Briefing

The Don't Worry Darling drama, explained

The spit heard 'round the world

As Don't Worry Darling nears its release, the drama over Olivia Wilde's thriller shows no signs of slowing down. Why, exactly, has this film sparked so much gossip and tabloid coverage? Here's what we know:  

What is 'Don't Worry Darling'? 

It's a psychological thriller directed by Olivia Wilde, her second film after the acclaimed 2019 comedy Booksmart. Florence Pugh and Harry Styles star as a married couple living a seemingly ideal life in the town of Victory before Pugh's character begins to suspect something sinister is happening there. Critics have compared it to The Stepford Wives and Get Out

Don't Worry Darling was initially highly anticipated due to it being Wilde's follow-up to Booksmart — not to mention that it's also Styles' meatiest role to date as an actor. But now rumors about alleged behind-the-scenes drama have largely overshadowed the content of the film. 

Why is there so much drama surrounding the movie? 

For months, rumors have persisted that Wilde had an affair with Styles during the making of Don't Worry Darling and that this led to a falling out between Wilde and Pugh. 

This was initially just unconfirmed gossip, often amplified by Styles fans who didn't approve of his relationship with Wilde. But in July, a source told Page Six that "seeing Olivia and Harry all over each other on set did not go down well" with Pugh.

Then in August, Matthew Belloni reported at Puck that Pugh "wasn't a fan of her director disappearing so often with her leading man," and one of Puck's sources allegedly witnessed a "tense conversation" between the two about this. "[Wilde's] relationship with Styles during the shoot was pretty obvious and annoying to the three people I spoke to," Belloni reported, "and the duo were sometimes tough to find during set-ups of shots." 

A source also told Us Weekly Pugh and Wilde had "several disagreements personally and professionally." 

What has Pugh said about this?

Pugh hasn't commented on the rumors. Rather, fans have noticed she has been suspiciously silent about the movie on social media. When a trailer for Don't Worry Darling was released in July, Pugh posted on Instagram about an entirely different movie, Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer. She has also ignored several of Wilde's social media posts praising her

Pugh later did promote Don't Worry Darling with an Instagram post in August. But then The Wrap reported she has "severely limited" her plans to promote the movie and likely wouldn't do any press beyond attending the Venice International Film Festival, giving more weight to the feud rumors. When the film premiered in Venice on Sept. 5, Pugh skipped the press conference with Wilde, Styles, and the rest of the cast.

The reason for Pugh's absence was supposedly because she was tied up filming Dune: Part Two, and reports said Pugh's flight from the set wouldn't land in Venice until after the press conference began. Yet Timothée Chalamet, the main star of Dune, managed to attend a Venice press conference for the movie Bones & All. Pugh was spotted arriving in Venice mere minutes after Wilde was asked about her absence during the press conference, The New York Times' Kyle Buchanan reports

Pugh then attended the film's Venice premiere and walked the red carpet. But after the screening, Variety's Ramin Setoodeh reported she "[refused] to make eye contact with" Wilde. Pugh "turned away completely from her director" during a standing ovation, which the actress also seemed to cut off early by leaving the theater, according to Variety. Later, video emerged that fans claimed showed Styles spitting on co-star Chris Pine after arriving in the theater. TMZ spoke with sources who offered conflicting accounts, with some maintaining Styles "absolutely did not spit" on Pine, while another source claimed the spit "absolutely did happen, and was perceived as a sign of disrespect by Chris." But Pine's representative told People, "Just to be clear, Harry Styles did not spit on Chris Pine." 

One of Pugh's few recent comments about Don't Worry Darling came in a Harper's Bazaar profile in August, in which she voiced frustration at how much coverage the movie's sex scenes were receiving after the trailer depicted Styles' character giving Pugh's character oral sex. "When it's reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it's not why we do it," Pugh said. Yet Wilde has arguably fed into this, telling Vogue in 2021 she wanted audiences to "realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure" when they watch the movie. Later, she told Variety, "Men don't come in this film. Only women here!"

So could this have been another point of contention between Pugh and Wilde? That Variety story on Wilde noted Pugh "declined to be interviewed." 

How does Jason Sudeikis factor into this? 

Wilde was in a relationship with Jason Sudeikis from 2011 through 2020, and they share two children.

Don't Worry Darling began principal photography in October 2020, and Sudeikis told GQ he and Wilde broke up in November 2020. Wilde was spotted holding hands with Styles in January 2021, and as far as we know, they're still together. But a source claimed to Page Six that Wilde "was still with Jason when she first hooked up with Harry." It's worth noting Pugh was dating Zach Braff through much of this drama. Braff has worked on Sudeikis' show Ted Lasso and is close friends with the executive producer, fueling speculation she may have sided with Sudeikis in the break-up.

Wilde and Sudeikis are battling for custody of their two children. In April 2022, she was giving a presentation about Don't Worry Darling at the movie convention CinemaCon when she was served with child custody papers from Sudeikis while on stage. Sudeikis has said he didn't know when or where Wilde would be served, but she told Variety, "You know, sadly, it was not something that was entirely surprising to me. I mean, there's a reason I left that relationship."

What does all this have to do with Shia LaBeouf? 

Shia LaBeouf was set to play Harry Styles' character in Don't Worry Darling before leaving the project, supposedly due to scheduling conflicts. He was cast prior to being sued by his ex-girlfriend, musician FKA twigs, for abuse. 

During a Variety interview in August 2022, Wilde claimed she fired LaBeouf because "his process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions" and "my priority was making [Pugh] feel safe." But LaBeouf fired back that he actually quit the film "due to lack of rehearsal time." 

As evidence, LaBeouf shared a video that appeared to show Wilde asking him to reconsider his decision to exit the movie. "I'm not ready to give up on this yet," she says. Wilde also appears to allude to issues between Pugh and LaBeouf in the video — and it doesn't sound like she's siding with Pugh. "I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo, and I want to know if you're open to giving this a shot with me, with us," Wilde says, adding she hopes "you guys can make peace."

It was at this point that the drama really exploded into the mainstream. Wilde faced heavy criticism because the video seemed to contradict her claims about removing LaBeouf and prioritizing Pugh's safety, and critics saw her reference to Pugh as "Miss Flo" as condescending and disrespectful. After the film's Venice premiere, Pugh's stylist shared a red carpet photo of the actress on Instagram and captioned it "Miss Flo."

What has Wilde said about the drama? 

During the Venice Film Festival press conference, Wilde praised Pugh as "a force" but declined to comment on the drama.

"As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, the internet feeds itself," Wilde said. "I don't feel the need to contribute. I think it's sufficiently well nourished." 

Wilde previously told Variety, "I think the tabloid media is a tool to pit women against one another and to shame them."  

But wait — is the movie any good?

Reviews out of the Venice Film Festival were mixed. Critics widely praised Pugh's performance, but some felt the movie itself was derivative and uninspired, with The Hollywood Reporter dismissing it as the "umpteenth Stepford Wives knockoff," Vulture describing it as "tedious," and Variety saying it gets "progressively less scintillating as it goes along." 

If these reviews are anything to go by, then, it seems Don't Worry Darling's twists and turns will be no match for those that occurred in real life. 

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