The actress stars opposite Michael Fassbender in the drama, which follows a sex addict (Fassbender) whose life becomes infinitely more complicated when his younger sister (Mulligan) comes to stay with him.
Mulligan revealed that McQueen did not initially believe in her ability to play such a raw and intense character and said that she was forced to campaign for the part by pointing to her past experience starring in a production of Anton Chekov's The Seagull.
> 'Shame', 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy', 'Tyrannosaur' lead BIFA nominations
"I think the work that anyone has seen from me has been these middle-class, comfortable people or quiet and sensitive types, and I haven't really played anything onscreen over the last couple of years that's been as extroverted as Sissy. So I don't think I was the obvious choice for Steve," she explained to New York magazine.
Asked how she managed to convince McQueen how to offer her the part, Mulligan recalled: "I was back at the London Film Festival, and I met him for coffee. And he kept on trying to leave! Finally I told him, 'You know, I played Nina in The Seagull a couple of years ago, and I've never found a role on screen that's been as hard or as interesting or as fun to do.'
"And then I read Shame and I was like, 'She's practically related to Nina; they're like cousins. If I feel the way that I felt when I played Nina, I can play this.'
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"I told him that I'd been thinking about getting this seagull tattoo on my wrist as a reminder, because there's this brilliant thing Nina does: She's had a child with this writer and she's lost the baby and she's lived in abject poverty; she's fraught but she's got this clarity, and she says, 'I know now that it's not about fame or glory or all the things I used to dream about. It's the ability to endure, to bear your cross and keep the faith. I do have faith, and when I think about my vocation, I'm not afraid of life.'
"And I thought, 'That's so sick!' When I told him about that little passage, he got excited and was like, 'Yeeeah!' and I'm like, 'I'll get a tattoo!' and he's like, 'Great!' I got a call a couple of hours later that he was offering me the job and I think it was only because I told him I was getting a tattoo. I got the tattoo the following morning."
Mulligan has confessed that she feels frustrated by Shame's NC-17 rating, claiming that it was because of the film's serious subject matter.
Watch the trailer for Shame below: