By Nicole Sperling
Updated January 20, 2009 at 12:00 PM EST

Sundance has a history of transforming hard-working young actors into breakout successes. Think America Ferrera in 2002’s Real Women Have Curves or Jon Heder in 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite. Well Sundance 2009 is no different. Festival-goers and media types all seem pretty smitten with 23-year old British actress Carey Mulligan. The star of Lone Scherfig’s An Education and the bright spot in Shana Feste’s melodrama The Greatest, Mulligan is transfixing audiences with her angelic looks and broad acting range.

While neither of Mulligan’s films has sold yet, you’ve seen the British beauty before, in Joseph Wright’s Pride and Prejudice. And you’ll see her again in a small part in Michael Mann’s upcoming Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. Mulligan has also spent a good amount of time on Broadway. After starring opposite Peter Saarsgard in An Education, the two actors sparred in Anton Checkov’s The Seagull. The two projects share similar themes. “We spent a whole year playing an older man seducing a younger woman,” Mulligan says.

She certainly has seduced both Scherfig and An Education screenwriter Nick Hornby. “I’m proud to have been a part of one of the first films Carey did,” Scherfig says. Adds Hornby, cheerfully, “That’s what we will all be remembered for in the end. My books, good for nothing.” Now it’s up to Mulligan to make career choices that propel her from Sundance sweetheart to Hollywood darling. “It’s a funny time,” she says. “Now that these films have come out, there are a lot of people to meet in L.A. I’m just going where I’m told.” Hopefully, that’s the right direction.

Update: An Education sold to Sony Pictures Classics Tuesday afternoon for $3 million. Fox Searchlight, Overture Films and others also bid on the project but SPC was the most aggressive in its hunt for the British coming-of-age story.