Last April the British actor Florence Pugh was visiting New York with her sisters when she walked into a tattoo parlor. She didn’t know what she wanted. And then she did.
“All right, I want a bee,” she said.
“What kind of bee?” asked the tattoo artist.
“I want bird’s-eye-view. Quite mathematical. Not lifelike,” she replied.
The tattoo artist smiled. “For someone who didn’t know what she wanted,” he said, “you knew—exactly.”
“Yeah,” said Pugh, more surprised than anyone. “That’s weird.”
She tells me this story one afternoon in London, looking down at the tiny line drawing on her inner wrist and frowning a little in confusion at her own impulse. The tale of her first and only tattoo seems to say a great deal about the way Pugh operates. Ari Aster, who directed her in last summer’s terrifying Midsommar, suggests that she is “somebody who really needs to rely on her gut,” and that it’s important for others to trust that as well “because her gut is so extremely trustworthy.” It gives her a beguiling mix of confidence and modesty, of commitment without brash ambition.
The symbol she bears on her body is, it turns out, a worker bee.
“I know,” she says when I suggest this is apt, “and I had no idea.”