Florence Pugh may have hit the big time, but she is no mind to compromise. Take, for example her frustrations at the internet storm surrounding Don’t Worry Darling.
Or perhaps her recent fashion foray at the Valentino couture show in Rome, to which she wore a stunning pink gown.. After facing a barrage of abuse online, Pugh challenged her critics on Instagram, asking: “why are you so scared of breasts?”
In other words, Pugh is bold as the characters she has become known for playing: from Lady Macbeth in the eponymous indie masterpiece, to the female wrestler Saraya Knight in Fighting With My Family and, most recently, super assassin Yelena Belova in Marvel’s Black Widow.
So it’s surprising that the 26-year-old tells RSNG.com fear is the foundation of her courage…
RSNG You have an interesting take on fear – namely that you embrace it and welcome it into your life, right?
FLORENCE PUGH, BRITISH ACTOR “I have always tried to force myself to pursue not just new avenues, but uncomfortable ones. Fear plays a big part of that, of course, and fear for an actor is something that can really ground a career.
“I have always had the view that to really succeed, you need to push yourself further and harder than the last time, and that’s the way I go about what I do – to the extent that the more I fear something the more I have to do it. That’s just who I am.”
RSNG Is there a point where fear is put to one side in order for you to actually do the job in hand?
FLORENCE PUGH “Fear in acting is only really about the future. When you are on stage or the cameras are rolling, you don’t feel fear.
“I’m sure there are many careers and instances where fear is in the very moment, and it grips you, in much the same way as we pretend we are gripped by fear when we are acting. What is interesting is that as actors we are all fakers – I don’t know a single actor who is genuinely gripped by fear in the moment, even though they can portray it so well.
“When you learn that fear is just a perception of the future, and that in that exact moment of it being played out it is absent, it frees you to take on the very biggest challenges. All of your experiences that have gone before prove to you that the fear you had is unfounded, so why then stop going for the very biggest of projects?”
If what is holding you back is in your control – such as tempering or conquering fear – then it’s down to you to solve it
RSNG It seems you have thought about the role of fear in your career very deeply?
FLORENCE PUGH “I think you have to. I think you owe it to yourself to really work out who you are, what you are capable of, and more to the point, what will hold you back.
“If that thing that holds you back is something out of your control, like ‘will I get cast for this movie?’, then do everything in your power to try to make the situation work for you – try all you can to give yourself the best opportunity of success.
“If, on the other hand, what is holding you back is in your control – like tempering or conquering fear – then it’s down to you to solve it.”
RSNG Speaking about fear ‘in the moment’ – what about action roles? Surely facing something that is physically potentially life-changing, such as injury, means you experience fear in the present?
FLORENCE PUGH “I think where I am concerned I’m never going to put myself in that extreme of a situation where I feel that.
“In Black Widow, clearly there was a line between the moves and actions I would do, and those I would give to my stunt double. I mean, I’m brave, but I’m not stupid [laughs]!
“What generally happened is I hated the feeling of having to pass a scene, but no sooner did I see my stunt double doing their thing, I was actually quite relieved that it wasn’t me!”
The media like to style you into being a certain thing or a certain way and the only way to get away from that is to be forceful with who you really are
RSNG Do you feel we have an accurate representation of what you are really like? Are you equally as tough in real life as many of the characters you play?
FLORENCE PUGH “I think my media image is what it should be. I know the media like to style you into being a certain thing or a certain way, and the only way to get away from that is to be forceful with who you really are; but then that can cause issues because not everyone is vocal or extroverted.
“There’s also the issue of not wanting your voice to be too loud. Some of the people I admire the most in life are quiet, considered and are certainly not the types to shout an opinion from the rooftops. Society requires all of these people for it to succeed.
“I also still have some reservations about the quality of my output; I still have doubts. Of course I am proud of my work, but I know that so much of what we do is marketed to the hilt, and a lot of it is put out there with a sheen or a veneer.
“So much of how we all present ourselves is filtered. That’s a shame but I think it’s just inevitable, and more so now than ever before.”
RSNG Yet without that you wouldn’t be where you are today?
FLORENCE PUGH “True. I just feel, and I hope, we may be able to move into an area where we can get back to appreciating a quieter version of ourselves.
“There is so much noise about at the moment, and everyone is desperate to be heard. We need to listen to those who don’t have a voice.”
RSNG Does that not translate quite nicely into your new movie, Don’t Worry Darling?
FLORENCE PUGH “I guess it does, yes. It is a dystopian film that looks at personality and community and our ability to accept and challenge in equal measure.
“I feel it’s an important film to make, because after everything that has gone on over the past few years, we can surely all relate to that way of thinking.”
WHAT NEXT?* Read this RSNG.com interview with Margot Robbie on the anarchic appeal of Harley Quinn…