How ‘Promising Young Woman’ Star Bo Burnham Overcame His Nerves Acting Opposite Carey Mulligan | Video

“Holding a coffee cup and just looking like I’m from planet Earth was enough of a challenge,” YouTube star and “Eighth Grade” director says

Bo Burnham’s leap from YouTube to cinema took another step at Sundance 2020 with his performance in “Promising Young Woman.” But the “Eighth Grade” director felt a lot of nerves playing the male lead opposite Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan in Emerald Fennell’s provocative thriller about sexism and harassment.

“Holding a coffee cup and just looking like I’m from planet Earth was enough of a challenge,” Burnham joked to TheWrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven. “Just the simple act of business and sort of integrating it, and meanwhile I’m holding a french fry and wondering, ‘Do I look like I even have human DNA at this point?'”

In “Promising Young Woman,” Burnham plays Ryan, a part of a dark past belonging to former pre-med student Cassie, played by Carey Mulligan. Cassie had a bright future ahead of her that was derailed by the same evil that has afflicted so many female college students: sexual abuse. Bitter about the mysterious incidents that scarred her, she now gets her vengeance by pretending to be drunk at clubs and baiting unscrupulous men into “helping” her … although her full plans are not what they initially seem.

In making her provocative thriller, Fennell said she wanted the tone of “Promising Young Woman” to be both “beautiful and terrifying,” a description she feels applies to one of her favorite films, “American Psycho.”

“Promising Young Woman” will be released by Focus Features on April 17. For more thoughts from Fennell, Burnham and Mulligan about filming the movie, watch the video above.

Jeremy Fuster

Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter •


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