ELLE UK – Florence Pugh is having a moment of intense pleasure. Slowly, elegantly, with the tantalising precision of Nigella Lawson, she slices into a glistening ball of burrata. ‘Oh my god! Did you see that…’ It sits in front of her, drizzled in pesto; its contents oozing onto the plate. ‘It was quite sexual, wasn’t it?’ she says. There’s a pause. ‘Don’t tell everyone I said popping cheese was quite sexual.’
But eating lunch with Florence Pugh is a sensual experience. Maybe it has something to do with our afternoon being filled with eyebrow-raising innuendo (hers, not mine), or the fact that Pugh’s laugh – a full-bellied growl (she calls it her ‘dinosaur laugh’) – bounces across the restaurant every few minutes. Or perhaps it’s just that Pugh is one of the great sensual artists – someone unfettered by PR fluff; possessing prodigious appetite, bountiful opinion and a rare openness that makes everyone who meets her want to luxuriate in her company.
[…] The restricted living conditions have also been a moment of self-reflection: ‘I was so surprised by how unkind I am to myself! Living in lockdown I found there’s no point or energy in being annoyed at yourself for not reading that book, writing that song or working out that day. I’m teaching myself to find joy as much as I can and ease in these open long days.‘ This means also staying away from Zoom: ‘I’m not in any way tech savvy…I did a live virtual play, In Our Youth a few weeks back and as I was logging in I got the meeting ID number wrong and entered a strangers meeting that THANKFULLY wasn’t starting for another 30 minutes!‘
When Pugh was a 17-year-old at private school in Oxford, she auditioned for Carol Morley’s film The Falling, about a group of girls who mysteriously keep fainting. Pugh, who excelled in the arts but was never academic, got a main role opposite Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams, who was then still relatively unknown. Despite never attending drama school, it was a star turn from Pugh, who played a promiscuous teenager bewitching all who met her.
During filming, Morley didn’t let the girls watch themselves back on the monitor: ‘I think she didn’t want us to act for vanity, or to know what we didn’t like about ourselves on screen,’ says Pugh. ‘She wanted to keep us as naïve as possible.’ This style of direction has no doubt helped as Pugh’s career has taken off. ‘I’ve never been bothered by the odd things that happen on camera, maybe because of that. I don’t mind my double chins, that’s not the acting part to me.’
Earlier this year, Pugh was Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress, following her role as Amy March alongside Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson in Little Women. Greta Gerwig, the film’s director, tells me that Pugh brought her familiar and playful energy to set every day: ‘She instinctively knows how to be in a big family group. She was always the first one in the play-fight, the first one telling a joke, starting a giggle-fest, eating the prop cakes. She had that bubbling-over energy of sisterhood.’