Florence Pugh is featured on the cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue. The cover also features stars Selena Gomez, Ana de Armas, Jonathan Majors, Keke Palmer, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Julia Garner, Regé-Jean Page, Emma Corrin, Hoyeon and Jeremy Allen White. Interview, photos and video showing off her contortionist skills, can be found below:

Florence Pugh is coming off of her biggest year yet. The actor, who appears on our 2023 Hollywood cover, toplined the erotic thriller Don’t Worry Darling to a number one bow at the box office, earned raves for her starring role in Netflix’s period mystery The Wonder, and filmed both Oppenheimer and Dune: Part Two—among the most anticipated releases of 2023. So yeah, her next 12 months are looking pretty good too. And Pugh will have a new Marvel movie, Thunderbolts, out in 2024.

It’s been an astronomical rise for the English actor, who tells Vanity Fair she knew she wanted to be an actor since she was a kid. She’s since navigated celebrity with the kind of warmth and wit that characterizes a true rising star. With overnight fame—and the rare controversy, which Pugh will never grant much attention—comes new lessons about how to approach everything from social media to career choices. Excerpts from a conversation about life and work.

Vanity Fair: You’ve had a huge year. How far ahead do you try to strategize?

Florence Pugh: Working with Marvel has helped hugely. Their schedule is so precise—they know when they’re going to make it, when they’re going to release it. What that means is if you want to fill your time with other things, you have to do it amongst that. You’re able to have a lot more leeway: “Oh, I’m going to be away doing this for this certain amount of time, so I need to make sure that I can get in a little indie here, or do a play.” So that’s what I’m trying to do now. With this year, I went into the year willing it to make its own thing, and didn’t have any projects specifically lined up—like, hopefully there would be one special big thing or one special little thing. And lo and behold, I got Oppenheimer and then I got Dune. That all started making its image of the year within the first four months or so.

With Dune, I’m curious about working with other actors of your generation who are of a similar profile. Did you find certain elements of commonality or shared experience?

It’s actually an interesting point because for the majority of my career I’ve worked with lots of older actors that I’ve had to pinch myself for working with. I’ve learnt a lot just by watching. To do Dune with those specific actors at the front, like Timmy [Chalamet] and Zendaya and Austin [Butler]—they are remarkable people, number one, and unbelievable actors, number two. They’re stars in their own ways, not in the cliché way of using the word. They’re just—they’re sparkly people. I’m now lucky enough to call them all my friends, which is super exciting. For me to be able to work with the “young Hollywood” of the moment, and them being beautiful people, and then have them on my phone when I want to text them—to see that that’s the direction in which our industry is going is such a wonderful feeling.

Your Instagram is one of the most beloved, I would say, in the industry. How did your use of social media evolve last year, as you were put under a microscope like never before?

The more follows you get, the more aware you are of what it is that you’re saying. Not that I say a lot of bad stuff, but not everybody understands who you are when they start following you. I noticed this with Little Women. I suddenly got all of these followers when the movie came out, and prior to that, I’d been my own person on Instagram, doing my own stupid videos, and everybody that had been following me for how many years understood that. Then you get this new wave of people coming in who don’t like the way that you are—suddenly you’re not just owning an account for yourself, you’re owning an account for millions of people.

You have to say the right thing, you have to post the right thing, you have to be all of the above. It does become more of a stress than it used to be. If my head and heart are hurting for no other reason other than just anxiety, I take it off my phone from the moment I can feel that anxiety. I don’t need to be reading all of that stuff, and I don’t need to be egging myself on to read it either. My relationship with social media has become more understanding of when it helps me and when it doesn’t—being okay to just take it off for a few days, or a week, or a month.

It brings the media frenzy around Don’t Worry Darling to mind. How much did you observe people picking apart everything you said or didn’t say, posted or didn’t post? How did you take that?

Ideally I don’t really want to be going down the Don’t Worry Darling conversation because this whole release for The Wonder has been so positive and I’ve been really excited to talk about that. I don’t really feel the need to go into the nitty-gritty details of Don’t Worry Darling. So if it’s okay, I’ll probably just let that one sit.

In Hollywood, for a long time being a role model meant appearing flawless, and that has changed into the appearance of something more human. Does that ever feel like a burden?

No, I love it, I love it. When I started out, my granddad would always tell me off and be like, “Why are you showing everyone your ugly spots?” He’d be really confused as to why I’d show my cellulite. My answer was like, “Well, I’d much rather do it than they do it, and then I feel ashamed.” There’s no pretending with me. When I put on makeup and step in a wonderful dress, I give credit to the people that made me look like that, and I also want my fans to know that (a) I don’t look like that all the time and (b) I also have stress acne, and I also have hairy eyebrows, and I also have greasy hair. I’ve always thought that was a way better way to do it. Just be honest and open—then no one has to call you out for anything. You are who you are.

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