Carey Mulligan is glad she called out Variety’s review of ‘Promising Young Woman’

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Actress Carey Mulligan appreciates the apology issued after she spoke out against a Variety review of “Promising Young Woman” that suggested she wasn’t attractive enough to play the lead role. But she had a few things to say about it first.

“I feel it’s important that criticism is constructive,” said Mulligan during a conversation with fellow actress Zendaya as part of Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series published Tuesday.

The apology, Mulligan recalled, followed a December profile with the New York Times, in which she reluctantly expressed her disappointment with the review for suggesting that producer Margot Robbie might have been a better fit for the role of Cassie, a med-school dropout whose life is transformed after her best friend is raped.


“Mulligan, a fine actress, seems a bit of an odd choice as this admittedly many-layered apparent femme fatale,” the Variety review reads. “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.”

“It was basically saying that I wasn’t hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse,” Mulligan told the New York Times.

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Soon after, Variety added an editor’s note, stating it “sincerely apologizes to Carey Mulligan and regrets the insensitive language and insinuation in our review of ‘Promising Young Woman’ that minimized her daring performance.”

Mulligan, acknowledging that producer Robbie embodies a certain standard of beauty, stuck to her critique of the review.

“I think in criticizing 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,” she told Zendaya. “But it made me concerned that in such a big publication, an actress’ appearance could be criticized, and it could be that, you know, that could be accepted as completely reasonable criticism.”

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Initially, Mulligan felt iffy about speaking up. In retrospect, she was glad she did.

“I didn’t know what the reaction would be to my saying that,” she added. “But at the same time, it feels like, you know, you’ve got to stand up for these things. Otherwise, it continues and then you’re essentially part of it.”