Instead, madness ensued, and rampant rumors of discord during the making of Don't Worry Darling, which finally opens Sept. 23, usurped whatever organic anticipation might have accompanied the run-up to the release of Wilde's second film as a director. As far as the plot goes, anyway.
And the plot—1950s-era housewife Alice, played by Florence Pugh, starts losing her mind (Or is she the only sane one?!) while her go-getter husband Jack (Styles) devotes himself to a mysterious work project devised by his charismatic boss, Frank (Chris Pine)—sounded pretty interesting.
By now, however, critics' impressions of the psychological thriller set in a gorgeously appointed but sinister AF desert utopia are, like Frank, unreliable: Like a jury instructed not to take stricken testimony into consideration during deliberations, it's impossible to say what may have influenced their final verdict.
"It could be a lot worse," Wilde said on The Kelly Clarkson Show Sept. 21. "We're alive and everything's going to be OK."
That's not what she said as a direct response to her film's turbulent flight into theaters, mind you, but she and Clarkson were discussing how she deals with everything that gets said or written about her as a public figure. And in this case, the personal did bleed into the professional in the most unexpected of ways, after which it was off to the races for anyone hoping to paint a picture of a dysfunctional film set.
Wilde, who also told Clarkson that staying off of social media helps keep her mind "on what's real," has maintained her composure throughout, saying nothing but complimentary things about her cast and particularly singling out Pugh for her "unbelievable" and "astounding" performance.
Don't Worry Darling cinematographer Matthew Libatique went a step further, calling it "the most harmonious set" he'd ever worked on, rejecting rumors of drama as "completely untrue."
Or in any case, Libatique acknowledged on the Sept. 16 episode of The Hollywood Reporter's Behind the Screen podcast, nothing occurred on his watch, nor did he sense that anything was amiss.
"You know, you get a feeling that there might be something going on," he explained, "and I didn't feel anything."
But starting from when Don't Worry Darling was only a gleam in Wilde's eye to the bizarre idea that her boyfriend spat on his co-star at the premiere, here's everything that happened (or was speculated to have happened) leading up to the movie's release. You be the judge.
Why Did Harry Styles Really Replace Shia LaBeouf in Don't Worry Darling?
On Dec. 24, 2020, Variety reported that LaBeouf hadn't just left the project, but rather had been dropped from it, a film source telling the publication, "He is not an easy guy to work with." Neither LaBeouf's rep, nor the studio, had a comment. Variety noted that studio sources had previously cited a scheduling conflict as the reason for his exit.
Two weeks before Variety reported on the alleged firing, LaBeouf's former girlfriend FKA twigs had filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual battery and "relentless abuse," and in the interim he checked into treatment. "Shia needs help and he knows that," his attorney told E! News at the time. "We are actively seeking the kind of meaningful, intensive, long-term inpatient treatment that he desperately needs." (In a February 2021 court filing LaBeouf denied all of the suit's claims. A trial date has been set for April 2023, according to Rolling Stone.)
Wilde was among those who tweeted support for twigs after the lawsuit went public.
Calling herself "such an admirer" of LaBeouf's work, Wilde told Variety for a story published Aug. 24 that it wasn't until he was off the film that "a lot came to light" that "really troubled me, in terms of his behavior."
As a believer in "restorative justice" she wished him the best, she continued, "But for our film, what we really needed was an energy that was incredibly supportive. Particularly with a movie like this, I knew that I was going to be asking Florence to be in very vulnerable situations, and my priority was making her feel safe and making her feel supported."
Was Shia LaBeouf Fired or Not?
Weighing in for the first time on the matter, LaBeouf insisted he was not fired.
In two emails he purportedly first sent to Wilde in response to her Variety interview and subsequently passed along to the publication on Aug. 25, he wrote, "I am greatly honored by your words on my work; thank you, that felt good to read. I am a little confused about the narrative that I was fired, however. You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors & I couldn't find time to rehearse."
To put it more bluntly, LaBeouf continued, "Firing me never took place, Olivia. And while I fully understand the attractiveness of pushing that story because of the current social landscape, the social currency that brings. It is not the truth. So I am humbly asking, as a person with an eye toward making things right, that you correct the narrative as best you can. I hope none of this negatively effects [sic] you, and that your film is successful in all the ways you want it to be."
When a reporter tried to ask Wilde about their seemingly conflicting versions of events at a press conference ahead of Don't Worry Darling's Sept. 5 world premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, the panel moderator interjected, "I think this question has been answered."
But when asked expressly on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Sept. 21 if she had to fire La Beouf (questions about the behind-the-scenes drama truly being asked until the 11th hour), Wilde said, "We had to replace Shia. He is a fantastic actor but it wasn't going to work. When he gave me the ultimatum, of him or Florence, I chose Florence and that was him feeling he was stepping away and me feeling like we were moving on without him."
Whether he was fired or had to leave, Wilde said, "It's a question of semantics."
Did Olivia Wilde Get Served at CinemaCon on Purpose?
A source told E! News afterward that Jason Sudeikis "had no prior knowledge" of his ex-partner being served custody papers during her April 27 presentation on behalf of Don't Worry Darling at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.
But it's what happened all the same, a messenger delivering an envelope stamped "PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL" right into Wilde's hands (a security breach that had conference organizers reevaluating their existing procedure). "Is this for me?" the puzzled filmmaker asked, before opting to open the parcel then and there, quipping "Is this a script?"
Wilde pressed on, seemingly unfazed, but, reflecting on the moment to Variety this summer, she called it a "vicious" move.
In addition to it happening while she was working and, in her opinion, was "something that required forethought," Wilde explained, "I hated that this nastiness distracted from the work of so many different people and the studio that I was up there representing. To try to sabotage that was really vicious. But I had a job to do; I'm not easily distracted. But, you know, sadly, it was not something that was entirely surprising to me. I mean, there's a reason I left that relationship."
She and Sudeikis were together for almost 10 years before splitting up in early 2020, and now share custody of son Otis, 8, and daughter Daisy, 5. Their breakup didn't make news until November 2020, however, confirmation coming in time to quash negative speculation about romantic overlap on Wilde's part.
Of course, that didn't actually stop speculation that she left Sudeikis for Styles, which Wilde recently slammed to Vanity Fair as "horses--t." (She previously referred to a "false narrative" in a December 2021 Vogue story as well.)
She and the Ted Lasso star broke up "long before I met Harry," VF's October cover girl said. "Like any relationship that ends, it doesn't end overnight. Unfortunately, Jason and I had a very bumpy road, and we officially dissolved the relationship towards the beginning of the pandemic."
Was Florence Pugh Bothered by Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde's Relationship?
Wilde and Styles outed themselves as more than friends when she accompanied him to his manager's January 2021 wedding in Montecito. Filming wrapped the following month.
First came the TikTok chatter as to why Pugh didn't appear to be promoting or otherwise talking up Don't Worry Darling on social media, especially after Wilde posted a photo of the British actress with a particularly adulatory caption and Pugh didn't "like" it or respond in kind. ("I gather that some people expect for her to be engaging more on social media," Wilde later told Vanity Fair. "I didn't hire her to post. I hired her to act.")
Then Page Six really got the ball rolling on the Wilde-Pugh tension rumors July 30 with a source's claim that Pugh was put off by Styles and Wilde's romance because there was overlap from the director's previous relationship and Sudeikis had visited the set.
Though reps for Wilde, Styles and Pugh had no comment at the time, Wilde has since vehemently denied both any relationship overlap ("Horses--t," she called it, remember?) and the notion that she and Pugh didn't get along on set. Also, Daisy Sudeikis has a small role in Don't Worry Darling, another reason for her dad to be around.
Was Harry Styles Getting Paid More Than Florence Pugh?
The idea of Pugh, a seasoned, Oscar-nominated actress at 26, being paid less than Styles, who while rather famous as a singer had appeared in exactly two other movies, was a real gear-grinder.
And it was not true, according to Wilde.
"There has been a lot out there that I largely don't pay attention to," she told Variety in an email for the Aug. 24 story. "But the absurdity of invented clickbait and subsequent reaction regarding a nonexistent pay disparity between our lead and supporting actors really upset me. I'm a woman who has been in this business for over 20 years, and it's something that I have fought for myself and others, especially being a director. There is absolutely no validity to those claims."
Olivia Wilde, Harry Styles and Florence Pugh Reunite for the Premiere—but Under What Circumstances?
Though of course Wilde-Styles shippers were hoping for a real red carpet debut, it wasn't entirely clear until go-time who planned to show up for what at the Venice Film Festival.
Ultimately the director, the two leads and co-stars Pine, Gemma Chan, Sydney Chandler and Nick Kroll all hit the carpet and posed for group photos (and Kroll did some hilarious trolling on TikTok the next day). But Pugh did skip the press conference held earlier that day, which didn't exactly temper the can-you-believe-what's-going-on-with-this-movie hullabaloo.
"Florence is a force," Wilde told reporters in the star's absence. "We are so grateful that she's able to make it tonight despite being in production on Dune . I know as a director how disruptive it is to lose an actor even for a day, so I'm very grateful to her, very grateful to Denis Villeneuve for helping us, and we're really thrilled we'll get to celebrate her work tonight."
Addressing the out-of-control Wilde vs. Pugh narrative, the director reiterated her reluctance to dignify it with an explanation. "As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, I mean, the internet feeds itself," Wilde said. "I don't feel the need to contribute. I think it's sufficiently well-nourished."
A source told E! News after the Venice premiere, "There's many different sides to each mini-drama. Olivia is trying to steer the focus onto the film and not feed into it."
Harry Styles Didn't Spit on Chris Pine...Did He?
Of course not, Pine's rep said Sept. 6 in adamantly denying that Styles spat on his Don't Worry Darling co-star before taking a seat next to him the night before at the Venice Film Festival. The video—given the Zapruder treatment, naturally—didn't definitively prove anything, because it looked like Pine was reacting good-naturedly to something Styles said or did, but nothing appeared to come out of Styles' mouth.
"There is nothing but respect between these two men," Pine's rep said, "and any suggestion otherwise is a blatant attempt to create drama that simply does not exist."
But, oh, just when you thought it was safe to stop worrying about the cast of this movie, there was another juicy rumor to salivate over.
Styles joked to his Sept. 7 concert audience at New York's Madison Square Garden that, before the show, he had traveled "very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine."
But for the record, "Harry did not spit on Chris," Wilde told Colbert. "I think it's a perfect example of, like, people will look for drama anywhere they can."
Florence Pugh Decides Not to Worry About Commenting
Pugh, for her part, has never addressed any of the alleged controversies, nor did she do publicity for the film, other than showing up for the premiere in Venice (upon which her glam team was duly sucked into the fray).
On Sept. 7, the Midsommar star posted photos from the red carpet and in her caption recalled the "incredible" energy from that night.
"And to all the cast and crew as well who helped to make this movie," she wrote, "thank you for all of your hard work. We genuinely wouldn't have been there without your talent and we appreciate it hugely."
Did Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde Break Up?
A rite of passage for any famous couple, but obnoxiously timed for the film's home stretch, along came the speculation that Style and Wilde had gone their separate ways, romantically speaking.
Nope, still together, and they showed up for the Don't Worry Darling New York premiere after-party on Sept. 19. Pugh and Pine missed the event, but recorded messages played before the movie explaining that they were both far away for work, Pugh "halfway around the world" and Pine in L.A.
Styles' mum, Anne Twist, gave the film the thumbs-up on Instagram Sept. 21 after catching a screening in France, captioning her post, "Well done @oliviawilde and team for drawing us in, well done baby @harrystyles for being a fabulous Jack. Very proud as usual."
And with some people unable to even treat a man's mum as sacred, Twist then had to return to Instagram the next day to inform the trolls they should be ashamed of themselves. "I enjoyed a film," she wrote. "If it's not your cup of tea don't go…If you don't like me..please don't follow me. Simple."
With Don't Worry Darling finally in theaters after all that, now at least it's up to regular moviegoers to pass judgment on what the point of the whole thing actually was—the finished product on the screen.
But, Wilde noted, this film is hardly the first to be plagued by certain age-old assumptions.
"It is very rare that people assume the best from women in power. I think they don't often give us the benefit of the doubt," she told Vanity Fair. "Florence did the job I hired her to do, and she did it exquisitely. She blew me away. Every day I was in awe of her, and we worked very well together...It is ironic that now, with my second film—which is again about the incredible power of women, what we're capable of when we unite, and how easy it is to strip a woman of power by using other women to judge and shame them—we're talking about this."
Touching on one final indignity, the rumor that off-camera distractions affected her work behind the camera, Wilde said, "The idea that I had five seconds in the day to be distracted by anything is laughable. I was there before everyone. I was there after everyone. And it was a dream. It's not like this work was not enjoyable. It was just all-encompassing."
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