Carey Mulligan Responds To Variety's Apology Following Margot Robbie Comparison

Ata Owaji Victor
·4-min read
Photo credit: Rochelle Brodin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rochelle Brodin - Getty Images


Carey Mulligan has responded after Variety apologised for its 'insensitive language' in a controversial review about her new film Promising Young Woman in which it suggested Margot Robbie would've been a better lead actress.

In the film Mulligan portrays Cassie who seeks to avenge her best friend Nina after she is raped.

The review in question, published in January 2020, insinuated that Margot Robbie - a producer on the film - would have been a better choice for the role due to the actress' appearance; a view that Mulligan believes contradicts the fundamental ideas surrounding the expectations of women that are directly questioned in the film.

The review in question reads, in part:

'Mulligan, a fine actress, seems a bit of an odd choice as this admittedly many-layered apparent femme fatale. Margot Robbie is a producer here, and one can (perhaps too easily) imagine the role might once have been intended for her. Whereas with this star, Cassie wears her pickup-bait gear like bad drag; even her long blonde hair seems a put-on.'

The British actress first responded to the review's comparison of her and Robbie in a profile interview for the New York Times last December in which she stated that it was not the comparison itself that made the review stand out unfavourably as '[she] fully can see that Margot Robbie is a goddess'. Rather, the actress noted that the root of her frustration with the review came down to the fact the film itself works to shine a light on multiple societal failings that women are forced to confront.

Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images

'It drove me so crazy…I was like, "Really? For this film, you’re going to write something that is so transparent? Now? In 2020?" I just couldn’t believe it,' she told the NYT at the time.

In response to Mulligan's criticism of Variety's review, the publication issued an apology, which sits at the top of its original review, which reads:

Variety sincerely apologises to Carey Mulligan and regrets the insensitive language and insinuation in our review of “Promising Young Woman” that minimised her daring performance.

In light of Variety's apology, Mulligan has commented on the publication's response to her criticism during a conversation with Zendaya for Variety‘s Actors on Actors.

'I feel it’s important that criticism is constructive,' she told the Euphoria actress. 'I think it’s important that we are looking at the right things when it comes to work, and we’re looking at the art, and we’re looking at the performance and the way that a film is made. And I don’t think that goes to the appearance of an actor or your personal preference for what an actor does or doesn’t look like, which it felt that that article did.'

Photo credit: Stephane Cardinale - Corbis - Getty Images
Photo credit: Stephane Cardinale - Corbis - Getty Images

The Education star continued, noting that the focus on her appearance in the film by Variety 'felt disappointing, because obviously the film is sort of tackling issues around our perceptions and our preconceived ideas about people'.

During her interview with Zendaya, Mulligan also discussed why she chose to publicly critique the review, explaining:

'In the broader sense, there’s an element to where we have idealised women on-screen for so long that I think we start to lose sight of what women really look like.

She continued, noting:

'In criticising or sort of bemoaning a lack of attractiveness on my part in a character, it wasn’t a personal slight, it wasn’t something that I felt. It didn’t wound my ego, but it made me concerned that in such a big publication, an actress’ appearance could be criticised and it could be that, you know, that could be accepted as completely reasonable criticism.'

The actress finished her critic of the decision, noting that it's 'important to call out those things, because they seem small and they seem insignificant.

Mulligan added:

'People around me at the time said, “Oh, get over it. People love the film.” But it stuck with me, because I think it’s these kind of every day moments that add up — that mean that we start to edit the way that women appear on screen, and we want them to look a certain way. We want to airbrush them, and we want to make them look perfect. Or we want to edit the way that they work, the way they move, and the way that they think and behave.

I think we need to see real women portrayed on screen and in all of their complexity. So I felt that it was one small thing to point out that could be helpful.'

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