Florence Pugh's First Movie Audition Left Casting Agents Speechless

Five years before her breakout role in the ultimate breakup movie, Ari Aster's "Midsommar," Florence Pugh made her feature-film debut in an indie British drama called "The Falling," written and directed by Carol Morley. At the time, Pugh's costar, Maisie Williams, was much more famous for her role as Arya Stark on HBO's "Game of Thrones." In "The Falling," Pugh and Williams play Abbie and Lydia, two best friends at a girls' school of the strict, "sit down, stand up" variety. Judging from the way the trailer positions its young stars with the words "starring Maisie Williams and introducing Florence Pugh," someone at BBC Films seems to have recognized that they had a significant new talent on their hands with Pugh.

Casting agents apparently felt the same way. A 2023 cover story in Vogue revealed that Pugh was just 16 when she tried out for "The Falling" in an open audition, but even then, she made an impression. Morley told the magazine that after Pugh departed from her audition, a hush came over the room, leading the director to ask her casting agents, "What's the matter? Did you not think she was amazing?"

"They said to me: 'We've got goosebumps. That was like discovering a young Kate Winslet,'" Morley explained.

A girls' school, 'not a mental institution'

The official synopsis of "The Falling" (per the BBC) details how a "fainting outbreak" occurs at the aforementioned girls' school. Vogue describes it as "collective hysteria," and the trailer also contains references to "crazy witches" and secrets rising to the surface. "This is a school," someone says. "It's not a mental institution."

It's as if the folk-horror hysteria of "Midsommar" were already bubbling under the surface. Compare the scene in that movie where Florence Pugh suffers self-inflicted abuse as the May Queen, Dani, kneeling on the floor and crying her eyes out, surrounded by empathetic women who fall in synch with her grief, after she spies her boyfriend cheating on her.

If her audition for "The Falling" had half as much emotion as that scene, it's easy to see why the film's casting agents might have been rendered speechless. Of course, "Midsommar" wasn't Pugh's only breakout film role in 2019. She also received her first Academy Award nomination for her performance that year as Amy March in Greta Gerwig's adaptation of "Little Women."

From there, Pugh was off to the races, donning a Russian accent and trading barbs and blows with Scarlett Johansson in Marvel's "Black Widow," for starters. It just goes to show that Pugh has done some of her best work when surrounded by women, and that's a trend that dates back to when she first appeared onscreen in "The Falling."