Its become almost a Hollywood reflex to refer to Florence Pugh, the breakout star of the indie stunner Lady Macbeth, as “the next Kate Winslet.” Like her fellow Brit did in 1994s Heavenly Creatures, the 22-year-old Pugh drew accolades for a disquieting performance that shifts unexpectedly from sympathetic to sociopathic. Her flair for theatrics was honed as a child in Oxford. “I grew up in a very loud and dramatic household, and we loved being in the spotlight,” she recalls. “I remember being about six years old, for the first day of school, and sitting in the back of a Chrysler, pretending to cry while listening to Tracy Chapman.”
Her years of amateur theatrics paid off: Pugh has been working almost nonstop since winning last years British Independent Film Award for best actress. First up: her scene-stealing turn as Queen Elizabeth de Burgh in Netflixs medieval drama Outlaw King, opposite Chris Pine as Scottish king Robert the Bruce. “We tend to kind of write women out of history,” she says. “So playing that queen alongside Chris was an amazing opportunity to help re-write it.” It also proved more visceral than Pugh had expected: “We were shooting nights, and I was in a cage dangled off a cliff in Scotland, in November, wearing a sack. It was very real.”
Pine was blown away by his co-star. “The level of assuredness and centeredness Florence has is off the charts,” he says. “I have never met an actor so comfortable in her own skin, so capable of taking ownership of a scene simply by the force of her presence. I learned from her. Also, I think her parents should teach a class on how to raise humans.”
Pugh is currently filming the role of Amy March in Greta Gerwigs Little Women. “Everyone who reads the book is so desperate to be Jo, because shes so opinionated and gorgeous,” she says with a laugh. “But I really enjoy playing the youngest, brattiest daughter. So yeah, I probably am a bit of an Amy.”
And then theres her leading role as Charlie, an aspiring actress turned double agent in John le Carrés The Little Drummer Girl, a limited series that premiered on AMC in November. “What is beautiful about Charlie is that shes actually quite normal,” says Pugh. “Were so used to watching these spectacular, fantastic characters on-screen do marvelous things. So its quite refreshing to see a normal take on such a scary world.” No matter what world Pugh inhabits, it would seem, she brings to the ordinary an unforgettable sense of the spectacular.
Hair by Takayoshi Tsukisawa; makeup by Tamah; produced on location by Beverly Boy Productions; special thanks to the XV Beacon Hotel; for details, go to vf.com/credits.
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