“Suffragette” isn’t just another British period film, says its star Carey Mulligan. No, the drama that chronicles women’s fight for equality and voting rights in 1900s England is as much about the past as it is about the struggles of today.
“There are so many issues in the film that we still have in the world when it comes to women, education, sexual violence, the pay gap and how women are represented in parliament,” the Oscar-nominated star tells Made in Hollywood. “We wanted it to feel relevant and not just a historical film.”
During the ending credits the film highlights the women’s rights movements around the globe, noting that in Saudi Arabia, women still have no right to vote.
In “Suffragette,” Mulligan portrays Maud Watts, a working class woman who is based on the stories of several real-life suffragettes. Watts, seeking a better life for herself and future for her son, becomes engulfed in the voting rights movement’s violence and aggressive political action.
“She’s completely ordinary and becomes extraordinary through the film—and that journey is exciting,” Mulligan says of her character.
Some of the extremes of which the suffragettes took to win equality rights surprised Mulligan during her research.
“The fact that they blew up buildings and churches,” she says, “that was all stuff that I didn’t know about.”
One of the most harrowing scenes in the drama includes Mulligan’s character being force-fed while languishing in prison. It was inspired by some of the punishments activists of that time faced.
“I knew that suffragettes had gone to prison, but I didn’t know that they were force-fed or went on hunger strike,” she explains. “There was one suffragette that was force-fed 248 times, which shocked me.”
“Suffragette” opens Friday. Watch the trailer below.