10 Facts About The Dig, the New Movie in Netflix That Everyone is Watching

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If you’ve been on Netflix these days (of course you have, don’t even bother denying it), you may have watched The Dig, freshly uploaded just a few days ago on 29 January.

This beautifully cinematic English period drama, set amid the picturesque countryside, has been making waves lately with its exploration of life and friendship against the unique backdrop of archaeology and discovery. 

Today, we dig deeper (ha!) into the well-loved movie, bringing you 10 facts about The Dig you might want to know. 

What’s The Dig All About? 

For many of us who only know that archaeology involves… well, dirt and digging, fret not. This movie is set in 1939, and follows Suffolk landowner Edith Pretty who hires archaeologist-excavator Basil Brown to work on her burial mounds. 

This results in shocking discoveries of historical importance. As Basil works on the excavation, he develops a deep (platonic) friendship with Edith, and the movie revolves heavily around their blossoming relationship. 

Museum politics ensue, and the tension of an impending war looms steadily over the characters. There’s also a romantic subplot between two side characters, Peggy Piggott and Rory Lomax, both brought in to work on the excavation. 

Who Directed It? 

The film is directed by Simon Stone, Australian film and theatre director and actor, who is known for his debut film The Daughter. More information about Stone can be found here

Who’s in It? 

Ralph Fiennes plays Basil Brown, and Carey Mulligan plays Edith Pretty. Both are Academy Award Nominees, and are well known for their roles in many famous shows, including The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fiennes) and The Great Gatsby (Mulligan). 

And yes, in case he looks strikingly familiar to you, Fiennes played the Voldemort that we were all terrified of as children—remember him now? 

The supporting cast consists of Lily James, Johnny Flynn, Ben Chaplin, Ken Stott, Archie Barnes and Monica Dolan. 

Who Was Supposed to Be in It? 

It may be interesting to know that this movie was originally set for BBC Films instead of Netflix, and that Nicole Kidman was supposed to play Edith Pretty instead of Mulligan.

I don’t think anyone’s bitter about it though; the remarkable chemistry on screen between Mulligan and Fiennes has been praised by many, and the acting of the two leads has been a stellar point of the film. 

What Was It Based On? 

The Dig is based on a historical novel published 2007 by John Preston of the same name, which is a retelling of the 1939 excavation that took place at Sutton Hoo. As such, the movie is based on a true story, especially with regard to the central characters involved, the period, and the actual dig itself. 

To find out more about the true events that inspired The Dig, you can read this article or watch this video:

Who was Unexpectedly Important? 

You may like to know that the side character Peggy Piggott is fundamental to the film for a rather surprising reason. It was revealed that the only reason author John Preston began researching for his novel The Dig, that would later become adapted into the Netflix movie we now know, is because he found out that Piggott was related to him—she was his aunt. 


So yes, we have the late Aunt Peggy to thank for inspiring the (fortunate) series of events that would eventually lead to this gem of a movie. 

Controversy? Check!

Though the film has been generally well-received (for perspective, it has an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), it is not without its criticisms.

According to Mark Bridge of The Times, the film’s portrayal of Peggy Piggott as highly inexperienced and only hired on the basis of her light weight not posing a threat to the fragile site upset many archaeologists, who argued that Piggott was, in actual fact, a highly capable archaeologist who had a distinguished career in the field. 

You can find out more about Bridge’s critique of the film here

Romance? No, Thank You.

Unfortunately, the film’s attempt at a romantic subplot fell terribly flat, as seen from lackluster reviews of the romance in the film. According to this article by The Guardian, Peggy Piggott falling in love with the fictional Rory Lomax added no value to the story whatsoever, and merely served as a way to attract younger viewers. Oof. 

Taking a Dig… at The Dig. 

Not only was the romantic subplot irrelevant, Bridge went further to say that they might even have been complicit in erasure. The fictional Rory Lomax was portrayed as a photographer in the film when in reality, two local schoolmistresses Mercie Lack and Barbara Wagstaff were the ones who were extensively involved in the photography of the site. 

Are you angry at someone now, and can’t get him or her out of your mind? Well, watch this video and you’ll know what to do next:

TLDR; Two women who were actively involved in the process were sadly excluded, all to make way for a romantic subplot that didn’t even take off. Now that’s a big oof. 

The Dig… in the Context of COVID-19?

Director Simon Stone has expressed his hopes for audiences to find a connection between The Dig and our present life in a pandemic. Set in 1939 with the threat of WWII looming overhead, Stone has mentioned that this movie brings a sense of hope that this too, shall pass. 

He stated that he wanted the film to be about “solidarity and community”, and how people from all walks of life can come together to tide through a crisis as one. 


Have we got you curious about the show? Catch The Dig on Netflix today and see what all the hype is about, or perhaps if you’re more of a bookworm, you can pick up a copy of the book by John Preston at your nearest bookstore.

Featured Image: Netflix

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