Our Top Cinematic Women
In honor of awards season, we reflect on how our favorite actresses’ careers have magnified since DuJour first covered them, and why they’re back in Oscars contention today
Carrie Mulligan - Mudbound
Put her in a sweeping period piece, and sharp-witted, dimple-cheeked Carrie Mulligan will feel right at home, from her first film Pride & Prejudice set in Elizabethan England to the roaring American 1920s in Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby, for which DuJour photographed her in 2013. Her latest film, Mudbound, takes Mulligan where she, and most audiences, have never gone before: the tail-end of Mississippi’s sharecropping economy, which lasted from post-slavery to the mid–20th century. Mulligan stars as Laura McAllan, a landlord’s conflicted wife who gives a sharecropper’s wife Florence Jackson (Mary J. Blige) a job as her housekeeper. Their bond is tested when the Jacksons’ son, just returned from WWII, becomes the target of bigotry from within the McAllan clan. Initially, says Mulligan, she wasn’t looking to plunge back into the past. “I had done a couple of period films right before, and I was sort of nervous. I wanted to do something contemporary, and so I was resistant to the idea of doing another period drama,” the actress told DuJour at the New York Film Festival. “But I thought it was perfect storytelling and deeply emotional without being sentimental. And I just wanted to be a part of a Dee Rees film,” Mulligan says.
The film’s unflinching look at the U.S.’s legacy of racism arrives right on schedule given the country’s current political climate, as does the character of Laura in Mulligan’s personal timeline. “It was the first time I played a mom and actually was a mom,” she told the NYFF audience. “So that was interesting. I had played mothers before but when we filmed this I had an eight-month-old so that was a change.” And while Mary J. may be best known as a fixture on the American charts, she and her British counterpart hit it off. “Working with Mary was really extraordinary. She’s unbelievably open and honest and vulnerable,” Mulligan said. “There was a sisterhood to it that was really powerful.”