Florence Pugh Might Just Save the Movie Star From Extinction
When Florence Pugh was a child, she hated to cry in public. If she had an argument with her parents, she would run to the bathroom, lock the door, and sit under the sink. Only then would she weep. “When I started acting I remember thinking, ‘Ooh, this isn’t good news’ because we all know how amazing it feels when you see the character you’ve been following finally crumbles,” she says. “And I just couldn’t do it.” Now she cries so often in movies that it’s become something of a meme—her guttural wails in Midsommar, her blubbering in Little Women, and her screams in Don’t Worry Darling have all gone viral. Because a childhood illness affected her breathing, Pugh still has a gravelly voice that lends itself to anguish. She used to imagine her family in coffins to achieve the ultimate ugly cry: “I never wanted it to be prissy. For me, it’s snot or nothing.” But she’s no one-trick pony: equally adept at comedy and action, she has appeared in superhero flicks and indies. She’s a magnetic and multifaceted onscreen presence, the kind that doesn’t come around very often. Pugh is in the midst of what might be the biggest year of her career. On the heels of A Good Person—a drama written and directed by her ex-partner, Zach Braff, which she also produced—she’ll star in two highly anticipated movies: Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two. Both are the sorts of epics that Hollywood rarely makes anymore, especially in an era when franchises, not movie stars, sell tickets. Studios and directors are fretting that the theatrical experience may die if a new crop of young stars can’t lure audiences. A recent National Research Group survey asked moviegoers to name the actors who could get them to a movie theater. The top answers all qualify for AARP cards: Tom Cruise (60), Dwayne Johnson (51), and Tom Hanks (66). Villeneuve says he cast Dune: Part Two with the future of cinema in mind. “I needed people who have the necessary charisma,” he says. “I think Florence, Zendaya, Timothée [Chalamet], and Austin [Butler], they will be the new power in Hollywood. These strong, charismatic figures will drag people back to the theater.” Pugh has charisma to spare. Along with her famous frown, she deploys her infectious smile at opportune moments, often on the tiny screens where our social feeds scroll. She glowed in royal purple Valentino, a knowing grin on her face and Aperol spritz in her hand, as she strutted around Venice last fall the same day the director she was allegedly feuding with, Olivia Wilde, had to explain why Pugh was absent from a Don’t Worry Darling press conference. She gleefully called out trolls who scolded her for wearing a transparent dress that showed off her nipples. She beamed when she debuted a new buzz cut at the Met Gala in May.