By K.J. Yossman
Florence Pugh and Zach Braff reunited in London on Wednesday evening for the premiere of their movie “A Good Person,” which Braff wrote, directed and produced and which Pugh starred in and produced.
In the film, Pugh stars opposite Morgan Freeman as a young woman who descends into opioid addiction after a car she is driving is involved in a serious crash. During a Q&A session after the screening, Braff told the audience he wrote the screenplay for Pugh during the COVID-19 lockdown while still grappling with grief over the deaths of his sister and father in 2018 followed by his close friend Nick Cordero, who died from COVID complications in 2020.
“I wanted to tell the story because I was feeling these emotions. I lost a bunch of people in my life that were very important to me,” Braff said. “We were in lockdown and it was time to write. I mean, there was nothing to do other than to start a screenplay because that’s what I meant to do, that’s what I like to do, and I wanted to write something for Florence, and this is kind of what came out of me.”
Pugh, who was living with Braff at the time (the couple have since split up), recalled that the “Scrubs” star would squirrel himself away in their home office while working on the screenplay. “I wasn’t allowed to read any of it,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to read any of the scenes as he was writing it and he’d come up from the office [having] locked himself in there for a few hours and then would just start telling me all the pieces that he had discovered and I really wasn’t allowed to read anything. And so I kind of got to know the script and I got to know the character through us discussing it over dinner.”
Pugh added that Braff had infused a number of her quirks into the character of Allison, who often finds humor in the depths of her despair. “He knows how I talk, he knows how I take the piss out of people and I think he just put that in his script and I was allowed to come and fill in where it was needed,” she said. “But reading something that is dedicated for you written by someone who knows you so well is a wonderful gift.”
When Push was asked about having someone so close to her write a character for her that was so destructive, she replied: “I wouldn’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I think if anything, it means that he could believe that I could do it.”
“It’s no secret that I only pick very intense roles,” she continued. “This isn’t the first time I’ve been reduced to tears pretty much every single scene that I’ve been in. I like finding the ugliness in humans. I love being raw. I love being given a script where it challenges myself and I have never picked a role unless I’ve been scared of it. And this is someone that knew me, knew my potential and wanted to work with me. I think it would have been strange if he wrote a Nancy Meyers thing for me to be like, ‘So… you’re not going to cry in this movie.’ I’d be like, ‘Oh God!’
Braff, who was effusive about Pugh’s aptitude for acting, agreed. “I am in awe of her talent,” he said. “It’s like if you’re with the most incredible violinist in the world, and you’re going to write him a piece, you’re not going to write something that’s simple. You’re going to write something that is going to take all of them because you know that they can do it.”
The duo also discussed the making of the film, which was shot in just 26 days in Braff’s hometown of New Jersey. “When we moved to the town Florence felt like she was in a Nancy Meyers movie,” Braff recalled. Despite being surrounded by their friends (many of whom worked on the film) and even their dog, which they brought with them, Braff said the shoot was “very taxing, it was very exhausting” due to the heavy subject matter. “It was incredibly emotionally taxing on Florence.”
He revealed that Pugh, who recently wrapped on “Dune 2” and is also set to appear in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film “Oppenheimer,” would unwind after a long day’s shoot by cooking. “It’s actually incredible as Florence finds cooking relaxing and meditative,” Braff marvelled. “So at the end of these epically stressful days she would cook a giant meal for me or friends and family and I’d be like, ‘Are you sure?’ And she’d be like ‘No, I need to do this, I want to do this.’”
Pugh chimed in: “Well I would have been like crying all day so then it’s like, let’s see if onions get more water out.”
Although the film was completed by the end of 2022, they decided to hold its release until the spring of this year because “Florence had to two big films coming out,” Braff explained, referring to Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling” and psychological thriller “The Wonder.”
Braff, who said he was excited to finally unveil it to the world, added that while “A Good Person” is heavy-going, it has moments of levity. “I strategically designed places for the audience to have a rest, a breath, a laugh, because that’s actually what happens in life,” the filmmaker said.
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Florence Pugh on Making Movie ‘A Good Person’ With Zach Braff: ‘I Only Pick Very Intense Roles’
By K.J. Yossman