Florence Pugh was aware that it would be popular. The 26-year-old British actress donned a Barbie-pink gown with layers of tulle and a fully translucent top to Valentino’s couture presentation in Rome this past July. In order to clear up any doubt regarding the transparency of the gown’s design, Pugh and designer Pierpaolo Piccioli agreed to remove the lining after Pugh donned the garment. She tells me while enjoying a glass of rosé in a lovely hotel room in the English countryside, “I felt content with my little breasts. And by displaying them in that manner, I annoyed several individuals.
Pugh was subjected to a barrage of online abuse. How upset they were was “simply terrifying,” she said. They were enraged by the fact that I exuded confidence and wanted to make it clear to me that they would never wank over me. Okay, don’t. Pugh elaborated on this feeling on Instagram, castigating the people who had body shamed her: “Why do you fear breasts so much? Small? Large? Left? Right? only one? perhaps none? What. Is very terrifying. More than 2.3 million people have already liked the post.
“I feel like I am now getting into this groove in my career where I know what I can take, what I can give, and what I will not accept anymore.”
Fans have learned to anticipate Pugh’s brand of no-BS, frank sincerity. She made her big-screen debut in 2015 as a teen girl facing her sexuality in Carol Morley’s The Falling, and since then, she has developed a career portraying strong women. Her breakthrough roles came in two 2019 movies, Greta Gerwig’s adaption of the famous classic Little Women, which won her an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress, and Ari Aster’s indie horror blockbuster Midsommar. She has appeared in roughly two dozen pictures over the previous seven years.
“Florence really struck me as being in her own skin, which is why I believe she epitomises her generation in such a memorable way. She’s very grounded, but she also exudes such confidence, says Scarlett Johansson, who acted with Pugh in the 2021 Marvel film Black Widow. “When I was in my early to mid-20s, I was not that self-possessed. At the period when you had to be incredibly appeasing to be accepted, I was still developing professionally. And she has absolutely none of that. She is authentically herself. She has a trustworthiness about her.
Johansson could answer that. She describes talking about relationships while filming an action sequence with Pugh when they were “I don’t know, 30 storeys in the air, attached to this pole.” Johansson recalls in wonder that Pugh “could be talking about any foolish person that she dated, and then two seconds later, we were just attached to each other, holding on by this thread for life” when the director ordered the action. This person is just completely… she just has it, I thought. She’s really focused. It is an emotional openness. She possesses this extremely uncommon quality, which is her best attribute.
As one of the bravest, most adaptable actors of her time, Pugh has made a name for herself as that exceptional performer who can both vanish into a character and still radiate a distinct star wattage. “I think that element of women being pressed into a corner, forced into an opinion, forced into a way of life is in all of my movies,” she adds. “And something finally starts to crack.”
It’s a fitting description of Pugh’s character, Alice Chambers, in her most recent film, Don’t Worry Darling. Pugh co-stars in the psychological thriller with Harry Styles and the film’s director, Olivia Wilde. In the 1950s, every male citizen of the lovely desert village where Don’t Worry Darling is located works at the enigmatic Victory Project. The women’s days are spent in a housewife’s cycle of vacuuming, laundry, ballet classes, shopping, martinis by the pool, and making elaborate meals. Alice starts to doubt everything once one of the women vanishes, including what they are all doing there, where their husbands actually go, and her own reality.
The supporting part of Bunny, a neighbourhood wife with a stylish wardrobe and witty one-liners, was first given to Pugh. An opportunity to portray Alice presented itself after the pandemic interrupted production and schedule underwent a significant upheaval. (Wilde ultimately played Bunny.) Pugh admits that accepting the role of the protagonist was “a different beast,” but the choice to make the switch was simple. “I enjoy portraying a woman in anguish.”
Since the start of production on Don’t Worry Darling in the fall of 2020, gossip websites and Styles fans have obsessively followed every piece of information. As soon as Wilde and Styles started dating, the internet went crazy. The sex scenes were naturally the focus of attention when the teaser first appeared in May. “It’s not why we do it when it’s down to your sex scenes or seeing the most famous man in the world go down on someone. It’s not the reason I work in this field, explains Pugh. “Obviously, you’re going to have talks like that when you hire the most well-known pop artist in the world. Simply said, I’m not going to talk about that because [this movie is] greater and larger than that. And the individuals who created it are more significant and superior than that.
“I don’t believe that everyone’s life should be observed and documented just because they have this job. We haven’t committed to a reality TV project.
Although she hasn’t seen the movie, which will make its debut at the Venice Film Festival later this month, her respect for the cast and the Covid nurses—who showed up on set as early as 2 a.m. to make sure the movie’s production was done—is obvious. She cries, “If there’s one thing I yell about, it’s that these individuals made that movie. Every day they arrived on time, and they showed complete regard for the procedure.
Pugh was one of four children raised in Oxford, England, by a restaurant father and a former dancer mother. She participated in school plays and gave performances at her father’s cafés, but she never had official training. She submitted a video audition for The Falling at her mother’s request in response to an open casting call.
A disease called tracheomalacia, which can lead to recurring bronchitis and upper respiratory infections, is the cause of the low rasp in Pugh’s voice. Pugh spent the early stages of the pandemic in Los Angeles on lockdown in order to protect her health, taking solace in the balmy climate and bringing joy to Instagram users with her “Cooking With Flo” posts. But she couldn’t wait to get back to work. We all engage in this behaviour in part because we flee with the circus, she claims. The opportunity to travel, meet new people, form friendships with them, fall in love with them, and then move on and repeat the process is, in my opinion, one of the attractions.
The circus may, of course, have a life of its own. In 2019, when Pugh and actor-director Zach Braff started dating, much was said about their 21-year age difference. Pugh considered the encounter to be intrusive and harsh. “I think it’s incredibly wrong whenever I feel like that line has been crossed in my life,” she says. “Whether it’s paparazzi taking private moments, or moments that aren’t even real, or gossip channels that encourage members of the public to share private moments of famous people walking down the street.” “I don’t believe that people should have every element of their lives observed and documented just because they have this job. We are not participants in a reality TV programme.
Early this year, Pugh and Braff discreetly called it quits. Because it has been a partnership that everyone has an opinion on, Pugh explains, “We have been attempting to accomplish this separation without the world knowing.” “We simply thought that doing something like this would actually help us avoid having millions of people gush about how pleased they are that we aren’t together. So, we completed it. When I discuss it, my throat instantly becomes sore.
They worked together on the novel A Good Person, which will be released next year and is about a young lady who must put her life back together after a devastating catastrophe, prior to their split. Pugh was in mind when Braff penned the script. According to Pugh, “the movie we created together honestly was probably one of my most favourite experiences.” It seemed to be a pretty natural and simple thing to accomplish.
It also assisted her in realising her future professional goals. “I feel like I am now getting into this groove in my career where I’m knowing what I can take, what I give, and what I will not accept anymore,” says Pugh, who will also be seen in Sebastián Lelio’s ambitious Netflix film The Wonder this fall. She also recently finished her work on Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and started filming Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two over the summer. It has been a beautiful opportunity for me to get back into the mindset of “This is what you want to do” to be on these past few movies with some of the greats. However, the young actress’s life is not all work. In London, I’m now designing my kitchen.
Nevertheless, at least some people seem unaffected by the commotion. When I visited my grandmother, she asked, “So what’s all this fuss about your nipples then? ” Pugh remembers. She was shown some pictures by Pugh. Pugh says, “She gasped.” Because the outfit was stunning.