Entertainment & Arts

Suffragette star Meryl Streep calls for equality

Carey Mulligan (left) and Meryl Streep at a photocall for their new film, Suffragette, at The Lanesborough Hotel, in London Image copyright PA
Image caption Carey Mulligan (left) and Meryl Streep (right) at a press conference ahead of the gala screening of Suffragette

Meryl Streep says she finds it "infuriating" that box office buzz for a film is often driven by film critics who are overwhelmingly male.

The Oscar-winning actress plays women's rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst in the film Suffragette.

The period drama, which also stars Carey Mulligan, opened the London Film Festival on Wednesday.

Speaking before its gala screening, she bemoaned the "lack of inclusion" of women in enterprises around the world.

"If men don't look around the the board of governors table and feel something is wrong when half the people there are not women then we're not going to make any progress," she said.

Talking about the film industry, Streep said: "A huge part of this business is driven by buzz. I wanted to find out what controls buzz."

Suffragettes in their own words

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She said she had counted the numbers of approved critics and bloggers on the influential Rotten Tomatoes website and found that 168 were women while 760 were men. The New York Film Critics Circle had 37 men and two women.

"Men and women are not the same, sometimes their tastes diverge," Streep said. "The word isn't disheartening It's infuriating. People accept this as received wisdom... we need inclusion."

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Media captionProtesters block the red carpet at the event in Leicester Square

Meanwhile, activists campaigning for greater support for victims of domestic violence released smoke flares and lay across the red carpet at the premiere in Leicester Square.

The protesters carried banners saying "cuts kill" and "dead women can't vote".

The red carpet was temporarily blocked but the event later resumed with some women escorted away by security guards.

'Not funny or romantic'

Suffragette, written by Abi Morgan, tells the story of young East End laundry woman Maud Watts (Mulligan) who becomes an activist fighting to gain women the vote.

Set in 1912-13, it shows how the women in the suffrage movement attacked property and bombed post boxes to make their voices heard.

The cast also includes Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson.

Morgan, who wrote The Iron Lady in which Streep played Margaret Thatcher, said the film had been "hard" to get made because it was fronted by "an ensemble of women" who were "not being funny or romantic".

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Image caption Anne-Marie Duff (left) and Carey Mulligan (right) in Suffragette

Mulligan said: "It's a film to mark the achievement of what these women did and what they gave to us, but it also highlights where we are in the world. We still live in a society that's sexist."

Director Sarah Gavron said the idea of making a biopic of Emmeline Pankhurst had been considered, but that she deliberately didn't want to tell the story of "an exceptional woman".

"What we were interested in is the story of the ordinary woman, the woman with no platform, no entitlement, the working class woman who is so often at the vanguard of change who rarely gets talked about.

"We thought that to follow that woman would make it connect with women all over the world today."

The London Film Festival runs from 7-18 October.

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