‘Don’t Worry Darling’ has been a mess way before its premiere

The power of Harry Styles is insane.

words by: Alee Kwong
Sep 19, 2022

The only way you could have avoided all the chatter about Olivia Wilde‘s newest film, Don’t Worry Darling, is if you’ve lost all connection to social media. The messiness swirling around this film goes further back than passive aggressive behavior at this year’s Venice Film Festival. No, the drama spans further back—all the way into the early days of production.


Wilde’s sophomore film comes after her 2019 success with Booksmart, and looks as though it blends the themes of The Stepford Wives and The Truman Show. This psychological thriller has an all-star ensemble cast: Gemma Chan, Chris Pine, Nick Kroll, Wilde herself, Sydney Chandler, with Florence Pugh and Harry Styles playing the lead roles.


Below is a summary of the drama and messiness.


The firing of Shia LaBeouf

shia labeouf copy

Photo via Getty


In April 2020, Florence Pugh was cast as in the lead female role, Alice, and Shia LaBeouf was set to play opposite of her as Alice’s husband, Jack. However, in September 2020, LaBeouf left the project and was promptly replaced with pop star Harry Styles. Deadline had reported at the time that LaBeouf left due to scheduling conflicts.


Variety had then confirmed that Wilde fired LaBeouf in an article outlining his ex-girlfriend, FKA Twigs, and the abuse she endured while with him that lead to a charge being filed against him for physical battery and sexual assault. According to Variety, insiders close to Don’t Worry Darling said he “exhibited poor behavior and his style clashed with the cast and crew, including Wilde, who ultimately fired him.”


In an appearance on Variety’s “Director on Director” series, Wilde talks about her “no assh*les policy” and how that had everything to do with her firing Shia LaBeouf.


“The no ass—– policy, it puts everybody on the same level. I also noticed as an actress for years how the hierarchy of the set separated the actors from the crew in this very strange way that serves no one. I think actors would actually like to know more about, ‘What’s happening there when you’re pulling my focus? What is that lens change?’ But the idea of, don’t bother the actors and keep them separate, and don’t look at them. I think it makes everyone quite anxious.”


Wilde is served custody papers at CinemaCon 2022

olivia wilde copy

Photo via Getty Images


The world stood in complete awkwardness when Wilde was served custody papers regarding her children with ex Jason Sudeikis, while introducing the first trailer for the movie in April. She opened the “very mysterious” envelope in front of the CinemaCon audience, thinking it was a script, and said, “Okay, got it. Thank you,” before realizing what happened and going on with her presentation.


Wilde claims her film “centers female pleasure” and Florence Pugh responds

don't worry darling

Photo via Warner Bros.


In Vogue’s January 2022 issue, Wilde stated that she was inspired by “really sexy films,” such as Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal while working on Don’t Worry Darling. Wilde commented, “I kept saying, ‘Why isn’t there any good sex in film anymore?'” and hoped that the audience could “realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure.”


Florence Pugh responded to the buzz around the first two trailers, showing Pugh and Styles’ characters engaging in intimate activity, in a Harper’s Bazaar interview in August, saying that the film deserves more attention outside her intimate scenes with Styles.


“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. 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.”


Shia LaBeouf reveals that he wasn’t fired, he left on his own

In an email to Variety, LaBeouf responded to Wilde’s claim, saying that he actually “quit the film due to lack of rehearsal time.” In addition to his comment, he provided Variety with an email he sent to Wilde in response to her comments about him. It was published in full.


“You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors and I couldn’t find time to rehearse,” LaBeouf wrote to Wilde. He had also asked her to clear up her account of his departure from the film.


“I know that you are beginning your press run for DWD and that the news of my firing is attractive clickbait, as I am still persona-non-grata and may remain as such for the rest of my life. But, speaking of my daughter, I often think about the news articles she will read when she is literate. And though I owe, and will owe for the rest of my life, I only owe for my actions. 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.”


LaBeouf also allegedly sent text messages between him and Wilde, as well as a video of her pleading that he stay on the project only two days after he had quit in August 2020.


The absolute sh*tstorm that was the Venice Film Festival

dwd venice disaster

Photo via Getty Images


Oh boy, the Venice Film Festival. All the tension we heard about from quotes in publications or leaked emails finally came to stand front-and-center. Not only did Florence Pugh skip the press panel for the movie completely, but reporters couldn’t help but address the multiple elephants in the room. For instance, the tension between Wilde and Pugh. As many celebrities do when asked hard personal questions, Wilde responded with the largest side-step.


“Florence is a force, and 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, to Denis Villeneuve for helping us. And we’re really thrilled we’ll get to celebrate her work tonight. I can’t say enough how honored I am to have her as our lead. She’s amazing in the film. As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, I mean, the internet feeds itself. I don’t feel the need to contribute. It’s sufficiently well-nourished.”


When another reporter asked Wilde to expand on the meaning behind the usage of her word “noise,” a moderator quickly moved on. It’s said that any mention of Pugh was not allowed moving forward.


After the panel, the cast came together on the red carpet and posed for photos. Pugh stood nowhere close to Styles or Wilde, saving her energy for co-stars Kroll and Pine. In the many gratuitous photos we received via social media of Pugh’s beautiful Valentino dress, her stylist, Rebecca Corbin Murray, captioned one Pugh with “Miss Flo”. This was a slight dig at the name Wilde used for her when pleading with LaBeouf, asking him to stay.


And then there was the spit.


Social media has bred some of the sharpest eyes on the internet. When seated at the festival, it appeared as though Harry Styles had quickly spit on his co-star Chris Pine’s lap before taking a seat next to him. The internet was set ablaze, with self-appointed detectives analyzing it from every angle they could get their hands on.


A rep for Pine told People, “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.”


Where are we now?

Wilde has since reaffirmed her comments about firing LaBeouf in an interview with Vanity Fair and said that she explicitly fired LaBeouf because of how uncomfortable he made Pugh.


“My responsibility was towards [Florence], I’m like a mother wolf. Making the call was tricky, but in a way he understood. I don’t think it would’ve been a process he enjoyed. He comes at his work with an intensity that can be combative. “It wasn’t the ethos that I demand in my productions. I want him to get well and to evolve because I think it’s a great loss to the film industry when someone that talented is unable to work.”


The Don’t Worry Darling director added that the firing was “much more nuanced than can be explained in private texts released out of context. All I’ll say is he was replaced, and there was no going forward with him. I wish him the best in his recovery.”


She continued by addressing the rumors that she and Pugh had tension behind-the-scenes and took the opportunity to give praise to her fellow actor, expressing her hopes that the drama doesn’t overshadow the actor’s performance.


“Florence’s performance in this film is astounding. It’s just baffling to me that the media would rather focus on baseless rumors and gossip, thereby overshadowing her profound talent. She deserves more than that. As does the movie, and everyone who worked so hard on it. Florence is one of the most in-demand actresses in the universe. … 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.”


Don’t Worry Darling will release in theaters this Friday, September 23, 2022.


Photo via Warner Bros.