Florence Pugh Suffered Self-Inflicted 'Abuse' For Ari Aster's Midsommar

Ari Aster's 2019 movie "Midsommar" is an endurance test for audiences, putting viewers through one horrific emotional trial after another. Making the movie was a bit of a trial as well, as the actors had to put themselves into pretty challenging places both physically and mentally in order to tell Aster's traumatic tale. 

"Midsommar" recounts the story of Dani (Florence Pugh), who loses her entire immediate family in a tragic accident and decides to go on a trip abroad with her boyfriend and his friends in order to not be alone in her grief. Instead they almost all end up being the victims of a secretive Swedish village who practice ritual murder, which is pretty brutal. In order to make Dani's experience feel authentic, Pugh had to get really into her mindset, and it was hard to leave behind.

During an interview on the Off Menu Podcast (via Variety), Pugh admitted the experience of making the film was far from a stroll in the park. "Each day the content would be getting more weird and harder to do. I was putting things in my head that were getting worse and more bleak," she explained, adding, "I think by the end I probably, most definitely abused my own self in order to get that performance."

Continuing, Pugh revealed that she felt genuinely guilty when she went from working on "Midsommar" straight into her next film, sharing the details of her emotional ordeal. She wanted to make it clear that filming the movie wasn't entirely a miserable experience and she called Aster a "stand-up comedian at heart," but playing Dani still left its mark on the actor.

Immense guilt for Dani

Florence Pugh went from filming "Midsommar" directly to Greta Gerwig's "Little Women," which was a decidedly different experience. She described her feelings of guilt for leaving her character behind without having time to grieve:

"I remember looking [out the plane] and feeling immense guilt because I felt like I'd left [Dani] in that field in that [emotional] state. It's so weird. I've never had that before. [...] Obviously, that's probably a psychological thing where I felt immense guilt of what I'd put myself through but I definitely felt like I'd left her there in that field to be abused [...] almost like I'd created this person and then I just left her there to go and do another movie."

Obviously Dani wasn't a fully-realized human being, but she was real enough to Pugh that she felt sadness leaving her with the Harga after everything that happened in "Midsommar." The movie doesn't exactly have a happy ending, in spite of Dani's smile while she watches he ex-boyfriend burn. It's understandable that Pugh went through a bit of emotional whiplash, but at least she had a warm and comforting set on "Little Women" where she could process things.

The challenges of movie-making

Florence Pugh really put herself through the paces to play Dani, allowing herself to go to the darkest depths of the human experience in order to portray the character's pain. She explained that the torture was mostly self-inflicted, but that there were some uncomfortable things that were beyond anyone's control. Movie making isn't always fun and games, as Pugh explained:

"We were shooting in a very hot field with three different languages, so I wouldn't say that all of it was pleasurable. Also, it shouldn't be. Why would making a movie like that be pleasurable?"

Shooting a film in a Swedish field in the middle of summer couldn't be too comfortable, though thankfully the costumes were mostly light and airy. The most brutal thing for Pugh was probably being trapped inside of the massive flower dress from the film's climax, though at least she didn't have to endure the bear suit like her co-star, Jack Reynor. Now that had to be hot.