Carey Mulligan and the Challenges of "Mudbound"

by Gabriel Lerman September 12, 2017
Actress Carey Mulligan at TIFF 2017

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Seven years ago, Carey Mulligan’s talent was recognized with a Golden Globe nomination for her impressive work in Lone Scherfig's An Education. Since then, she has been a regular presence in quality films.Mark Romanek cast her as one of the leading characters in Never Let Me Go, for which she won the British Independent Film Award, and Nicolas Winding Refn paired her with Ryan Gosling in the magnificent Drive. The list of her films is long and includes Steve McQueen's Shame, the Coen Brother's Inside Llewyn Davis and Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, in which she was as glamorous as a movie star can be.

That's not the case with Mudbound, the film that received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival in January, was later acquired by Netflix for $ 12.5 million and will open this Fall in select theaters simultaneously with its streaming release. In the period piece directed by Dee Rees from a book by Hilary Jordan, a woman follows her husband to their new house in 1940s’ Mississippi, where they literally live submerged in mud: "We were informed by our environment in this one", she admits while talking to the HFPA in Toronto, "We felt sweaty and we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes. The muddier and dirtier we got, it got better.  And Dee didn’t want a set where makeup artists were constantly coming in trying to fix things, she just wanted everything to be focused on the performances.  So, we were pretty much just left alone to look awful. With a little bit of help from the sun-damaged makeup, they just sort of let us degrade through the day", she adds.

Mudbound also tells the story of the relationship between the McAllans and their black tenants and neighbors, a stark portrayal of race relations which have recently returned at the center of the national discourse. The racism so rampant at the time is highlighted when one African American character finda much different treatment while enlisted in Europe during WWII. "Studying history at school I just never had seen a photograph of a black soldier in the war and that seemed so odd,” mused Mulligan.  “And then to think about these heroes coming home to their country where they should be lauded and celebrated, to be treated the way they were treated and to be still living in a segregated society. That was the kind of big hook into the film, just imagining this time where people could go and give their lives to this country and yet come home and be treated like second class citizens or worse".