Netflix SLAMMED for casting Carey Mulligan as a 56-year-old in The Dig

‘Wasn’t there an actress of the correct age?’ Netflix is SLAMMED for casting Carey Mulligan, 35, as a 56-year-old in The Dig

  • The Dig is based on John Preston’s 2007 novel about the unearthing of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo in 1939
  • Screen star Carey, 35, plays 56-year-old landowner Edith Pretty – a role originally intended for Nicole Kidman, 53 – in the movie 
  • Viewers took to Twitter to question the network’s decision, with one claiming: ‘women over 40 are still invisible in the culture’ 
  • Director Simon Stone has previously defended the thespian’s portrayal of Edith, who passed away aged 59 after suffering a stroke in 1942
  • The filmmaker stated: ‘The 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’ 
  • The Dig was also slammed as sexist for reducing an experienced archaeologist to a ‘bumbling, deferential, sidekick to her husband’ 
  • Lily’s character Peggy unearthed with her trowel a small gold and garnet pyramid, the first exciting glimpse of bejewelled treasure
  • Archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes said the film portrays her as ‘something of a sidekick to her older husband’ when she was, in fact, highly experienced

Netflix has been met with criticism for casting lead actress Carey Mulligan as a woman in her 50s in new film The Dig. 

The screen star, 35, plays 56-year-old landowner Edith Pretty – a role originally intended for Nicole Kidman, 53 – in the movie, which is based on John Preston’s 2007 novel about the unearthing of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo in 1939. 

Viewers took to Twitter to question the network’s decision as one asked: ‘Wasn’t there an actor of the correct age?’, while another claimed ‘women over 40 are still invisible in the culture’.

Director Simon Stone has previously defended the thespian’s portrayal, stating: ‘The 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.’ 


‘Wasn’t there an actress of the correct age?’ Netflix has been slammed for casting lead actress Carey Mulligan (L) as a woman in her 50s in new film The Dig (R: Edith Pretty aged 56 in 1939)

Poldark star Beatie Edney, 58, expressed her frustration at The Dig as she wrote on the platform: ‘They just won’t allow women over 40 on the screen, will they? 

‘In my experience, you’re either cast because you’re f***able and then rarely work until you’re a granny. We are 51 per cent of the population and still invisible in the culture.’

Yorkshire collective Behind the Woman echoed Beatie’s comments as they added: ‘It’s a crying shame to think of the wonderful actresses over 50 that could’ve played Mrs Pretty.

‘As long as women in their 30s play women in their 50s it ­perpetuates our invisibility.’ 

Controversial: The screen star, 35, plays landowner Edith in the movie – based on John Preston’s novel about the unearthing of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo in 1939

plays 56-year-old landowner Edith Pretty – a role originally intended for Nicole Kidman, 53 – in the movie,

‘The scope for departing from accuracy was already there’: Director Simon Stone previously defended the thespian’s portrayal (Carey pictured with Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown)

A better fit? The role was originally intended for Nicole Kidman (pictured in 2020), 53, but she pulled out of the project in 2019

Former EastEnders actress Kacey Ainsworth, 52, responded: ‘I feel v lucky to be in a show where both of the longest regular cast members are over 50 but it’s a rarity.’ 

Other viewers shared: ‘I watched The Dig last night on @netflix and it left me wondering why an actor in their early/mid 30’s (Carey Mulligan) was cast as Edith who at the time must have been a 56/57 year old woman. 

‘I just watched and enjoyed @netflix’s #TheDig. I think Carey Mulligan did a great job as Edith Pretty. However, Mrs. Pretty was 55 at the beginning of the dig. Why cast a 35-year-old actress in her role? Are #women in their fifties really that dispensable? Still? 

‘I enjoyed The Dig (on @netflix), but gosh what a missed opportunity to cast an age-appropriate actor to play the 55-year-old Edith Pretty, instead of the lovely but definitely-in-her-early-30’s Carey Mulligan.

‘Women over 40 are still invisible in the culture’: Viewers took to Twitter to question the network’s decision

‘I’m watching ‘The Dig’ about the Sutton Hoo discovery. It’s really interesting! A bit along the lines of Downton Abbey. My one complaint currently is that, at the time of the Sutton Hoo discovery, Edith Pretty was 54 years old. Carey Mulligan, the actress playing her, is 35.

‘About ‘The Dig’ – lovely film! Two problems with women: 1 – the women – Mercie Lack & Barbara Wagstaff – who actually did the photography are replaced by ‘Cousin Hugo’; 2 – Carey Mulligan is mid-30s, Edith Pretty was mid-50s – was there no actor of the correct age…

‘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?’ (sic)

‘This is probably the first movie you’d want to watch this year!’ Others commended the TV, film and stage star’s performance

Others commended the TV, film and stage star’s performance as they wrote on the micro-blogging site: ‘Just watched an absolutely beautiful film on Netflix called ‘The Dig’ with Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan. It’s a proper film RS.

What was the Sutton Hoo find and how was it discovered?

In 1939, as tensions were rising in Europe and Britain was on the brink of the Second World War, Edith Pretty became increasingly fascinated with the large grass-covered mounds in the grounds of her home.  

Unable to ignore her interest any longer, she reached out to the museum in the nearby Suffolk town of Ipswich in 1937, who sent excavation assistant Basil Brown.

Over three months he excavated a 1,300-year-old ship, helped by the estate’s gamekeeper and gardener, employed by Mrs Pretty for £1.50 per day. 

Experts from The British Museum intervened as news of the find got out, and Anglo-Saxon archaeological expert Charles Phillips tried to dismiss Mr Brown from the dig. 

He argued Mr Brown’s lack of training was not suitable for the significance of the find.

He was also concerned, with Britain on the brink of war, that the dig would not be completed and the precious history would not be preserved before war broke out. 

But Mrs Pretty fought Mr Brown’s corner and he continued the excavation in the face of protest. And as he dug, he found what was once the boat’s treasure chamber, hidden under a large iron ring.

When the spectacular artefacts began to emerge from the mud, Mr Brown was removed from the dig as the experts took over, and was instead consigned to removing wheelbarrows of dirt from the site. 

A new team of archeologists was brought in by Phillips, including Stuart Piggott and his young wife Peggy.

The team pulled a haul of 263 ornate treasures from the earth in the Suffolk field.

The most-precious find of all was a sculpted full-face helmet, leading archologists to conclude the site was the final resting place of a 7th-century royal, probably Raedwald, a king of East Anglia.

Some of the treasures dated back to the Byzantine Empire, while some had travelled to Suffolk from the East, such as some jewellery set with Sri Lankan garnets.

‘The Dig (2021) Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan deliver a great performance and a beautifully shot movie and score…This is probably the first movie you’d want to watch this year.

‘Absolutely loved the watching ‘The Dig’ on @netflix with @____fiennes____ and Carey Mulligan. Sterling performances. Having been to Sutton Hoo it made this film even more special for me. Keen to return ‘one day’.’ (sic) 

On being ‘aged-up’ for the film, Carey recently told the BBC: ‘I suppose there is an age disparity between me and the real-life character, but then the sense of her I think was the most important thing.

‘I was aged-up slightly with make-up to try and split the difference a little bit,’ she continues. But it was more important to honour Edith’s character and the humble, generous, extraordinary woman she was.’ 

Simon’s film was initially set up with BBC Films, but Australian actress Nicole pulled out of the project shortly before Netflix took over the production. 

Edith is a wealthy widow in declining health who had long wondered what might lie under the burial mounds on her land in Suffolk.

The film is inspired by the real story of the Sutton Hoo 1939 finds which went on to become one of the most important archaeological finds in Britain.

It is hailed as Britain’s ‘Tutankhamun’, and to this day the cache is renowned around the world. 

More than 260 items of treasure were recovered in the haul, including weapons, armour coins, jewellery, gold buckles, patterned plaques and silver cutlery.

The most-precious find of all was a sculpted full-face helmet, leading archaeologists to conclude the site was the final resting place of a 7th-century royal, probably Raedwald, a king of East Anglia.

In 1939 – as tensions were rising in Europe and Britain was on the brink of the Second World War – Edith became increasingly fascinated with the large grass-covered mounds in the grounds of her home. 

The former nurse, who served in France during World War I, had lived in an Edwardian house on the Sutton Hoo estate, near Woodbridge on the estuary of the River Deben, since 1926.

Unable to ignore her interest any longer, she reached out to the museum in the nearby Suffolk town of Ipswich in 1937, who sent excavation assistant Basil Brown.

The self-taught archaeologists had left school at 12, but had a thirst for knowledge, was a keen linguist and a life-long passion for historical artefacts.

Basil kept diaries of the digs at Sutton Hoo, and his records show he first discovered human remains and some artefacts in a number of the burial mounds. 

But in the summer of 1939 he turned his attention to the largest earth mound, known as Tumulus One. 

Over three months he excavated a 1,300-year-old ship, helped by the estate’s gamekeeper and gardener, employed by Edith for £1.50 per day.

Award-winning actor Ralph Fiennes steps into the role of Basil, the self-taught local archaeologist sent by the Ipswich Museum to help her findings, while Lily James plays Peggy Piggott, the wife of one of his proteges, Stuart Piggott (Ben Chaplin).

Basil leads the excavations, until the abrupt arrival of imperious academic Charles Phillips – played by Ken Stott – who attempts to claim the site for the British Museum.  

Backlash: The Dig was also branded sexist for reducing experienced archaeologist Peggy Piggott (pictured R) to a ‘bumbling sidekick to her husband’ (L: Lily James as Peggy)

When her husband appears disinterested in her – for reasons she can’t understand let alone articulate – Peggy starts falling for Edith’s cousin, dashing airman Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn). 

The Dig was also slammed as sexist for reducing an experienced archaeologist to a ‘bumbling, deferential, sidekick to her husband’. 

Lily’s character Peggy – who was two years younger than her husband – unearthed with her trowel a small gold and garnet pyramid, the first exciting glimpse of bejewelled treasure.

But top archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes said the film portrays her as ‘something of a sidekick to her older husband, Stuart’ when Peggy was, in fact, highly experienced.


Award-winning actor Ralph (L) steps into the role of Basil, the self-taught local archaeologist sent by the Ipswich Museum to help her findings

She told The Times: ‘On the whole she is presented as deferential, even bumbling, putting her foot through a hollow feature.’ 

Novelist John – the nephew of the late prehistorian said allegations that she appears ‘bumbling’ are false.

He said: ‘She was 27 when she did the dig in real life so to suggest that she was a grizzled professional is pushing it a bit.’

MailOnline has contacted Netflix and Carey’s representatives for further comment. 

Impressive: Edith donated the entire find – including a king’s ornate iron helmet (pictured) – to the nation and it went on display at the British Museum in 1951

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