Florence Pugh, 23, is a hilarious delight as Amy March, who finds new life in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women adaptation. As part of our November cover story starring Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan, EW chatted with the Midsommar star about understanding Amy, working with Gerwig, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Amy isn’t always the most popular March sister. How did you initially feel about taking on the role?
FLORENCE PUGH: I’ve never disliked her, so I find it very funny that people are like, “Oh my God, you’re playing the worst sister ever!” I suppose there’s something about me playing her. [Laughs] I remember always liking a bratty kid, whether it was books or films, because we all know someone like that. They always represent the worst and the best sides of all of us. There’s something quite endearing about someone that just says exactly what they think. Me getting my little fingers on playing both younger version and older version was like, “Oh my God, what’s going to happen?” [Laughs]
Amy and her relationship with Jo get much more focus in this version. How did you and Greta approach that?
I can imagine that people hate her because she’s never really been beefed out. You never really understand why her and Laurie get together; you wish that it was Jo and Laurie, so it doesn’t really make sense. As fairy tales go, that’s not the ideal way: to let the bratty sister win the guy. So I understand why she’s a frustrating character. But coming to this job, it was always laid down that this was very much an ensemble cast, and Greta really wanted to tell a story of these girls, not just one arc. When we got to set and we started working together, we found our own dynamics…. We formed our own friendships anyway. It was very easy bringing that to the table [for Amy]. She deserved a bit of spotlight and I hope people watch her and go, “I get it. I understand her now.”
You, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, and Eliza Scanlen really feel like sisters. Did you bond off set?
We weren’t faking any of those wrestles or arguments or cuddles. We were living [together]; when I got there, we had to hit the ground running and get to know each other very quickly. That, for me, was easy because we all understood one another and had the same sense of humor. We had dinner nights: Every week we’d try to do a dinner and have a bit of a slumber evening. At that time, it was getting cold and cozy, so we were all making mulled wines and cooking Bolognese. It was very idyllic.
You and Saoirse get pretty physical, too.
[Laughs] Saoirse and I would give each other funny looks, and that would mean, “Let’s fight.” In classic fashion, we would just either be wrestling or messing about — all of that was totally real, to the point where in this fight, I remember I was like, “Saoirse, just jump on me and hit me!” And she goes, “Okay!” That was so much fun, and can only happen when you trust someone and you love them. We really did.
What was it like, getting into character as Amy on-set, and recreating so many iconic scenes?
Here’s a little thing: I had literally just finished MIdsommar: In a glorious, colorful way, it’s horrific. Obviously you can imagine the exhaustion of where my head was at when I finished. I went straight from that set to Boston to do my hair and makeup tests for Little Women. I couldn’t have thanked Amy enough for that opportunity. She’s so fun and young. [Laughs] It was such a nice way to move on and let go. Greta really let me enjoy that. I think every single scene that all the girls are in — just so that you know, in the script, there are about four lines that are written over the top of one another. It’s a bit like music, like sheet music. That is specifically how Greta writes. She expects you to say your line and say it exactly as it’s on the page. So you end up creating this cacophony of noise and sound. That was the most fascinating thing about the way Greta directed. It’s all very musical. Every single scene where I get to just talk to a load of shit over Saoirse or Emma or Eliza was absolute bliss. I love to run wild and rampant. Being this little sassy girl, I love the scene where I go in and I apologize to Jo. That was actually one of my audition tapes. I loved it when I did it for the first time, and when we did it on the set, it was brilliant. She’s so cold.
What was it about Greta’s specific vision that you were so attracted to?
The thing that I grabbed hold of on Greta’s version was that these girls are so cheeky and they are so naughty and they are the best and the worst sisters and they hit each other and they love each other and they eat food all the time. It made them normal and it made them breathe and it made them alive. Ultimately, what everyone is trying to say with Little Women is just because they’re wearing those clothes and they say those things doesn’t mean that they are not totally cheeky and delicious underneath, and as normal as the girls that are 10, 11, 12, 13 now. That’s what Greta did so well.
You also got to play opposite Meryl Streep (as Aunt March) a lot. Were you intimidated?
Weirdly, no. I mean, yes, obviously. But when you’re with someone who just breathes and you’re transfixed by them, you feel at peace. It doesn’t matter what you do; they’re there, and they are going to make it magnificent each time. There’s nothing better than acting with someone who’s incredible. It makes you feel incredible. That’s the best way of summarizing acting in a scene with Meryl Streep. [Laughs]
Why is Little Women an important story to tell in 2019?
Every generation needs it. I don’t think we will ever stop needing a story about four women set in a time where they were told they couldn’t do things, and yet they did.
For more on Little Women and other upcoming fall movies, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly at Barnes & Noble Friday, or buy it here now. (The issue will be available on newsstands starting Oct. 23.) Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.