When we watched the new Netflix movie, The Dig, we sensed there might be a romantic relationship brewing between the two main characters, played by Carey Mulligan, 35, and Ralph Fiennes, 58. But then we thought, No, that would be creepy. He’s way too old for her.
Now we find out there’s something creepier afoot. In the real story of the archeological dig at the Sutton Hoo estate in the late 1930s, Edith Pretty (played by Mulligan) was 56 and Basil Brown (played by Fiennes) was 51. Why in the world would a youngster be cast in the female lead role?
We’re not the only ones scratching our heads. Netflix has a lot to answer for on Twitter right now. “Carey Mulligan, in her 30s playing Edith Pretty, in her 50s. Is Hollywood struggling to find older actresses?” asked @hannahpudner.
“Carey Mulligan is mid-30s, Edith Pretty was mid-50s — was there no actor of the correct age…,” wondered @MrRavoon.
Ageism, Still (Sigh)
Hollywood has long had a problem with age-appropriate casting. Consider Love in the Afternoon, where a 56-old Gary Cooper romanced the 28-old Audrey Hepburn. Ewwww! Or look at any friggin’ Woody Allen movie. No, actually, don’t look. Major creepiness all around. Or, of course, there’s the classic example of Forrest Gump, in which Sally Field, 47, played 37-year-old Tom Hanks’ mother.
You would think by now, Hollywood would have gotten better at this. We have done some ratings of movies based on how realistic they are in portraying older women, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media does the same. In a partnership with Tena, the institute found that only one in four films pass the Ageless Test. That means, according to the test’s criteria, the great majority of films don’t have a 50-plus female character who is presented without ageist stereotypes and who is tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have significant effect
Dig This: Our List of Better Candidates
Nicole Kidman reportedly was originally cast as Edith Pretty, and she would have been a big improvement. Though to be honest, we’re kind of tired of seeing her line-less face in every thing streamed into our living rooms. Mulligan was supposedly a last-minute replacement.
But here are our ideas for emergency back up that would have been more historically and ethically accurate:
Cate Blanchett, 51 (probably busy, since she, like Kidman, is everywhere)
Rachel Weisz, 50 (she’s already worked with Fiennes)
Emma Thompson, 61 (plummy accent is just right)
Robin Wright, 54 (bring some steeliness to the role)
Laura Linney, 56 (perfect age and give her a break from the Ozarks, will ya?)
Helena Bonham Carter, 54 (if she can convincingly play Princess Margaret and Bellatrix Lestrange, she can do anything)
Diane Lane, 56 (another bingo on the age)
Fiona Shaw, 62 (a favorite of ours for her cool-at character Carolyn Martens in Killing Eve)
Who did we miss?