh and ask for advice.” Mulligan’s correspondence ended up snagging her a dinner with actor Julian Fellowes, which ultimately led to a role in the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice. After well-received turns in the BBC miniseries Bleak House and an episode of the science-fiction series Doctor Who, Mulligan suddenly found herself becoming hot property. In addition to roles in Jim Sheridan’s war drama Brothers (with Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Natalie Portman), Michael Mann’s mob movie Public Enemies (alongside Christian Bale and Johnny Depp), and the Nick Hornby-penned An Education, she also will appear in The Greatest co-starring Susan Sarandon. “It’s surreal,” Mulligan laughs. “One day you are in London and the next you’re in a Brooklyn hospital wearing a prosthetic pregnancy belly and pretending to get a sonogram while Susan Sarandon holds your hand.” That’s the lost art of letter-writing for you.