“Don’t Worry Darling,” a new film directed by Olivia Wilde and starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, has fans ... well, worrying, darling.
The film, poised to release in theaters on Sept. 23, has been a fixture of intrigue of late thanks to reported tension between its creators and current and former cast members. The movie also stars Gemma Chan, Chris Pine, Kiki Layne and Nick Kroll.
Written by Kate Silberman, “Don’t Worry Darling” centers around Jack (played by Styles) bringing his wife Alice (played byPugh) to “Victory,” a new community living concept in 1950s California where the men seemingly have more control over their wives than the women are aware of.
What has attracted more headlines than the on-screen plot is the alleged behind-the-scenes plot. The lead-up to the movie has been a PR rollercoaster culminating at the premiere of the movie at the Venice Film Festival in September 2022, when the main characters were all in the same place.
Below, we’re breaking down the many layers of conversation around “Don’t Worry Darling.”
A rock star and a director walk onto a movie set
Harry Styles stepped into the role of Jack in September 2020, taking over for Shia LaBeouf.
Styles, 28, and director Wilde, 38, were romantically linked starting in January 2021, when they were photographed hand-in-hand, attending Styles’ manager’s wedding.
These photographs came months after Wilde and “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudekis announced their end of their nine-year relationship in November 2020.
Wilde has remained largely close-lipped about her relationship with Styles. In Dec. 2021, without naming Styles by name, she seemed to address their relationship in a Vogue interview: “It’s obviously really tempting to correct a false narrative ... But I think what you realize is that when you’re really happy, it doesn’t matter what strangers think about you. All that matters to you is what’s real, and what you love, and who you love.”
You’ve been served
At CinemaCon in Las Vegas this April, Wilde was served an envelope containing custody papers on stage while promoting “Don’tWorry Darling.”
When news first broke, sources close to Sudeikis told NBC News via emailthat “papers were drawn up to establish jurisdiction relating to the children of Ms. Wilde and Mr. Sudeikis.”
The message continued, stating, “Mr. Sudeikis had no prior knowledge of the time or place that the envelope would have been delivered as this would solely be up to the process service company involved and he would never condone her being served in such an inappropriate manner.”
Speaking to Variety in August, Wilde called the incident “upsetting.”
“I hated that this nastiness distracted from the work of so many different people and the studio that I was up there representing,” she said. “To try to sabotage that was really vicious. But I had a job to do; I’m not easily distracted.”
In a Vanity Fair interview, Wilde denied that her two relationships overlapped.
“The complete horses--t idea that I left Jason for Harry is completely inaccurate,” she says. “Our relationship was over long before I met Harry. 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. We were raising two kids during lockdown, so we co-parented through that time. Once it became clear that cohabitating was no longer beneficial for the children, it became the responsible thing to not, because we could be better parents as friends who live in different houses.”
She said she cast Harry because she knew he was "fearless," saying, “I’d rather work with a non-actor who’s fearless than a trained actor who is full of hang-ups and baggage and judgment.”
Shia steps out
Shia LaBeouf was originally set to play the role of Jack, but left the project in September 2020. At first, the replacement of LaBeouf was cited as scheduling conflicts — but Wilde later said, in same August 2022 Variety article, that she fired him because his “process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions.”
LaBeouf then rebutted Wilde’s claims to Variety, sending the publication the email that he had sent to Wilde after her cover story was released.
“You and I both know the reasons for my exit,” LaBeouf said in an email printed by the publication.
He 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.”
LaBeouf continued, “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.”
Pugh's Instagram cold shoulder
When Pugh was first cast in the project in August 2020, she took to Instagram to share her excitement, calling Wilde, who directed the hit “Booksmart,” her “idol.”
In the time since then, as rumors of a feud between star and director proliferate, fans have analyzed Pugh’s posts about the film — and noticed that she wasn’t posting much about the film all.
Compare the language she used to describe her appearance in “Puss in Boots“ in her Instagram caption with the one sentence “Don’t Worry Darling” initially got (though Pugh did finally post after the festival, only naming Pine by name).
The New York Times reports that tension may have stemmed due to Wilde and Styles’ alleged on-set relationship.
In a Vanity Fair profile, Wilde addressed Pugh's social media activity.
“Florence is one of the most in-demand actresses in the universe. She’s on set on 'Dune.' I gather that some people expect for her to be engaging more on social media. I didn’t hire her to post. I hired her to act. She fulfilled every single expectation I had of her. That’s all that matters to me," she said.
Pugh and Wilde also seemed, per public statements in interviews, to disagree about the role of sex in the film. It all goes back to a moment from the movie seen in the trailer: Harry’s Jack and Florence’s Alice start kissing, and then Jack motions to perform oral sex on her.
For Wilde, that moment of unvarnished pleasure was the point of the movie: Speaking to Vogue in December 2021, she said she realized how rarely audiences “see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure.”
Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar in August 2022, Pugh seemed to take issue with the way that the movie was being marketed around moments like that, and the conversation the trailer inspired.
“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. It’s not why I’m in this industry,” Pugh said. “Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that. That’s just not what I’m going to be discussing because (this movie is) bigger and better than that. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that.”
The Venice Film Festival begins
At the film premiere at the Venice Film Festival, which took place on Sept. 5., many of the main players gathered.
In the morning, a press conference for the film was led by cast members Styles, Chan, Pine and Wilde. Pugh did not attend the Q&A, citing filming “Dune: Part Two” as the reason for limited press engagements.
However, “Dune” co-star Timothée Chalamet arrived at the festival days earlier than she did.
At the conference, Wilde deflected after being asked about a feud between her and Pugh. “As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, the Internet feeds itself. I don’t feel the need to contribute; I think it’s sufficiently well-nourished,” she said.
Of her star's absence, Wilde said, “We are so grateful that she is 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.”
Elsewhere, Pugh’s stylist Rebecca Corbin-Murray posted a video of her strutting in Venice in a bright purple Valentino matching set while holding an Aperol spritz.
Pugh gave interviews of her own. When asked by a journalist what she found “inspiring” about working on "Don’t Worry Darling," Pugh said, “I think it’s very very inspiring to see a woman push back and say ‘no’, and question everything. It’s very exciting to see a woman do that on and off camera,” per footage.
Post press conference, the stars geared up for the red carpet, and fans analyzed their interactions and seating arrangements for meaning. Then, fans also speculated about a moment between Styles and Pines. In a video caught during the screening that people are now dubbing #SpitGate, Styles takes his seat next to Pine, while Pine looks at his hands sort of perplexed. Fans surmised that Styles had spit on Pine.
A representative of Chris Pine cleared the air, shutting down any rumors of spitting.
A statement given to TODAY reads, “This is a ridiculous story. A complete fabrication and the result of an odd online illusion that is clearly deceiving and allows for foolish speculation. Just to be clear, Harry Styles did NOT spit on Chris Pine ... there is nothing but respect between these two men and any suggestion otherwise is a blatant attempt to create drama that simply does not exist.”
In other lighter news: Styles and Kroll shared a kiss during the 4-minute standing ovation the film got after it was finished.
— Variety (@Variety) September 5, 2022
Wilde addresses the internet discourse
On Sept. 21, Wilde went on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” where Colbert politely asked Wilde to confront the incessant rumors circling about any feuds between her and LaBeouf.
“The whole experience has kind of changed my way of thinking about the internet and how we choose to interact with it or not. But really it’s kind of ironic because all of this is really what the film’s about,” she told Colbert.
She continued: “There were private messages that were released without context to try to make a situation look like something that it wasn’t. Early on in the process of making the film, I tried to mediate a situation between people to try to see if they could work together happily. Once it became clear that it was not a tenable working relationship, I was given an ultimatum. I chose my actress, which I’m very happy I did.”
Wilde said it was clear that it "wasn't gonna work" with LaBeouf.
“At the time, was I bummed that we weren’t able to make it work? sure. Did information about him come to light later that made me confident that we made the right decision? Absolutely. We had to replace Shia. He is a fantastic actor but it wasn’t gonna 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,” she said.
Ultimately, Wilde said the drama with LaBeouf has been a “question of semantics.” She also went on to say that this sort of behavior on sets happens all the time with casts and crews — where people slip in and out of production.
That’s showbiz, baby!
Wilde also addresses rumors of #Spitgate and a feud with her and Pugh
*PHEW.* We're almost done.
In that same interview, Wilde also told Colbert that Styles did not spit on Pine at the Venice Film Festival, akin to the statement Pine's rep gave.
"This is a perfect example of people looking for drama anywhere they can," she told Colbert. "People can look at a video that shows evidence of someone not spitting on someone else and they will still see what they wanna see, and that is the creation of drama. That is clickbait."
And, in regards to any feud between her and Pugh — Wilde said she has nothing but respect for Pugh. "I have nothing against her for any reason," Wilde reassured Colbert.
Colbert inquired, solely to clear the air, whether Wilde was aware of Pugh drinking an Aperol spritz while they were at the press conference.
Wilde laughed. "I don't feel like my male colleagues are answering questions about their cast," to which Colbert agreed.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com