Carey Mulligan: “We only buy Christmas presents that cost less than £10”

The Hollywood actress has no desire to be in the public eye but is happy to promote good causes

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Carey Mulligan, star of The Great Gatsby and Suffragette, will guest-edit Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday 28 December. She will focus on topics close to her heart, including Alzheimer’s and the effects of the Middle Eastern conflict on children, as well as meeting some fascinating people.

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“I love Christmas,” says Carey Mulligan, Hollywood star, social campaigner and, she reveals, ex-choir girl of St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Buckinghamshire. “It’s my favourite day of the year. When I’m back at home with my parents I love going to church on Christmas morning for the children’s mass – it’s very sweet. It’s the same church I’ve been going to since I was seven – I sang in the choir at Midnight mass.”

Mulligan is married to Marcus Mumford, of Mumford and Sons, and they have a one-year-old daughter, Evelyn. As well as her family in Buckinghamshire, the couple has homes in California and Devon. Where will they spend Christmas? “We’ve not quite figured out where we will be yet. There are so many wings to the family – I’ve got to be diplomatic!”

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Carey Mulligan in 2015’s Suffragette

If this all sounds idyllic, Mulligan is very aware that Christmas is a difficult time of year for many, in particular children in war zones “who don’t wake up and have Christmas stockings and presents at the end of the bed”, and those, like her 90-year-old grandmother “Nans”, who has Alzheimer’s.

Mulligan, an ambassador for War Child and the Alzheimer’s Society, will be bringing both issues to her guest editorship of the Today programme. “I’m taking Radio 4 to interview Nans on her birthday, which is two days before Christmas. We always tell her we love her, although her dementia has got to the point where it’s impossible to know what she understands.” Was she able to tell Nans about her great-granddaughter? “I introduced her to Evie on her 90th birthday. It was emotional – four generations surrounding her with love.”

Mulligan isn’t a typical star. “You won’t find me at a fashion show. I don’t have any desire to be in the public eye. I’m happy to promote good causes, but my day-to-day life doesn’t involve any glitz or glamour or celebrity.”

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Given all that’s wrong in the world, is it still OK to celebrate Christmas? “You strike a balance. In our family we only buy presents for each other that cost less than £10 and then make a donation to War Child. You can’t give in to despair. There are so many things that we have to be grateful for.”