It is not very often that a movie generates a multitude of media storms before it even hits theatres, but this can certainly be said of Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling. Set for UK cinema release on the 23rd of September, Don’t Worry Darling is Wilde’s second endeavour in a directorial role, following the success of her 2019 debut Booksmart. Maddie Dinnage delves into the drama surrounding the film regarding on-set romances, cast feuds, gender pay gap rumours, as well as allegations of abuse.
The movie delves into the psyche of Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh), a glamorous 1950’s housewife to Jack Chambers (Harry Styles), who begins to suspect that beneath the facade of their utopian, experimental community, lies a much darker reality. Perhaps there lies a sense of irony in the fact that a film so centred upon a woman attempting to rebel against an oppressive system is overshadowed by so much controversy, much of which involves violence against women, or an attempt to pit women against one another.
The film was set to star Shia LaBeouf as Jack, however Don’t Worry Darling first hit the headlines when it was revealed that Styles would be replacing him due to scheduling concerns. With Pugh and Styles signed on, two of the biggest names in popular culture, the project’s release became increasingly anticipated by fans across the globe.
Wilde insists that she actually fired LaBeouf, contradicting the original assertion that he was leaving the project due to conflicting schedules
Just three months later, singer-songwriter FKA Twigs spoke out about the “relentless abuse” LaBeouf allegedly inflicted upon her during their relationship, claiming he made her life a “living nightmare” with both physical and emotional abuse. LaBeouf denies these allegations. The trial for twigs’s case against LaBeouf is set to begin on 17th April 2023.
Following this, in a recent exclusive with Variety, Wilde insists that she actually fired LaBeouf, contradicting the original assertion that he was leaving the project due to conflicting schedules. She explains that her decision was ultimately influenced by LaBeouf’s “combative” acting process and Pugh’s alleged discomfort towards working with him. Speaking to Vanity Fair on this, Wilde confesses that she felt “[her] responsibility was towards [Pugh]. I’m like a mother wolf. Making the call was tricky, but in a way he understood”.
Despite declining to discuss the matter with Variety prior to Wilde’s cover story, LaBeouf sent an email to its editor in an attempt to hit back at Olivia’s assertions. Within this, he argues that he quit the project because of lack of rehearsal time, and includes evidence of correspondence between himself and Wilde, in which he states “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 then commenced to provide further evidence for his claims that he was the one to leave the project, including a video which Wilde allegedly sent to him after he claims to have quit and in which she says, “You know, 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. If she really commits, if she really puts her mind and heart into it at this point and if you guys can make peace — and I respect your point of view, I respect hers — but if you guys can do it, what do you think? Is there hope? Will you let me know?”
Pugh has not spoken publicly about her feelings towards LaBeouf or the abuse allegations made against him.
But this is only the very tip of the iceberg! Absolutely essential to the widespread discussion around this movie is the infamous romantic relationship between Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles.
November 2020 saw the confirmation of Olivia’s split from her fiancé Jason Sudeikis, with whom she shared a seven-year-long relationship, as well as parenting two children.
Olivia remained visually composed and continued with her presentation
Just two months later, Wilde was pictured holding hands with Harry at his agent’s wedding, igniting speculation that the two relationships may have crossed over. Despite her reluctance to make her private life public, Olivia did explicitly state that, “The complete horseshit idea that I left Jason for Harry is completely inaccurate, our relationship was over long before I met Harry.”
Then came CinemaCon 2022, at which Olivia was scheduled to discuss Don’t Worry Darling. During her presentation, an unidentified individual approached the stage holding an envelope marked “personal and confidential”, which Olivia opened, apparently without knowing what it contained. According to Deadline the contents were legal custody papers from her ex, Sudeikis. Despite that fact that she had just been served on an incredibly public stage, Olivia remained visually composed and continued with her presentation.
Neither Wilde or Styles have explicitly confirmed their relationship, and many fans speculate that they may have already split, however Wilde tells Vanity fair that “I think once you crack open the window, […] you can’t then be mad when mosquitoes come in.”
Following Wilde’s rumoured relationship to Styles, allegations are made regarding her dedication to and attention towards other cast members, with suggestions that Styles became such a distraction for her that Pugh had to step into the directorial role at times!
This led to rumours of an on-set feud between Pugh and Wilde, as fans point out that Pugh makes no response to Wilde’s instagram post in July 2022 in which she praises her performance. Neither Wilde nor Pugh have bothered to comment explicitly on these anonymously sourced rumours.
Fans took to social media to analyse eye-contact, proximity to one another on the red carpet
This brings me to unverified reports made by Showbiz Galore, which claimed that Pugh was to be paid $700,000, while Styles was being paid $2.5 million. This caused media speculation of a gender pay gap, allegedly influenced by Wilde’s favouritism towards her rumoured partner. Despite Wilde’s reluctance to respond to internet rumours surrounding the movie and it’s cast, she insists in an interview for Variety that there is absolutely no validity to these claims, and feels especially appalled by these rumours due to the difficulties she herself has faced as a woman in an inherently male-dominated industry.
The film made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and it seemed as if the whole world was closely watching the cast’s every move. Fans took to social media to analyse eye-contact, proximity to one another on the red carpet; even body-language experts weighed in on the discussion!
Perhaps notably, Florence attended the red-carpet event, however she did not join the cast at the press conference due to other commitments. Many see this as a reinforcement of the argument that Wilde and Pugh are feuding. Despite this, Wilde refrained from discussing these rumours.
Perhaps the most bizarre (and certainly the most widely-discussed) rumour amongst this hard-to-navigate media storm is the claim that Harry Styles spit on co-star Chris Pine during the film’s premiere after a clip from the event goes viral. Fans flocked to social media to weigh in on the debate, with some slowing down the footage to closely analyse whether the claims are true or whether it was a mere trick of the light.
Styles joked about the incident in a video taken by a fan during his show on September 7th, in which he teasingly states “I just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine”. Pine’s representatives similarly deny what they call “a complete fabrication” and “foolish speculation.”
By closely scrutinising just one facet of a larger work […] we fail to appreciate this piece of art in its totality
Whether or not any of these rumours actually hold any sort of substance, it is fair to say that the discussions taking place around this movie has certainly heightened audience anticipation for its release. As a huge fan of Pugh, I look forward to see her take on the role with the same passion she exhibits in previous performances, with critics already praising her performance, and it will certainly be interesting to see Styles’ performance following his debut in Dunkirk!
Speaking out against the media’s obsession between the sex scenes between Alice and Jack, Florence Pugh argues that by closely scrutinising just one facet of a larger work focused upon a woman challenging an oppressive structure, we fail to appreciate this piece of art in its totality. Perhaps this can be applied more broadly to audience’s obsession towards the goings-on behind the scenes. Nevertheless, I am really looking forward to the movie’s release and I am excited to hear fans’ responses to the film!
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