Netflix's latest original film The Dig landed on the streamer just a few days ago (29 January) but already the long-awaited movie is facing backlash for the decision to cast 35-year-old Carey Mulligan as a 56-year-old woman.
Netflix's star-studded new original film, The Dig, based on the 2007 novel of the same name by John Preston, follows the a wealthy widow named Edith Pretty (Mulligan) who hires an amateur archeologist named Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes), to excavate the burial mounds on her East Anglian estate. The film is a retelling of the most famous archaeological dig in Britain of modern times: the 1939 discovery of an Anglo-Saxon burial ship at Sutton Hoo, known as "Britain's Tutankhamun".
The film has been long-anticipated, not least for it's star-studded cast which alongside Mulligan and Fiennes includes Lily James, Johnny Flynn, Ben Chaplin, Ken Stott and Monica Dolan. But just a few days after release many viewers have taken to social media to express their disappointment at the decision to cast 35-year-old Mulligan as a 56-year-old woman, with many suggesting this shows that the industry is still unaccepting of women over a certain age.
Is it true the real life woman in The Dig, Edith Pretty, was 56 years old? She’s played by 35 year old #CareyMulligan They just won’t allow women over 40 on the screen will they? #ageism #middleagedwomen
— Beatie Edney 💙(freelancer) (@beatieedney) January 31, 2021
Watched The Dig on Netflix. The casting choices esp. with regard to age are *really* peculiar.
— GC 📚 M.A.T. For Lang, AcadTrained Grad Translator (@GrowlyCub) January 29, 2021
53-year-old Nicole Kidman was originally cast to play the role, but Mulligan stepped into the role after Kidman pulled out. Although the film has been popular with viewers, many were frustrated with casting decisions, suggesting that placing Mulligan in the lead female role reinforces the idea that the film industry has a tendency to abandon women once they hit their forties. Meanwhile another Twitter user also pointed out that the film casts 51-year-old Ben Chaplin as 27-year-old Stuart Piggott, suggesting that the same issue does not apply to men.
Watched The Dig last night and enjoyed it. But. In 1939 Basil Brown (played by Ralph Fiennes, 58) was 51 and Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan, 35) was older at 56. Why the 23 year age gap on people who were contemporaries in real life?
— Louisa Gummer 🕷💙 (@LouisaGummer) January 31, 2021
Watching The Dig - very good but despite massive attention to detail otherwise, they cast a 35yr old actress who looks 30 to play a woman in her mid 50s. Shame there is no living actress on earth of that age & that we women of middle years are so loathsome to look upon apparently
— Tracy Ur (@tracyurq) January 31, 2021
Director Simon Stone previously commented on the issue in an interview with the BBC, saying "John Preston's novel departs from the truth in a lot of aspects and doesn't purport to be absolutely accurate, so the scope for departing from historical accuracy was already there." Meanwhile Mulligan said "I was aged-up slightly with make-up to try and split the difference a little bit. But it was more important to honour Edith's character and the humble, generous, extraordinary woman she was."
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