‘Suffragette’ Star Carey Mulligan on Women in Hollywood: ‘There’s a Lot to be Optimistic About’

Carey Mulligan Suffragette premiere
Andrew H. Walker/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

Focus Features hosted the New York premiere of “Suffragette” on Monday night at the Paris Theatre with stars Carey Mulligan and director Sarah Gavron. There was a collective sigh on the red carpet when a publicist announced Meryl Streep, who plays British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, had cancelled her appearance due to a last-minute delay. As her daughters Mamie and Louisa Gummer whisked by the red carpet, one reporter barked at them: “Where is your mom?”

“Suffragette,” which had been in development since 2008, arrives at a time when two women are running for president and A-list actresses are fighting back against sexism in the industry. “It feels like a real tipping point, because people are talking about it,” Gavron said. “It’s in the news. For the first time I can remember, people are really concerned about the imbalance and they are addressing it.” When she was growing up, Gavron didn’t consider directing as a career. “There weren’t any role models,” she said. “I didn’t think it was a possibility.”

Mulligan, who plays the film’s lead character (a composite not based on a real person), agreed that she’d witnessed some shifts for women in the industry. “There’s a lot to be optimistic about,” Mulligan said. “There’s lot of films this year that have great roles for women. If you look at people like Jennifer Lawrence, who make billions at the box office, you kind of have to think a studio is going to sit up and take notice that women sell tickets. Essentially, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about money.”

But screenwriter Abi Morgan noted that the film, which had a budget of $10 million, would probably have received more financing if it was about a group of men. “I think we would have gotten $10 million more,” she said, explaining that she pitched “Suffragette” as an action film. “I wanted a kicka– movie. I would have liked a few more carriage changes, a couple more buildings blown up, a few more fires.”

Focus CEO Peter Schlessel introduced the movie. The after-party was held at Southgate. Mulligan will enter a crowded best-actress Oscars race with Saorise Ronan (“Brooklyn”), Cate Blanchett (“Truth” and “Carol”), Brie Larson (“Room”), Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”), Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) and Blythe Danner (“I’ll See You in My Dreams”). And Streep, who is prominently featured on the film’s posters and advertising campaign, is only in “Sufragette” for a single scene, meaning this will be the rare year where the Oscars recidivist (with 19 nominations and counting) won’t be up for awards consideration.

“Suffragette” opens on Oct. 23.

(Pictured: Carey Mulligan and Sarah Gavron at the New York premiere of “Suffragette”)