Actress Carey Mulligan enters virtually all-female universe to make "Suffragette"

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LOS ANGELES — For actress Carey Mulligan, "Suffragette" was unlike any film she had ever made: The writer, director, producers and most of the cast were women.

"It was a unique experience. I'm used to being the only girl in a room," Mulligan said. "And it needed to be a female team to get it made in the first place, because it wasn't going to happen if it wasn't a group of women pushing it uphill, because no one wanted to tell the story."

The film opens Wednesday at Images Cinema in Williamstown.

The story is of women's fight for the right to vote in Britain in 1912. Mulligan plays Maud, an ordinary, working-class woman who finds herself becoming an activist despite the risks of being part of the volatile movement. The film shows the women holding rallies and starting fires — and getting beaten, jailed and tortured; socially ostracized and unemployed, as a result.

There was little studio interest in telling the story — and that points to the problems women continue to face in Hollywood today, Mulligan said.

"A woman threw herself in front of a king's horse in 1913 and changed the course of history, and no one in 100 years felt this was a story worthy of the big screen," she said. "If this monumental moment can go undocumented and untold, imagine how many millions of women's stories there are for us to tell."

With her female-centric subject matter, cast and creative team, "Suffragette" director Sarah Gavron has made a film that embodies its message about equality.

"Between one to 10 percent of films are made by women — often it's more like one percent — and film is a way we put a mirror up to our lives," Gavron said. "So by making this film and having a woman producer, writer, director, so many heads of department behind the camera, and then all those women in front of the camera, we were shifting the balance in an extraordinary way. But you don't just want that to be a one-off."

Given the level of awareness about the gender disparity in Hollywood, Mulligan said the industry is compelled to respond.

"I think it's gotten to the point where people can't ignore it now," she said. "And there probably will be action as a result of it and not just a lot more noise."


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