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Florence Pugh talks Midsommar and the true horrors of Hollywood

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Kayleigh Dray
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Florence Pugh talks Midsommar and the true horrors of Hollywood

“I was apprehensive to get into character as Dani,” admits Florence Pugh, “because I’ve never witnessed anything close to the trauma that she has.”

Florence Pugh is one of Britain’s most exciting young stars. Hot on the heels of wrestling drama Fighting With My Family – and before she makes Amy March her own in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women – she takes centre stage in Midsommar, from horror supremo Ari Aster (Hereditary). 

Pugh, 23, stars as Dani, who is grieving the loss of a relative, and takes a trip to Sweden for the famed midsummer festival when the pagan ritual takes a dark turn. Here, Stylist’s Kayleigh Dray chats to Pugh about the hugely anticipated Scandi horror.

How did you get the part in Midsommar?

I was filming [BBC drama] The Little Drummer Girl when Ari Aster’s script came in. I came back from a night shoot and we both got on Skype at 4am, we were so tired. By the end of the call, he was like, “Listen, I don’t really know what I should do in this scenario, but if you want it, you can have it.”

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What was it like to watch the film for the first time?

I saw it at 10am, which is the best time for a horror, with Ari sat next to me, so that was nerve-wracking. I didn’t really realise I’d seen so many atrocious images [while filming], because it’s so beautiful. I’m still processing it.

Was it as frightening to film as it is to watch?

Not really: we were in a bright, sunny field with flowers and butterflies. But I was apprehensive to get into character as Dani because I’ve never witnessed anything close to the trauma that she has. She’s dealing with so much pain. And I think the scary and horrific thing about this film is just watching someone not know how to deal with that grief.

Horror is having something of a renaissance at the moment. Why do you think people like being scared in 2019?

I don’t think that people like being scared: I think that the quality in the content of these films is deeper. We’re so bored of watching jump-scare films that don’t mean anything. The new horrors that have received such great press have something else going on – you feel emotionally connected to these people. And that’s what makes it so exciting.

What was it that drew you to the horror genre?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was drawn to the horror genre. I think I was drawn to Ari and that script. Because the Midsommar script was so was similar, but completely different, to the way that Hereditary looked, felt, sounded and read. Plus, the opportunity in the character was huge. And as I said, I’d never come close to feeling or playing anyone like that and that definitely did scare me, but obviously in a good way.

Hollywood can be a scary place. How do you maintain your sense of self amid all that pressure?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing people, who don’t really care about what make-up I use or what clothes I wear. There are always going to be those who say they want you to look different, but we all know that. It’s up to you if you listen or not.

You’ve worked with incredible women like Lena Headey and Emma Thompson. With that in mind, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve never really received advice in great one liners. It’s always been more along the lines of, I’ve watched like a legendary actor and they’ve just been totally charming to everyone on set or or displayed, you know, love and affection to someone that may not have usually receiver that. So I’d say the best advice is to keep your ears open and your eyes watching, yeah.

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Who is your dream co-star or director?

Oh my goodness! I don’t really have an ideal, I think what’s been so wicked is I’ve managed to, in a really amazing way, meet and work with some fantastic people. And honestly, Meryl Streep and Laura Dern were on my list for a really long time and I have ticked them both off in one film [Little Women] which is totally mad, so I’m pretty content. I’m very lucky and I know that.

While we’re on the subject of Little Women, have you always been a fan of the story?

Yeah, my gran used to read it to me. I think it’s one of those books that means so much to each generation. Of course, people keep on asking me if a new version needs to be made, but to that I say every generation is going to perceive what they need to completely differently. And I’m glad to have such a interesting and firm hold of what [Greta Gerwig] wants people to see from our version. I’m really excited to see what people think of it!

The critically-acclaimed Midsommar will be available to watch (if you dare!) in UK cinemas as of the 5 July.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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