Florence Pugh is an actor to keep a beady eye on over the next couple of years as she is set to make her big screen debut this week with The Falling.
The Falling will see Pugh team up with writer and director Carol Morley for the first time, while Maisie Williams and Maxine Peake are just two of the other great actresses that are on board the project as well.
We caught up with Florence to chat about the film, working with Morley and the cast, as well as making that leap into feature film for the first time.
- The Falling is set to hit the big screen this week, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
The Falling is set in 1969 and follows a girl's school that goes through a fainting epidemic of mass hysteria. I play the character Abbie Mortimer, who starts off this fainting epidemic.
She is the leader of this friendship group, she's young, she's naive, she's seductive, she's the first to break away and accept her puberty and test out her sexuality. This is the first shock for the friendship group as she is the first to step away. It was an amazing first film to start on.
- You take on the role of Abbie, so what was it about this character and the script that was the major draw for you?
When I first read the script it was just as daunting and eerie as when you watch it - it hasn't really changed much. It was an amazing script that I wanted to get to know, I wanted to meet the people behind it, and I knew that if it were to go that way then it would be an amazing script for my first film. It was the topics that it touched upon that made me really interested and it was the things that my character had to do that made me really intrigued.
As an actor, there is nothing more that you like to do then test yourself, push yourself to the limit, and really watch people when you are at your most naked and exposed. To me, that really did excite me as a young actor and I really wanted to jump into it and get going because it was an amazing show reel that I had to be a part of. When I did land the role, it was one amazing experience after another.
- The Falling marks your feature film debut, so how have you found the experience of stepping onto a film set for the first time?
It is bizarre and it is not something that you will ever get use to. It is weird industry, it is very strange, and you have to deal with all the things that everyone watches every day in the most normal and chilled way. The set particularly is something that every actor is never going to find easy or natural as it is a very obscure thing as you are on set for hours at a time, you wake up at 4am, you are in make-up by 5am, and you are on set by 6am - it really is long hours.
I had only done theatre and screen and theatre are two completely different kettles of fish - that is not to say that one is harder than the other. With film, you have to portray the same emotions for almost eight hours in a row; you are doing the same thing over and over again and you have to create that same buzz as the first time that you did it.
That was something that I definitely had to learn quickly because you are in the head of your character almost all day every day, and that is something that no one will be able to prepare you for other than having to go through it.
- The movie is set in 1969, so did you do any kind of research as you were preparing to play this role?
Yes I did. The main thing about every sort of character that I ever look into is to look at the arts and the music of the time, as you get a good feel about what is going on. When I did the first audition I automatically looked at the music that they were looking to - a lot of it was Dusty Springfield. It was amazing to see what was going on.
It is only when you see what people are living around that you transform yourself into what you are supposed to be thinking, what you are supposed to be dressing like, and who you are supposed to be. In terms of preparing myself, I mainly did that. I made a mix CD of the music of the time and listening to it constantly during the shoot - whenever I listen to them now I just automatically think of The Falling.
For me, that is a really good way of getting my head inside where I am supposed to be living, what date, what year, and I found that really helpful.
- The movie sees Carol Morley in the director's chair, so how did you find working with her? And what kind of director is she? She is such an exciting British director.
You don't get the feeling that she is far away, she is not a strict director, and she doesn't separate herself from the actors, as she wants to be with you and down and working with you. Not only is she a generous director, but she is also a generous person, she is so giving and she really was the mum on set - it was the most amazing thing for me to learn from.
Actually, working with her was great because I didn't feel like I had to be anything or prove anything to her because she already believed in me. All I had to do was to put myself in the image that she was trying to create. To know that your relationship with the director is so easy and you don't have to anything other than yourself and that is such an amazing position to be in. I will always thank her for that.
- It sounds like it was a very collaborative experience between the actors and the director.
Definitely. To be honest, film and filming itself is collaborative it is only because the people that get the photos are the actors and the performers. One of the most daunting things about the set is the fact that you have probably twenty people and each of them are working on you; they working all day long to create the image that the director wants to make on your face.
It is quite a daunting thing to realise that, although you are doing your job, - it is only because everybody else is doing their job to such a standard that you can do yours at the standard that you want. It is because of all of all of those opportunities that other people gave me that I could then do the performance that I wanted to give. That really is the main thing about being part of a film crew that you are all doing this together and if one person doesn't fly then the image won't come out right.
- Maisie Williams stars alongside you as Lydia, how did you find working with her? And what kind of time did you get to build and work on that relationship before you started filming?
Maisie and I play best friends in the film and so we spent a lot of time together, which was great because that meant that I got the chance to watch her work and watch her be normal. That was a great experience because she has been working in this business for quite a few years now, she gets it, she's watching it, she's lived it and it was amazing to be able to watch her and learn from her.
In the first week, I also got to work with Greta Scacchi and Monica Dolan and it was such an incredible first week that I got to learn from. Greta is one of the most talented women that I will ever meet - she is incredible. I got to help make scenes with her and Maisie and to learn from such amazing women was a truly amazing experience because they work in a certain way, they haven't been affected by the industry, they are just women, and they deal with real emotions in their acting, which is a skill.
- The movie premiered at the London Film Festival last year, so how did you find your festival experience?
It was my first red carpet and it was my first set of interviews so it was terrifying; I think I nearly wet myself about seven times. It was something that I had to go through and it is something that everyone has to go through - it wasn't painful but there's so many people watching you and so many people watching you walk in high heels.
It is scary but you just have to pretend that you are a pro. Me and the rest of the girls who hadn't done a red carpet before tackled it pretty well and we had an amazing experience that I will always be able to look back on. I also got to do all of my press with Carol, which was just wonderful. I am doing my job but get to hang out with the coolest woman alive - it was a bonus really.
- You were also nominated for Best British Newcomer - it must have been a thrill to be recognised for you work so quickly?
It was such a shock because I was being nominated alongside such amazing actors; I couldn't really believe it. Even on the night I didn't think I was going to win because the people I was nominated with were outrageous, they were incredible.
I just took it as an amazing experience to walk through and I had Carol and The Falling family there alongside me. I felt very safe and could experience it in a nice and calm mood (laughs).
- As I said that movie is released this week and it has been playing on the festival circuit, so how are you finding the responses to the film so far?
I have been excited to see what the public think of the film, as it has been nearly two years since we finished filming. The response has been great and I know that Carol is really pleased with the way people are responding to it - they are responding to it in the 'correct way' she says.
The questions that are coming out of it at the Q&A's are fab. People are really understanding it and the fact that they come out confused and baffled means that they have got the film. It is so nice to watch my two months of lessons being learnt in an hour and a half film, and then being able to watch people respond to it. It is so cool because it is something that you may never be able to witness again.
Therefore, when we do the Q&A's at the end and are able to answer people's questions, it is amazing. These are people who are watching something that we have created and the fact that they understand it is a joy.
- Finally, what's next for you going through the rest of this year? And what are your major goals now that you have made your big screen debut?
My major goal is to keep the quality of the work as high as The Falling. I think it is so easy for young actors to accept anything because they want work, but I am being really careful with the things that I am selecting. I really want the things that I am doing to be as high a standard as The Falling was.
I have just got back from LA; where I have been filming a pilot for called Studio City and I am waiting to see if that will be followed through. I am now getting back into the audition swing and hopefully, the next project will be just as good as the last two.