“Emerald is very intentional about building a world that felt very enticing," said Mulligan during a Hollywood Reporter roundtable discussion. "You wanted to build a film that you wanted to see, not something you needed to or should see.”
She added: “Part of the way that Emerald first presented the film to me was this Candyland environment that you're in and that Cassie lived in that in the way that she clothes herself.
“She's somebody who is very practised at living with her rage and her sadness and her grief,” she continued. “She's figured out that hiding in plain sight and looking like someone who's functioning, people tend to leave her alone. It's very deliberate that she has candy-coloured nails and blonde hair.”
Mulligan went on to suggest that, due to the way society trivialises the way girls and women clothe themselves, “it was just a very easy way of putting up a boundary between [the character] and the rest of the world”.
The actor’s comments comes a few weeks after she took issue with a January 2020 review in Variety, where critic Dennis Harvey insinuated that Margot Robbie would have been a better lead to play Mulligan's character, Cassie.
“Mulligan, a fine actress, seems a bit of an odd choice as this admittedly many-layered apparent femme fatale,” Harvey wrote. “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.”
In a profile in The New York Times in December, Mulligan spoke out against the review, saying it implied she wasn’t “hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse”.
“It wasn’t some sort of ego-wounding thing – like, I fully can see that Margot Robbie is a goddess,” she added, saying that she worried readers would see the review and blindly accept the assessment of a woman's appearance. “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.”
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In response, Variety added an editor’s note at the top of its review that read: “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.”
However, Harvey hit back at the criticism in a Guardianinterview and said he was “appalled” to be branded a misogynist.
“I assumed that film-makers who created such a complex, layered movie wouldn’t interpret what I wrote as some kind of simpleminded sexism,” he said. “And while Carey Mulligan is certainly entitled to interpret the review however she likes, her projection of it suggesting she’s ‘not hot enough’ is, to me, just bizarre. I’m sorry she feels that way. But I’m also sorry that’s a conclusion she would jump to, because it’s quite a leap.”
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