Florence Pugh is already one of Oxford’s most recognisable young acting stars, writes George Gaynor.

Having already made a name for herself through acclaimed roles in The Falling, Lady Macbeth, Fighting with My Family, Midsommar and BBC series The Little Drummer Girl, she has again hit gold with her portrayal of Amy March in the coming-of-age film Little Women.

And as with her other roles, the former Wychwood and St Edward’s School pupil, has made the part her own.

Florence, 23, who has been romantically linked with Scrubbs star Zach Braff, says she and writer/director Greta Gerwig wanted to do something new with the headstrong and artistic Amy, who is often perceived as the stereotypical spoilt youngest child.

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She stars alongside fellow Oxford actress Emma Watson as Meg March, Saoirse Ronan as Jo and Eliza Scanlen as Beth, in the story of the four very different sisters as they come of age in difficult and changing times in America.

Written by Louisa May Alcott, it’s loosely inspired by the author’s own life, and is set in New England during, and in the aftermath of, the Civil War.

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“I think Greta wanted Amy to be more than the girl that burnt the book and ended up with the guy,” Florence says.

“Underneath all of that, in the book, she is this incredibly driven, ambitious girl that wanted something for herself.

“And, actually, finding fun in all of her naughtiness as a child was also a lovely challenge.

“I really thoroughly enjoy naughty kids in books or films. There’s something so fun about them because we secretly want to be them, and they say things how they are.

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“Also, through Amy, we see just how unrealistic it was for a woman to earn their own money, and she had to be the one that was realistic and marry rich. That’s the only thing that women could do to have a safe life.

“It was very cool and important to help Amy have a better rep.”

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California-born Gerwig, 36, first discovered Little Women when she was young, and fell in love with the characters; her favourite being heroine Jo (the role which Ronan takes on).

When she read the book again as an adult, the writer, director and actress “couldn’t believe how modern it was, and how urgent it was”.

She says: “I also started to research who Louisa May Alcott was, because I was interested as someone who was a writer myself, and then I discovered this woman who was so far ahead of her time, and was so fascinating.

“She never got married, she never had kids, but she kept the copyright to her book. She was the first woman to vote in the United States in an election in Massachusetts, before national voting was legal, but she voted herself. She was an abolitionist, she was immersed in the Civil War.

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“She was so heroic and inspiring, and suddenly I realised, ‘okay, so the heroine of my youth was Jo March, and the heroine of my womanhood is Louisa May Alcott, so how do I make these things collapse into each other?’”

There have been various adaptations of the novel – which was originally published in two instalments, in 1868 and 1869 – over the years.

In this retelling, Gerwig’s vision to channel the author into her characters results in an amazing amalgamation of Jo and Alcott.

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The inimitable, volatile and inspirational young woman is certainly one that Ronan – who has also starred in films such as Brooklyn, The Lovely Bones, and Mary Queen Of Scots – really wanted to play.

“This is crazy, because we only realised this afterwards, but when Greta pitched the movie to Sony – this was before she’d even made Lady Bird – she went in and said, ‘I’m going to direct Little Women; I just want you to know’, and I did exactly the same thing with Jo. I just sort of informed her that I would be her Jo March.

“When I went back to the book and re-read it and re-read the descriptions of all the girls, I was like, ‘I am the comical, gangly one; that’s me!’.”