Carey Mulligan: ‘If Dee Rees was a white man, she’d be directing the next Star Wars’

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I was waiting to cover this until the Oscar nominations came out, because I wanted to see if Mudbound’s quiet Oscar campaign worked at all. It didn’t – Mary J. Blige got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and Virgil Williams and Dee Rees got nominated for Adapted Screenplay, but the film was snubbed for Best Picture, and Dee Rees was snubbed for Best Director (she would have been the first African-American woman to be nominated). Ahead of the nominations, Carey Mulligan – part of the Mudbound ensemble – spoke to Variety about Dee Rees and representation in directing.

Actress Carey Mulligan called out the “Star Wars” franchise’s lack of female directors as well as their lack of representation at award shows while at the Sundance Film Festival.

“If Dee Rees was a white man she’d be directing the next ‘Star Wars,’ she’d be nominated for an Oscar without question,” Mulligan said at Variety’s Sundance studio, just prior to Tuesday’s Academy Award nominations. Many thought that Rees, who directed the critically-acclaimed “Mudbound,” was snubbed from this year’s Golden Globes race for Best Director along with “Lady Bird’s” Greta Gerwig and “Wonder Woman’s” Patty Jenkins.

“There’s something not right, and we’re working on it,” she added. “I think Greta [Gerwig] and Patty Jenkins have been overlooked for too long. If it doesn’t happen I fell like it will send out a big signal and I think that people will react to that.”

On the “Star Wars” front, J.J. Abrams directed 2015’s “The Force Awakens” — and is set to return for Episode IX — with Rian Johnson taking control for last year’s “The Last Jedi.” Gareth Edwards led the franchise’s first anthology film “Rogue One” in 2016, and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were tapped to direct the Han Solo origin film before being replaced with Ron Howard. Kathleen Kennedy has stated in the past her desire to hire a female helmer for a “Star Wars” film.

“There’s nothing we’d like more than to find a female director for ‘Star Wars’,” she said. “There is an assumption made that the people involved should predominantly be men. There are women who are ‘Star Wars’ fans. That’s what’s so insane.”

[From Variety]

It should be said that Carey Mulligan is somewhat of a Hollywood outsider, but she’s respected in Hollywood because of her talent, and this is a pretty big call-out that will be noticed and remembered. Carey is telling no lies though – if a white male director had done Mudbound – or Lady Bird, for that matter – they would be taking meetings at Disney and being seriously considered to direct some $100 million franchise film. Why isn’t that that the case with Dre Rees and Greta Gerwig again?

Also: Mary J. Blige is now the first person to be nominated for an Oscar in a performance directed by an African-American woman. Baby steps? Ugh.

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Photos courtesy of Getty.

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43 Responses to “Carey Mulligan: ‘If Dee Rees was a white man, she’d be directing the next Star Wars’”

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  1. Lucy says:

    Good lord does everything have to be an issue now ?

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      It IS an issue. Representation IS an issue for women but especially WOC.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      An issue “now”!?!? It’s been an issue for decades that women and POC do not get follow-up opportunities after they have achieved success in filmmaking. This is well documented. I’m glad people are finally talking about it! Best to do it now while this specific director and her unique skills can work on more projects!

      • Jess says:

        Amen, Tiffany! Women have been discriminated against as directors in Hollywood forever, and it’s so bad the EEOC was involved and made just that finding. And as bad as it is for women in general, it’s even harder for women of color (and all people of color). So yes, it’s an issue and it needs to be talked about more, not less. Good for Carey to call it out here – she’s totally right about how the amazing Dee Rees is being overlooked, although I’m trying to be positive about 2018 so I’m hoping she’ll get some great opportunities this year!

    • Lucy says:

      It shouldn’t have to be, but here we are.

    • MellyMel says:

      This is not some new issue that came about in the last two years. Like Tiffany said, people are now talking about it and trying to make necessary changes. Representation matters in all fields, including film.

  2. Valiantly Varnished says:

    No lie detected

    • INeedANap says:

      The number of white men with tiny films that have gone on to direct huge blockbusters with no experience is too damn high. See Colin Trevorrow for recent failures.

    • bananapanda says:

      This is essentially what happened to Ava DuVernay. She was on the film festival circuit and ran into a male counterpart. Her film won more awards and accolades. She was lining up money to do Selma and he was offered Jurassic Park.

  3. FishBeard says:

    It’s true. Dee Rees is incredible, but she has to work twice as hard to get half the recognition.

    Also, great to see that a Hispanic actress like Carey getting roles.

    • Beatrix says:

      Carey Mulligan is hispanic? That would be news to me.

      • Mia4s says:

        That’s a shot at her role in the Ryan Gosling movie Drive. It was written for an Hispanic actress but Carey decided she wanted the part so it was whitewashed.

        There are no perfect advocates.

      • FishBeard says:

        It was a cheap shot at her role in Drive, which was supposed to go to a Hispanic actress. I have very little patience for whitewashing, lol

      • broodytrudy says:

        Carrie Mulligan gets heat for it but everyone seems to forget about Marissa Tomei. And Jennifer Connolly. And, and, and…if they’re not a fave then they’re problematic.

    • Odetta says:

      I’m confused about what you said about Carey…was it a joke. You do know she’s British right?

      • dodgy says:

        @Odetta, Mulligan played a role in the film Drive where the role directly called for a Hispanic actress, but she demanded a read anyway, and the director gave her the role because of her vulnerability or something.

      • Hotsauceinmybag says:

        Odetta, she’s not “hispanic” but it is possible to be British and Latina at the same time… Just saying

    • Mina says:

      Considering how badly represented hispanics usually are in film, especially women, I couldn’t care less that a role written for a “Hispanic woman” was given to a white woman… which by the way, is totally possible because hispanic is not a race and there can be white hispanics (and black). I say this as a latina. I’ve rarely seen a proper representation of my culture on screen, usually hispanics are blatant stereotypes because US filmmakers seem to think we are all the same. If the role could be switched to Carey Mulligan, it means her ethnicity wasn’t really important to the story anyway.

  4. Nicole says:

    Gotta love Carey

  5. Her Higness says:

    this is so sickening. the truth is people/humans we like to have hierarchy and exclude people from access to all things. fight as we may, there are too many who dont want to give it up (power to call the shots and control things, give permission for other to have and ‘do things’ ie black women directing a multimillion dolla movie. Im ready to die.

  6. DiligentDiva says:

    Her film would certainly be nominated for best director no doubt.

  7. Bridget says:

    *cough* or Jurassic Park

    I have to admit though, it frustrates me that Mudbound is a Netflix movie, because the Academy is still unofficially boycotting Netflix movies. I am genuinely amazed it got the nominations it did.

    • lucy2 says:

      Yeah handing the keys to Jurassic Park to that guy was puzzling. He had a only a few small films, low profile films, under his belt, and somehow got $150 million and an established franchise. And then he was briefly going to be a Star Wars director!

      I do agree, being on Netflix only is going to hurt films’ chances for a while to come, I think.

      • Bridget says:

        Colin Trevorrow and Ava DuVarney has breakout Sundance movies at the same time. And yet which one was tapped for Jurassic World right out of the gate?

      • INeedANap says:

        That’s a great and depressing reminder. Didn’t Trevorrow get the Jurassic Park gig because Spielberg said “he reminds me of a younger me”? Boys club nonsense.

    • Frosty Flakes says:

      This is an important point. While it’s absolutely true that Dee Rees has been discriminated against because she dares to be a) African American and b) a woman (*insert shocked gasp*) no-one seems to be asking whether the movie might have been recognised in those ‘big’ categories if it hadn’t been distributed by Netflix. There’s a real push-back against Netflix within the Industry

      • Dally says:

        But those aren’t separate issues: Dee Rees got her chance to make this movie, and is part of the conversation, because Netflix has changed the game of movie making, and given opportunities to filmmakers who would otherwise have been ignored or dismissed. So pretending that studios only have a bias against Netflix, and that that is completely separate from a bias against women directors and directors of color, is both short-sighted and disingenuous.

      • Frosty Flakes says:

        But I agree with you. I just meant it’s an additional issue, not yet raised, that muddies the obvious discrimination.

  8. Jenna says:

    It’s difficult for to people of privilege to wrap their minds around disparity, discrimination. This is an issue. Thank goodness we are finally in a space as a society where we can discuss it.

  9. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’ve been a Star Wars fan since the very very very beginning. Shush, I’m old. I’ve always been more of a fan of “guy movies” in that I love science fiction, fantasy, horror and action/adventure. I still remember arguments with mom plopping in front of the TV on Sundays to catch “Boo,” some mystery theater that always aired creature features and classic horrors (she always gave in… better Godzilla than Three’s Company or Soap… she chose her arguments).

    How awesome it’s been throughout the years to see a rise in female fans, creators, artists, et al. So yeah, it’s way past time to scoot men over and let women take the wheel. Star Wars needs to get back on track. I’m still not sure if Disney was a smart move, but the franchise needs to quit pandering to a clueless audience. Just an observation lol. And women know how to do that better than men. Period.

    • lucy2 says:

      The casts of the movies have gotten much more inclusive, which is a very good thing. But it would be great to see Patty, or Ava, or some other good female director get to direct one.

      • Mia4s says:

        The casts have; but man they need to stop casting White British Brunettes as the lead actress. That casting of dragon lady from Game of Thrones in Solo made the issue noticeable and laughable. Hell, cast a redhead for variety.

        With new leading men they’ve done great with John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Diego Luna, even Donald Glover (although this one they didn’t have a choice in).

      • lucy2 says:

        True, but Kelly Marie Tran had a significant role in TLJ, so there is some progress.

      • TaraT3 says:

        Agreed. The brunette, white lead is definitely a self insert for Kathleen Kennedy.

        I do think the only recent casting (between the reboot, Rogue One, and Solo project) that really worked was Felicity Jones. But, luckily with Rogue One they had so many minorities within the ensemble that it was really enjoyable for me. Imagine if they would’ve had a minority lead too! That would’ve been ground breaking and so refreshing.

  10. SM says:

    She would definitely get an Oscar nom for her movie. On the other hand, if she was a white man she would have never probably made that masterpiece that is Mudbound. I don’t know why the lack of love for Mudbound this awards season makes me so angry, but it does…..

    • patty says:

      Me too. I’ve been telling everyone I know to watch “Mudbound.” No doubt in my mind that if it had any distributor other than Netflix, it would’ve been in the running for Best Picture. And possibly Best Director. And I would have loved best supporting for Garrett Hedlund.

  11. Mina says:

    Dee Rees is a talented filmmaker with a great future ahead of her. But even if she was a white man, she wouldn’t have the profile to direct a Star Wars movie. You need to be a studio person, and work in an environment in which you have to juggle your control on set with the very controlling demands of the people above you, who don’t care so much about your vision as they care about keeping the franchise in line. So Star Wars is hardly the place for an indie filmmaker with a unique voice to thrive, bad example, Carey Mulligan.

    As for her place in the Oscars. Well, the problem is she’s directing a movie that got distributed by Netflix, and the movie industry is still very much at odds with Netflix’s vision of movie distribution. I think the politics of it all prevented Mudbound to be seriously considered by the Academy. It’s taken a few years for TV to catch up, but it will be even longer for movies.

    • Jayna says:

      And the sad thing is that at Sundance, with great audience reaction, no offers or low-ball offers only happened. Netflix saved the day. Part of her Variety interview regarding issues she has run into as a black director trying to tell the stories she wants to. She has an advantage, that at least she can write screenplays and will not always be dependent upon movies coming to her. She already has an uphill battle.

      “She fled, at 26, to NYU film school because she wanted to tell stories. It was there, as she started to come out of the closet, that she wrote the script for “Pariah,” reflecting on what her life would have been like if she had realized her sexual orientation at 17. She hustled to raise the $450,000 she needed to make the film, ducking past would-be financiers with ludicrous notes. “It was these stupid casting ideas,” she says. “What if you made these characters white?”

      Focus Features, which bought “Pariah” out of Sundance following an ecstatic reception, decided not to produce her next script, which centered on a black female Memphis cop trying to solve a mystery. “They didn’t feel like it had enough appeal,” Rees says. “The idea that black doesn’t sell overseas, that’s not true. But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

      The prolonged sale of “Mudbound” points to extra hurdles that exist for black filmmakers. “When the bidding wasn’t happening, it was discouraging,” says one of the film’s producers, Tim Zajaros of Armory Films. “You just felt bad.” If Netflix hadn’t saved the day at the eleventh hour, it’s not clear where the film would have gone. “They didn’t lowball us, even though they could have,” Rees says. “That in itself is a political statement. It speaks to Ted Sarandos’ commitment to filmmakers and filmmakers of color,” she says about Netflix’s chief content officer.

      Sarandos says he had reason to spend big, calling “Mudbound” a “great movie” that will resonate with audiences. “We wanted them to get what their film is worth,” he says, adding that he’d like to work with Rees again. ”

      It’s a great interview if anyone is interested.

  12. Tw says:

    MARY J – what’s the 411?! She was so great in this film. Unrecognizable and I’ve been a fan for 25 years.
    My only criticism of the film is that it wrapped up a tad too quickly. We had to rewind the last ten minutes twice in order to absorb it all. Otherwise, it was just so well-done, one of those films that takes you there.

    • Jayna says:

      Dee Rees made an epic-feeling film on a small budget, 12 million. Plus, she had to shoot it in 28 days. It’s amazing it came out as great as it did.

      I also didn’t recognize Mary J. Blige in the beginning. When it finally hit me, I was awed by how she disappeared into her role so completely.

  13. Carolina says:

    Look at the resume of the guy who directed Spiderman: Homecoming. I’m sure he’s very nice, but c’mon.

  14. Lama Bean says:

    Mary is also dating her delicious costar as well. She deserves some young happy love after her jerk of an ex-husband.