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Florence Pugh is the modern, dangerous 'Lady Macbeth'

Florence Pugh in
Florence Pugh in "Lady Macbeth."
Laurie Sparham/Roadside Attractions
Florence Pugh in
Florence Pugh in "Lady Macbeth."
Laurie Sparham/Roadside Attractions

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“Lady Macbeth” is a film that sounds like a contradiction. It's a 19th Century period piece, but it’s also incredibly modern.

The film is loosely based, not on Shakespeare, but on the 1865 Russian novella, “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.” The film was written by Alice Birch and directed by William Oldroyd. Katherine, the central character in the film, is played by Florence Pugh.

Trapped in a stifling, loveless marriage as a 17-year-old, Katherine begins a steamy affair with a farmhand named Sebastian. As Katherine begins to assert her independence, she goes to drastic lengths to maintain her freedom.

Pugh was only 19-years-old when she filmed "Lady Macbeth" a couple of years ago, and had just one other film under her belt. She spoke with The Frame host John Horn about what it was like to play a role that's unfortunately too rare in Hollywood: a complicated, interesting female character.

Interview highlights:

On her character Katherine as a 21st Century woman trapped in the 1860s:

She is completely a modern woman. And that's partly why it's been so exciting to hear the feedback of everyone, because they love the fact that she's modern. They love the fact that you could essentially put her in any period and she would be just as badass as she was in 1865. Except, you know, we are used to seeing period films from that era where the women either just grow old and are completely miserable, or they commit suicide. And instead we watch this woman take hold of her own life and basically fight for her freedom again, which is something that we don't see very often. 

On being relatively new to film and working with a first-time director on "Lady Macbeth":

I'm so glad that I had done one [film role] before Katherine because ... I believe that I learn something new on set every time I'm working. But sets are very weird, they're strange to step on and off, and I'm glad that I had some experience of it. I think for Will [Oldroyd], I think it probably benefitted him hugely because there wasn't this kind of stigma of having to know everything all the time. And you don't. As long as you know what you need to be doing, then you're fine. 

On the film's portrayal of a female character who enjoys sex:

That's been such a great thing to chat to people about, because people are so timid to talk about sex and nudity. That's the best thing about Katherine— she not only goes out and gets what she wants but she goes out and gets who she wants. And actually it’s the first time we are seeing a period film where the woman is manipulating the man and she doesn’t give a toss about it. We usually see the men doing that ... and that's why it's so shocking. And why should it be so shocking? Because she's a woman? Okay, cool. Well, there we go. We've got a great character to show you what's what. 

To hear the full interview, click the blue player above.

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