All The Signs That Pointed To Florence Pugh And Zach Braff's Breakup

In August 2022, Florence Pugh came forward with some sad news about her relationship with Zach Braff (albeit, notably less sad than anything that happened in her breakout blockbuster "Midsommar"). In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, the on-screen May Queen revealed that the pair quietly called it quits earlier that same year. "We've been trying to do this separation without the world knowing, because it's been a relationship that everybody has an opinion on," Pugh said. "We just felt something like this would really do us the benefit of not having millions of people telling us how happy they are that we're not together. So we've done that. I automatically get a lumpy throat when I talk about it."

According to Vanity Fair, Pugh and Braff first met in 2019 on the set of his short film "In the Time It Takes to Get There." They only went public after paparazzi snapped them holding hands in NYC that April. Despite the barrage of press, this notoriously private couple has always tried to keep their relationship under wraps. In fact, they did such a good job that fans had no idea they'd secretly split. Pugh even kept Braff on her Instagram grid and Braff still follows her on Twitter and Instagram, as of this writing.

In retrospect, there still might have been some signs that this pair wasn't meant to last, but hindsight is always 20/20. Buckle up, we're about to do some serious detective work on Florence Pugh and Zach Braff's breakup.

Florence Pugh constantly had to defend their age gap

Zach Braff is 21 years older than Florence Pugh, but age gaps aren't uncommon in Hollywood. In some cases, this difference in age feels a little uncomfortable (see: Demi Lovato's powerful single "29," which seemingly calls out ex Wilmer Valderrama). In other cases, it makes sense. Age is just a number until it's something else. In Pugh's case, it was a constant source of negative commentary that was difficult to navigate. The backlash was so severe that the actor couldn't post a photo of her beau on Instagram without closing the comments, robbing her of the normal joys of a new relationship.

Throughout the years, Pugh regularly defended her romance. In 2020, the star posted a nearly four-minute plea rallying against cyberbullying. She went even more in-depth during an episode of the "Sue Perkins: An Hour or So With..." podcast. "I've always found it funny, how I can be good enough for people to watch my work, and support my work, and pay for tickets, and I'm old enough to be an adult and pay taxes, but I'm not old enough to know who I should and should not have sex with," Pugh said. "Once again, [it's] making a young woman feel like s**t for no reason."

Sadly, the fan backlash outlived the couple's relationship: When news of a split surfaced, one Twitter user even joked that Pugh checked Braff into the retirement home.

She hated the criticism about their relationship

Florence Pugh struggled with the commentary surrounding her relationship with Zach Braff — and their 21-year age gap was just a tiny piece of it. The criticism and speculation seemed to grow as her fame soared between "Midsommar" and "Black Widow." The star even had to defend her choice to bring her parents to the 2020 Oscars ceremony instead of her boyfriend. As Pugh later told Elle, it wasn't meant to throw any shade. She just wanted them there.

"It's a strange side of fame that you're allowed to be torn apart by thousands of people even though you didn't put that piece of you out there," Pugh said. "My point to all this is that isn't it odd that a stranger can totally tear apart someone's relationship and it's allowed?"

By the end of their relationship, Pugh had battled so much criticism that Us Weekly was able to publish a multi-page slideshow outlining every single time she spoke out. It seemed exhausting, to say the least — and that's just for fans reading the headlines.

Zach Braff doesn't like dating women in the spotlight

Florence Pugh wasn't the only one who struggled with dating in the spotlight. For years, Zach Braff tried his best to avoid ultra-famous girlfriends because he hated being followed by fans and paparazzi. The star got his first taste of the media circus in 2004 when he started dating Mandy Moore. Braff went from rarely gracing a tabloid to having paparazzi waiting outside of his house. As he later said on "The Howard Stern Show," when they broke up two years later, his publicist recommended he avoid famous women altogether because of the hassle.

"When you date another famous person, that's when they really hound you," Braff said during his 2014 appearance, later adding, "If you're gonna hook up with a famous girl, that might be fun for your ego, but you don't want to be out in public dating a famous girl because then [the paparazzi] really follow you wherever you go ... you can't even walk outside in New York."

The problem, perhaps, was that Pugh wasn't a mega-star when she first started dating Braff, at least not in the United States. That quickly changed with the back-to-back release of A24's critically acclaimed horror flick "Midsommar" and Greta Gerwig's star-studded adaptation of "Little Women." The latter scored the actor her first Academy Award nomination. Then, in 2021, she joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Yelena Belova in "Black Window." It doesn't get much bigger than that.

He's a notorious bachelor

Fans have long known Zach Braff as a bachelor. Compared to other celebrities, he has a very short dating history. In the two decades since the debut of "Scrubs" made Braff a household name, he's only publicly dated four women (not including his infamous alleged make-out with Drew Barrymore or unconfirmed fling with Kirsten Dunst). If you want to believe the tabloids, part of Braff's habitual singlehood has to do with an alleged fear of settling down.

After Braff and Mandy Moore split in 2006, the star began dating "Roswell" actor Shiri Appleby. According to Life & Style (via Just Jared), the pair lasted about a year before calling it quits in 2008. The reason? Appleby allegedly wanted a family, and Braff couldn't imagine settling down before his forties. "[She] wasn't interested in a casual relationship," a source told the outlet. "She knows what she wants, and Zach wasn't ready to commit to that."

After that, Braff entered his longest relationship to date. He dated supermodel Taylor Bagley from 2009 to 2014, then appeared to spend five years single before coupling up with Florence Pugh. A lot can change in over a decade, but maybe Braff is still a bachelor at heart. As an insider explained to the Mirror in 2021, "Zach has this reputation like he's Charlie Harper on 'Two and a Half Men' — this kind of lazy bachelor with a revolving door of younger women in his life."

Zach Braff reportedly didn't know if she'd say yes to a proposal

Is Zach Braff a perma-bachelor or was he actually finally ready to settle down? Tabloids have an alternate theory about why the actor-director's relationship fizzled. Apparently, Florence Pugh might have been the one who needed more time (to be fair, at the time of this writing, she's 26 years old).

According to a report from the Mirror, Braff traveled to the UK to meet Pugh's parents in September of 2020. At this time, the couple had been dating for about a year, and Braff had seemingly completely changed his lifestyle. Pugh reportedly moved into the actor's Los Angeles mansion, and Braff was slowly shedding his bachelor reputation. "He didn't do this with other girlfriends — nothing close to that — and he's making every indication that he's really ready to settle down," a source cited by the tabloid claimed. "... [The] only thing that's keeping him from proposing is wanting to know for certain she'll say yes."

It looks like Braff never got the certainty he reportedly needed, even if he had the approval of Pugh's parents.

The couple faced inevitable distance

Did the threat of distance do the couple in? Though Florence Pugh reportedly moved into Zach Braff's Los Angeles mansion, her career was about to send her packing. At the time of this writing, the Oscar nominee is filming "Dune: Part Two" — and while it's not actually taking place on another planet, the set is still nowhere near Tinseltown.

According to Collider, production on the sci-fi sequel began in July 2022. The filming locations include Budapest, Hungary; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Jordan; and Italy. Much of the first movie was filmed in the Middle East, but Italy is reportedly a brand-new addition. Regardless, it's all pretty far from Los Angeles. If Braff wanted to pop over to Abu Dhabi, he'd be looking at a 16-hour flight from LAX, minimum.

It's unclear how long Pugh would be abroad. According to Showbiz CheatSheet, the first movie took about four months to shoot, excluding some scenes that were reshot in Budapest in 2020. That being said, Zendaya played a major role and spent just a week on set in the Middle East, per Entertainment Weekly. She was only in about seven minutes of the film, so it clearly depends on the role.

Rumors swirled after she was spotted with another man

Fans were already speculating about Florence Pugh's breakup when the "Black Widow" star was spotted with another man. In May 2022, new romance rumors hit headlines when the paparazzi caught Pugh on a playful beach outing with her "Midsommar" co-star, Will Poulter. Not to mention, they were on the oh-so-romantic island of Ibiza. So, what was really going on?

The Daily Mail's report didn't exactly help quell the rumors. The tabloid published photos of Pugh applying sunscreen on Poulter's back and the duo romping around in the water. By all accounts, it looked pretty flirty. Zach Braff was nowhere to be found, and Pugh looked like she was having a blast. The outlet also described their trip as "wild," but the pair were supposedly celebrating a mutual friend's birthday and the opening of the new Standard Hotel. Needless to say, Pugh shut down the rumors fast.

"We went to the beach with our friends, who are always about a half a metre away from us in every picture, but have been cleverly cut out/framed out so that it looks otherwise," she wrote in part in her Instagram Stories (via Page Six), adding, "Thanks for saying we look sexy ... doesn't mean we're doing the sexy." Pugh even referenced her relationship with Braff, saying, "Regardless of your opinion on who I should or shouldn't be with, at the end of the day if you're complimenting someone by trolling another person ... you're just bullying."

Zach Braff and Florence Pugh led different lifestyles

The problem with age gaps is that sometimes you're just in vastly different phases of life. At the end of the day, that could've been the nail in the coffin for Florence Pugh and Zach Braff's relationship. The former "Scrubs" star spent much of the last decade behind the scenes, while Pugh has been cultivating the kind of on-screen career that attracts a trail of paparazzi. When it comes down to it, Braff seems settled down — with or without a partner.

In a March 2022 interview with Collider, the actor-turned-director revealed that he's cultivated a very calm life. "I live a pretty quiet life. I don't have kids. I live in a quiet neighborhood. I have a dog that I love more than anything, but I have a quiet dog who doesn't make a lot of noise," Braff said. "It's funny, I keep getting asked if I want children, and I would like one or two, but I'll have to adjust from my very quiet lifestyle."

Pugh, on the other hand, rarely seems to be in one place. In 2018, she told The Guardian, "I don't have a home. With the life I've been lucky enough to live in the last two years, I've had to live out of bags." At the time, she was filming "Midsommar" in Budapest, and was scheduled to fly to Boston for "Little Women." As the "Don't Worry Darling" star's career ramps up, that's probably not going to change.