'I have the right to be with anyone I want to': Pugh on her relationship

WORDS by HANNAH NATHANSON PHOTOGRAPHS by LIZ COLLINS STYLING by AURELIA DONALDSON Florence Pugh is having a moment of intense pleasure. 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 Fighting With My Family actor wore a sequinned, column dress to the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar party, February 2020. The Midsommar star paired fuchsia with black to wear to the EE British Academy Film Awards 2020, February 2020. The Brit wore a red mini dress, featuring a sweetheart neckline, to the Charles Finch & CHANEL Pre-BAFTA Party, February 2020. The Black Widow star wore a coral maxi dress to the Virtuosos Award presentation, January 2020. The Little Woman actress wore a sequinned column dress to the 25th Annual Critics' Choice Award, January 2020. Pugh wore a black skirt suit to a morning photocall for Little Women at the Corinthia Hotel London, December 2019. Pugh wore a peach, drop-waist, maxi dress to the Little Women Premiere at Cinema Gaumont Marignan, December 2019. Pugh wore a pink, gingham, cut-out, column midi dress to the Little Women photocall at Soho Hotel, December 2019. Pugh wore a blazer dress, complete with bubble hem, and knee-high boots to the 'Indie Contenders Roundtable', November 2019. The actor wore a purple, ruffled mini dress to the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences' 11th Annual Governors Awards, October 2019. The star wore an asymmetric floral playsuit to the World Premiere of The Little Drummer Girl, October 2018. Pugh stood out in pink and red at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition Preview Party, June 2018. The award-nominated actress wore a tulle, mossy green gown to the British Independent Film Awards, December 2017. Pugh wore a simple, 1990s-style maxi dress to a screening and Q&A for her new film Lady Macbeth, July 2017. A geometrically-patterned maxi dress was the choice du jour for The London Evening Standard British Film Awards, December 2016. Pugh wore an aubergine, grecian, maxi dress to the London gala screening of The Falling, April 2015. Pugh wore a black cocktail dress to the 58th BFI London Film Festival Awards, October 2014. Pugh is at that delicious stage in her career when she’s still game to offer a journalist more than an hour’s ‘chat’ on her cover shoot, so we’ve decided to make lunch. Her father was a restaurateur and she has a successful sideline testingrecipes on her Instagram Stories, so she’s very much at home rolling up her sleeves in the confines of a stranger’s kitchen. She explains that she’s spent the past few months in LA but just touched down in London for acoupleofnights before heading back to her family home in Oxfordshire. 'I’ve saved a slice of each loaf in the freezer so my mum can try the progress, from beginning to end when the lockdowneases.' As well as sharing her bread-making skills, Pugh is looking forward to getting back to normality after lockdown: 'I keep on daydreaming about walking through Soho or East London as the sun's out with an M&S canned cocktail (it’s tradition) in hand and my girlfriends on my arms,' she says. 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. As chefs come into the room, one with mounds of dough, another bearing plates of dessert, Pugh is like an excitable puppy. ‘I’ve grown up in a very big family, where eating, performing and chatting were an every Sunday thing,’ she says as we sit down to enjoy our pasta. ‘We’d have big lunches with all sorts of people from aroundthe world – musicians, artists, writers – and it was expected that we [kids] spoke and hosted.’ 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 fromPugh, 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. 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. ‘But with Florence, it feels to me like there’s some elements of big sister little sister.’ With the latest Marvel film, Pugh is making her own mark: her newfound stellar status wasconfirmed in just 30 seconds in a trailer shown during the Super Bowl, watched by more than 100 million people. Much has been made of the age gap (much of it pillorying – more of which later) but when you spend time with Pugh, you wonder how a 24-year-old man could make the cut. There have long been rumours that stars of Marvel films have to submit to gruelling workouts and exacting diets, which is interesting given Pugh has previously spoken out about bad body- confidence experiences she had in Hollywood as a teenager. And people making sure I was in the “right”shape.That’s not me at all.’ Still, she says she ate well, cooking in the morning and taking in a Tupperware of homemade food each day. She recently did a series of Instagram Stories berating her iPhone for automatically changing a filter on a selfie she posted: ‘It should be your decision,’ she says, still visibly riled by the experience. ‘I’m not saying I want to wave around my flaws, but thepoint is that I should have decided that those were eliminated, not my phone automatically programmed to take away the things that make me me.’ She admits she approaches online life with a touch of amusement. When paparazzi shots emerged of them holding hands trolls weighed in on the Scrubs actor saying: ‘You’re 44-years-old’, Pugh replied with the simple retort: ‘And yet he got it’. It’s a strange side of fame thatyou’reallowed to be torn apart by thousands of people even though you didn’t put that piece of you out there,’ she says, suddenly serious. I thought, “I can’t be the girl who’s eating M&Ms while giving Martin a standing ovation.”’ We’re on our third bowl of pasta and our interview time is up.