Florence Pugh shares the story behind the ‘raw, honest and broken’ songs she wrote for ‘A Good Person’
An Avengers stage musical will soon be coming to a theme park near you, but Marvel Studios has yet to greenlight a song-and-dance feature film starring one of their many super-teams. If they ever decide to move forward with The Greatest Showhero though, they’ve got a singer-songwriter already in house: Florence Pugh. Marvel’s newly minted Black Widow had musical ambitions before becoming an in-demand actress, and she gets back to her roots in her latest film, A Good Person, writing and performing two original songs for the Zach Braff-directed recovery drama.
Asked whether that means she’s volunteering to write tunes for a Marvel musical, the star tells Yahoo Entertainment that’s likely not in her future. “Absolutely not,” laughs Pugh, whose next mission as Yelena Belova comes in Thunderbolts, an all-antihero team-up movie in the vein of DC’s two Suicide Squad films.
Due in theaters in 2024, the blockbuster-to-be reunites the late Natasha Romanoff’s adopted sister with their “father,” the Red Guardian (David Harbour) as well as other familiar faces like the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and the U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell). They’re all working for General Thunderbolt Ross, a role originated by the late William Hurt, but now played by Harrison Ford in his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut.
“If I do [write songs for Thunderbolts], I’m sure David will be giving me a call,” she adds, referring to Harbour — who is married to Grammy-nominated singer Lily Allen. As for whether she’s got a dream song in mind for Yelena, Pugh jokes that she’s “writing that as we speak.” Too bad “Back in Black” is already taken.
Marvel musical notwithstanding, Pugh has made a point of reviving her singing career in the past year, collaborating with Don’t Worry Darling co-star Harry Styles on a tune featured in that film and teaming up with her troubadour brother, Toby Sebastian, for his recent single “Midnight.” Her songs in A Good Person are also part of her growing musical ambitions — she performs the versions heard in the film, and then recorded them again after the film wrapped as fully-produced numbers.
In the film, Pugh plays Allison, a Jersey girl whose life is upended by a tragic car accident that leaves her severely depressed and hooked on opioids. At first unwilling — and then uncertain — how to find her way out of the depths of her addiction, she finds her way into a recovery group and slowly begins to heal. Songwriting becomes one of Allison’s outlets, and the two tunes she produces, “I Hate Myself” and “The Best Part,” speak directly to her state of mind on her long road to recovery.
“Zach always wanted Allison … to be able to [play] the piano and sing,” recalls Pugh, who also performs a cover version of the Velvet Underground’s “After Hours” early on in the movie. “I didn’t quite know what I was going to sing or what it was going to be, but when I read the script I understood who she was and what I needed to do: I needed to get into her head.”
Watch Florence Pugh perform “After Hours” in a clip from A Good Person
As the title suggests, “I Hate Myself” is heard at a point in the film when Allison is in a particularly vulnerable place, having fallen off the wagon and checked herself into a rehab facility. Pugh says she worked hard to find a way to channel that pain. “If I was her, what would I be wanting to do to myself? What would I be wanting to say?” she explains. “I wrote that and I played it for Zach and Zach was like, ‘Yes, this is exactly the mindset that she’s in and it’s wonderful and it’s going to be at the end of the movie.'”
After creating the lyrics for that pivotal song, Pugh then had to consider how “I Hate Myself” would sound. “She’s playing on a creaky piano and [singing] with a creaky voice and probably feeling a bit worse for wear … I didn’t want it to sound glossy or glitzy or glittery. It just needed to be raw, honest and broken.”
“The Best Part” is written under somewhat better circumstances with a healthier Allison trying to speak to her ex-fiancé Nathan (played by Chinaza Uche) through song.
“I actually hadn’t worked with Chinaza for like a month or so, because we’d [filmed] all our stuff at the beginning and then we never hung out again until the end,” Pugh explains. “I’d been writing this song [as Allison for Nathan] just trying to again, figure out, What is it that she wants to say? Why can’t they be together? What is it that is holding her back? If she were to just give him a piece of her heart, what is it she’d be wanting to say to him?
“I wrote that song and I sent it to Chinaza the night before we met up to do our rehab scene,” she continues. “It was supposed to be for us and again Zach said, ‘I love it. We’re putting it at the end. This is what she’s going to be singing when she hasn’t sang and she’s performing [in public] for the first time.”
In a separate interview, Braff remembers the experience of watching his star — and former off-screen partner — crafting the songs that underlie pivotal moments in the film. “I liked the idea of [music] being the vehicle by which her character tries to process her trauma,” the Garden State director explains. “It’s a form of journaling, but if you know how to play the guitar or the piano, you can combine that into songwriting. It was unique to be able to have the lead actress write a song in character.”
And Pugh says that she does consider “I Hate Myself” and “The Best Part” to belong equally to herself and to Allison. “I performed them in the movie as Allison — and I’m really happy with the fact that they are the recordings we made on the day, and they’re as tired as they need to be and as honest at they need to be.” Once shooting wrapped, she took both tunes into the recording studio and sang them again… as Florence. “I got to do them in the way that I want them to be away from the movie,” she says, happily. “To be able to perform them as [my character] and perform as me was really lovely.”
A Good Person opens in theaters on March 24.
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