Florence Pugh for Don’t Worry Darling and Life in the Spotlight.

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Florence Pugh for Don’t Worry Darling and Life in the Spotlight.
Florence Pugh for Don’t Worry Darling and Life in the Spotlight.

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Florence Pugh knew she would be a something. At the Valentino fashion show in Rome last July, the 26-year-old British-born actor wore a pink Barbie dress with layers of tulle and a sheer top. After trying on the dress, Pugh and designer Pierpaolo Piccioli decided to remove the lining, eliminating any confusion about the purposefulness of the dress’ transparency. “I was comfortable with my small breasts,” she tells me as she sips a glass of rosé from a cozy hotel room in the English countryside. “And showing them like that – it got worse [people] that I was comfortable.

Pew received a barrage of internet nastiness. “It was just disturbing how disturbed they were,” she says. “They were so angry that I was confident and wanted to tell me that they would never go down on me. Well, don’t.” Pugh expanded on that sentiment on Instagram, blasting her body-shaming trolls: “Why are you so afraid of breasts? small? Big? To the left? right Just one? Maybe none? What. So. Terrifying. The post has already been liked more than 2.3 million times.

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“I feel like I’m now entering that path in my career where I know what I can take, what I can give and what I’m not going to take anymore.”

Fans have come to expect this kind of no-BS fiery candor from Pugh. Since making her big screen debut in 2015 as a teenager coming to terms with her own sexuality in Carole Morley’s the fall she built a career playing women who refuse to be silenced. Over the past seven years, she has starred in nearly two dozen projects, including her breakout performances in two 2019 films, Ari Aster’s indie horror hit Midsummer and Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the beloved classic little woman the latter of which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

“What was really remarkable about Florence, and why I think she represents her generation in such an iconic way, is that she’s really in her own skin. She’s incredibly grounded, but she’s also so confident,” says Scarlett Johansson, who stars with Pugh in the 2021 Marvel film. black Widow. “I didn’t have the same self-control when I was in my early to mid-20s. I was still growing up in the industry at the time when you had to really please to be accepted. And she has none of that at all. She herself is helpless. There is reliability in it.

Johansson would know. She talks about filming an action scene where she and Pugh were “I don’t know, 30 stories in the air, strapped to this pole” and talking about relationships. The director called the action, and Johansson recalls in awe that Pugh “could talk about every dumb guy she’d ever dated, and then two seconds later we were just connected to each other, hanging on by this thread for life. I thought this guy was just absolutely…she just has it. She’s so into it. It’s emotional availability. It’s a really rare quality and that’s the star quality she has.

Pugh has established himself as one of the most fearless, versatile talents of his generation—that rare actor who manages to both disappear into a role and still exude unique star power. “I guess in all my films there’s this element of women being forced into a corner, forced to have an opinion, forced to have a lifestyle,” she says. “And finally something cracks.”

This is an apt description of Pugh’s character, Alice Chambers, in her latest film, don’t worry honey a psychological thriller in which Pugh stars alongside Harry Styles and the film’s director, Olivia Wilde. Don’t worry, honey is set in an idyllic desert town in the 1950s, where every man works in the mysterious Victory Project. Women spend their days as homemakers: vacuuming and laundry, ballet lessons and shopping, martinis by the pool and preparing multi-course dinners. After one of the wives disappears, Alice begins to question everything: what everyone is doing there, where their husbands are really going, her own reality.

Pugh was originally offered a supporting role as Bunny, a neighborhood wife with an amazing wardrobe and killer one-liners. After the pandemic halted production and the schedule changed drastically, an opportunity arose to play Alice. (Wilde ended up playing Bunny.) “It was a different beast,” says Pugh, when he agreed to take on the title role, but the decision to make the switch was easy. “I love playing a damsel in distress.”

Gossip sites and styles have followed every little morsel with bated breath Don’t worry, honey from production beginning in fall 2020. After Wilde and Stiles became romantically linked, the internet went wild. When the trailer debuted in May, sex scenes were predictably what was captured. “When it comes down to your sex scenes or watching the most famous man in the world go all over someone, that’s not why we do it. That’s not why I’m in this industry,” says Pugh. “Obviously the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world is that you’re going to have those kinds of conversations. I’m just not going to discuss this because [this movie is] bigger and better than that. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that.

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“I don’t think that people, just because they have this job, every aspect of their lives should be observed and written about.” We didn’t sign up for a reality TV show.”

Although she has not seen the film, which is due to debut at the Venice Film Festival later this month, her reverence for the team and the Covid nurses who arrived to film as early as 2am to ensure the film’s production went ahead the finish line is obvious. “If I scream about one thing,” she says, “it’s that these people made this movie happen. They came to work every day on time and completely followed the process.”

Pugh grew up as one of four siblings in Oxford, England, where her father was a restaurateur and her mother was a former dancer. She acted in plays at school and in her father’s cafes, but never had formal training; she responded to an open casting call for The fall at the behest of his mother with a video audition recorded on her phone.

Pugh’s low-pitched voice is the result of a condition called tracheomalacia, which can cause recurrent bronchitis and upper respiratory infections. To protect her health, Pugh spent the start of the pandemic indoors in Los Angeles, seeking refuge in the warmer weather and spreading joy on Instagram with her “Cooking With Flo” videos. Still, she was eager to get back to work. “Part of the reason we’re all doing this is because we’re running with the circus,” she says. “I think one of the draws for me is seeing places, seeing people, befriending people, falling in love with them and then moving on and doing it again.”

Of course, the circus can take on a life of its own. When Pugh and actor-director Zach Braff started dating in 2019, much of their 21-year age gap. It was an experience that Pugh found cruel and invasive. “Whenever I feel that line has been crossed in my life, whether it’s paparazzi filming private moments, or moments that aren’t even real, or gossip channels encouraging members of the public to share private moments of famous people walking down the street, I think it’s incredibly wrong,” she says. “I don’t think that people, just because they have this job, every aspect of their lives should be observed and written about.” We didn’t sign up for a reality TV show.”

Pugh and Braff quietly ended their relationship earlier this year. “We were trying to do this breakup without the world knowing because it was a relationship that everyone has an opinion on,” says Pugh. “We just felt like something like this would really help us not have millions of people telling us how happy they are that we’re not together. So we did it. I automatically get a lump in my throat when I talk about it.

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Before the split, the couple collaborated good man, It’s set next year for a young woman who must pick up the pieces of her life after a sudden tragedy. Braff wrote the script with Pugh in mind. “The movie we actually did together was probably one of my favorite experiences,” says Pugh. “It felt like a very natural and easy thing to do.”

It also helped her realize how she wanted to work in the future. “I feel like I’m now entering that channel in my career where I know what I can take, what I’m giving and what I’m not going to take anymore,” says Pugh, who also appears this fall in Sebastian Lelio’s compelling Netflix film The miracle, just finished work on christopher nolan Oppenheimer, and started shooting that of Denis Villeneuve Dune: Part Two during the summer. “Doing the last few films with some of the greats has been a really wonderful way to get back into ‘This is what you want to do’ mode.” But it’s not work for the young actress. “I’m currently designing my kitchen in London,” says Pugh. “I’m literally designing it to be ready for ‘Cooking with Flo.'”

Still, some at least remained unfazed by all the fuss. “I went to see my grandmother and she said, ‘So what’s all this business with your nipples?'” Pugh recalled. Pugh showed her some pictures. “She gasped,” Pugh says. “Because the dress was so beautiful.”



Hair: Shon Hyungsun Ju; Makeup: Alex Babsky; Manicure: Jenny Draper; Production: Fabio Mayor and Ella Knight at Mayor Productions.

Video: Supervising Producer: Amanda DiMartino; On Location Producer: Jody Smith; Cinematographer: Felix Shmilinksi; Assistant Camera: Manu Amler; Sound: Duncan Etty; Editor: Chris Davies.

This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue Harper’s Bazaar, available on newsstands August 30.

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