Netflix's The Dig faces accusations of ageism

Netflix’s new film The Dig has come under fire for casting Carey Mulligan in a lead role

The Dig
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix's new film The Dig, based on the historical novel about the Sutton Hoo excavation, has come under fire for casting 35-year-old Carey Mulligan as a 56-year-old woman.

Although Netflix premiered The Dig less than a week ago at the end of January, the show has already come under fire for casting Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman, The Great Gatsby) in a lead role. 

The Dig is based on John Preston's 2007 historical novel of the same title. The book focused on the Sutton Hoo excavation in 1938 but took license with some circumstances, with the author confirming, "Certain changes have been made for dramatic effect."

The Dig

(Image credit: Netflix)

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The story follows Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), a wealthy widow who hires Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes), an amateur archeologist, to excavate the large mounds on her estate.

The mounds are uncovered and reveal the Sutton Hoo ship that dates back to the 6th and 7th centuries. Historians speculate that the site has particular historical value as the burial site of King Raedwald, the Anglo-Saxon ruler of East Anglia.

This film was hotly anticipated because of its all-star British cast, Lily James (Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again), Johnny Flynn (Emma), and Ken Scott (The Missing). 

At one point, Nicole Kidman was also attached to the project but was replaced by Carey Mulligan. Nicole left the project when the production company changed from BBC Films to Netflix when Carey got on board.

The Dig

(Image credit: Netflix)

Despite the excitement for this project, fans are confused as to why Edith Pretty's role has been cast as an actress who is 21 years younger than the character is supposed to be. 

One fan said, "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?"

That seems to be a consistent question among fans as another said, "I can't get over the fact that Carey Mulligan replaced Nicole Kidman (who dropped out) in The Dig to play a person who was not only in her 50s but five years older than Ralph Fiennes' character. The age of actors matter when playing real-life people imo. cc. Mank."

As this Twitter user observed, Netflix recently came under fire for casting younger women as older characters. 

Netflix's film Mank, which has been nominated for six Golden Globes in different categories, also came under fire upon its release for hiring women to portray characters that are far older than their actual age. 

Digital Spy criticized the casting of the lead Mank, played Gary Oldman, 62, opposite Tuppence Middleton, 33, who played his wife, Sara. 

Digital Spy's Gabriella Geisinger writes, "Middleton is 33, nearly half Oldman's real age, and while we would never begrudge anyone for loving someone older...the issue is this: Sara Mankiewicz was the same age as her husband. They were both born in 1897."

The critic highlights that this casting "shines a light on Hollywood's still-backwards view of women." It appears from The Dig's backlash that this is a mistake that Hollywood is continuing to make.

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Laura Harman

Laura is the Entertainment Editor for woman&home who primarily covers television, film, and celebrity news. Laura loves drinking and eating and can often be found trying to get reservations at London's trendiest restaurants. When she's not wining and dining, Laura can also be found travelling, baking, and hiking with her dog.