Carey Mulligan receives apology for review that made her feel she was ‘not hot enough’

Hollywood entertainment magazine Variety has apologised to Carey Mulligan for “insensitive language” in a review that seemed to question whether her looks were right for the role of a femme fatale out for revenge against sexual predators.

In an unusual move, the publication has posted an editor’s note to the top of its review of Promising Young Woman, Mulligan‘s latest film, for which she is already winning awards.

It comes after the actress said in an interview that she had read the article – which suggested Margot Robbie might have been better suited to the role – and thought it was sexist.

Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie in director Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman. Pic: Focus Features
Her character, Cassie, is out for revenge in an unusual way. Pic: Focus Features
Margot Robbie arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Pic: AP
The Variety review suggested Margot Robbie might have been a more obvious choice for the role. Pic: AP

Promising Young Woman centres around Mulligan’s character, Cassie, who goes to bars, pretends to be drunk and out of control, and then goes home with men who take advantage of her state – before very quickly “sobering up”, and teaching them a lesson.

Variety’s original review, which was actually published in January 2020 after a festival debut and before the film was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, describes it as a “compelling” thriller and black comedy which will “stir a lot of debate”.

Towards the end of the piece, freelance critic Dennis Harvey writes: “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.”

Mulligan, who is also currently starring in The Dig, out on 29 January on Netflix, addressed the review in a New York Times interview in December, saying it had made her feel as if she was not “hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse”.

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Carey Mulligan discusses The Dig

Variety kept the review online, but it is now preceded by this note: “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 turn, Mulligan has addressed the apology during a conversation with actress Zendaya for Variety’s Actors On Actors series.

“I think it’s important to call out those things, because they seem small and they seem insignificant,” she said. “People around me at the time said, ‘Oh, you know, get over it. Whatever. It’s great – it’s a great review’. Or whatever: ‘People love the film.’

“But it stuck with me, because I think it’s these kind of everyday moments that add up.”

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However, she said she was pleased to receive Variety’s apology.

“So I was really, really surprised and thrilled, and happy to have received an apology. I kind of found it moving, in a way, to have drawn a line under that in a good way, and know that that had an impact in a way. So it was positive,” she said.

The apology has been criticised by some, with The Telegraph film critic Robbie Collin describing the editor’s note as “toadying” and setting an “idiotic” precedent.

Promising Young Woman is coming to UK cinemas soon.

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