Florence Pugh praises director who left ‘no leaf unturned’ on set of The Wonder

Florence Pugh praises director who left ‘no leaf unturned’ on set of The Wonder

Florence Pugh has said the “passion” director Sebastian Lelio brought to the set of The Wonder was “exactly” what she needed at the time.

The British actress, 26, stars as Lib Wright in the adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel directed by Chilean filmmaker Lelio – who won an Oscar for his 2017 feature A Fantastic Woman.

Arriving at the film’s UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Pugh told the PA news agency: “Sebastian is an incredibly diverse and sensitive creator.

“He is someone who is considerate of every single person and being, whether it is crew or cast.

“There is no leaf unturned and he will do that until he finds the right thing. And for me, that was exactly what I needed at the time.

UK premiere of The Wonder – BFI London Film Festival 2022
Sebastian Lelio (Ian West/PA)

“I had this ultimate passion in my lap obviously all day and that is truly fantastic.”

Speaking about shooting in Ireland, she said: “Ireland, honestly I was thinking about moving there. I absolutely loved living there.

“The people are… There is nothing like their hospitality. I truly, truly enjoyed every second of it.”

The Black Widow actress stars opposite Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Dermot Crowley, Brian F O’Byrne and David Wilmot.

UK premiere of The Wonder – BFI London Film Festival 2022
Florence Pugh arriving for the UK premiere of The Wonder during the BFI London Film Festival 2022 (Ian West/PA)

Mank actor Tom Burke and Calm With Horses star Niamh Algar also feature alongside Elaine Cassidy and her daughter Kila Lord Cassidy.

Algar told PA: “This is a really beautiful film, it was such a joy to work on with the cast and crew. It was such a lovely environment and set, Sebastian the director, I was a huge fan of his work, just working with people you admire is great.

“Even though this film was based just after the famine, it was far from a famine on set, it was every Friday Florence would bring in food, it was like a tea-stand, all these boxes of doughnuts and cookies, she is such a generous human being. It was so nice to have that.

“Phenomenal actors… such an incredible calibre of actors to share this film with. It was a masterclass.”

Set in the Irish midlands in 1862, the psychological thriller is inspired by the 19th century phenomenon of the “fasting girls”.

Pugh plays an English nurse who is brought to a tiny village to observe 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell, a young girl who stops eating but remains miraculously alive and well.

Tourists and pilgrims mass to witness the girl, who is said to have survived without food for months, as the film explores if the village is harbouring a saint “surviving on manna from heaven” or if there are more ominous motives at work.

Describing what drew him to the project, Lelio told PA: “I loved the novel and I really liked the fact it explored this condition between science and religion, between fact and fantasy, reason and magical thinking.

“I thought that made it a very timely story of today. Reason versus fanaticism sounded really like what is going on in our world today.

“That was really interesting and also I really loved the two women at the centre, the nurse and the girl. That relationship, that transgenerational sorority that takes place there, I thought it was a really unique type of relationship to portray in a film.”

UK premiere of The Wonder – BFI London Film Festival 2022
Kila Lord Cassidy and Elaine Cassidy (Ian West/PA)

Talking about shooting on location in Ireland, he said: “I really loved filming in Ireland. I had to adjust to a bit of the schizophrenic weather but apart from that, I loved the people and I had a great, great team.”

Donoghue, who also co-wrote the screenplay for The Wonder, praised Pugh for the positivity she brought to the set.

She told PA: “What was lovely was that I actually got to watch her work. I got to go for 10 separate days to the set and be there hour after hour in the little tent listening in and watching on the monitor.”

Describing Pugh as “tireless”, Donoghue added: “She would do a take 20 times if needs be. Just endlessly energetic and imaginative and intelligent.

“And she set a really lovely, friendly tone. She had doughnuts delivered for the whole crew. That kind of thing. She was just wonderfully warm as well as hard-working.”

Speaking about adapting the book for the screen, she added: “It is exhilarating because it has only been six years since the novel came out but six years is a long time compared with how books (work).

“And so often film projects just don’t happen, so I just couldn’t be happier to have reached this culminating point, and in particular to bring it to London.”

The Wonder will be released on Netflix on November 16.