What began as a curious psychological thriller from an exciting director has since ballooned into one of the most talked about movies of the year — but not for the reasons anyone involved in the film was hoping. “Don’t Worry Darling” is Olivia Wilde’s second feature film as a director following her comedy “Booksmart,” and sees her telling the story of women living in a seemingly perfect 1950s-era community that harbors a dark secret.
With a cast that includes Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll and Wilde herself, the film has all the makings of a buzzy fall title. But the drama surrounding the making of “Don’t Worry Darling” has reached a fever pitch, with speculation rampant about tension between Pugh and Wilde that pushed fans to analyze every movement the cast and director made at the Venice Film Festival as if they were studying the Zapruder Film.
If you’re confused, we don’t blame you. Below, we run down a complete history of the “Don’t Worry Darling” drama, which likely goes back farther than you think. We’re talking Shia LaBeouf’s exit all the way to “spitgate.”
April 24, 2020 — Florence Pugh Is Cast and Calls Olivia Wilde “My Idol”
We start with Florence Pugh’s casting in the film, which occurred in April of 2020 and was accompanied by a glowing Instagram post in which Pugh called Wilde “my idol” and gushed over the cast — including Shia LaBeouf.
September 11, 2020 — Harry Styles Replaces Shia LaBeouf
Harry Styles officially replaced Shia LaBeouf in the cast of “Don’t Worry Darling” — Wilde’s highly anticipated second directorial effort after her hit comedy “Booksmart” — in September of 2020, chalking LaBeouf’s exit up to “scheduling conflicts.”
Wilde described Styles as “modern” and having a “brand of confidence as a male” that is “truly devoid of any traces of toxic masculinity.” Wilde has discussed that her film centers on the theme of female pleasure amid its 1950s setting and respective gender spheres that were very isolating to women at the time.
“It’s pretty powerful and kind of extraordinary to see someone in his position redefining what it can mean to be a man with confidence,” Wilde added.
In December, Variety reported that LaBeouf had been fired from the film by Wilde for “poor behavior” and he was facing a sexual battery lawsuit from FKA Twigs. Wilde later told Vanity Fair that she fired LaBeouf due to her “no assholes” policy.
Oct. 26, 2020 — Filming Begins
Cameras started rolling on “Don’t Worry Darling” at the end of October in Los Angeles, but the production would be beset by shutdowns and delays due to COVID exposures.
November 13, 2020 — Wilde and Jason Sudeikis Break Up
Mid-November saw the split of Wilde and her partner Jason Sudeikis — writer and actor behind Apple TV+’s hit series “Ted Lasso.” Many reports from People and Entertainment Tonight called the split mutual. The pair were engaged to be married a year after they met in 2011, and they have two children, Otis and Daisy.
January 4, 2021 — Wilde and Styles Hold Hands at a Wedding
Early in 2021, Styles and Wilde attended his agent’s wedding, where photos of them holding hands surfaced, sparking rumors of a relationship. According to an insider for People, the couple had been dating for a few weeks before those images populated Twitter. A source for Entertainment Tonight revealed that the pair got to know each other on the set of “Don’t Worry, Darling,” leading to their budding relationship.
February 15, 2021 — Wilde Praises Styles on Instagram as Filming Wraps
Wilde admired Styles’ appearance in the film on Instagram in a post praising not only his acting, but his willingness to take a supporting role versus a main role.
“Little known fact: most male actors don’t want to play supporting roles in female-led films. The industry has raised them to believe it lessens their power (i.e financial value) to accept these roles, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to get financing for movies focusing on female stories,” Wilde captioned her black and white photo of Styles sitting on a classic car on set. “No joke, it is harrrrrd to find actors who recognize why it might be worth it to allow for a woman to hold the spotlight. Enter: @harrystyles, our “Jack” . Not only did he relish the opportunity to allow for the brilliant @florencepugh to hold center stage as our “Alice”, but he infused every scene with a nuanced sense of humanity. He didn’t have to join our circus, but he jumped on board with humility and grace, and blew us away every day with his talent, warmth, and ability to drive backwards. ? #dontworrydarling”
April 26, 2022 — Sudeikis Serves Wilde Custody Papers at CinemaCon
Previous reports of Sudeikis’ reaction to Wilde and Styles’ relationship have conflicted, ranging from him being “unlikely” blindsided by the news, to his hope to repair the relationship, to his initially being heartbroken but fine with it once he moved on.
At the Warner Bros. presentation at CinemaCon where Wilde was presenting “Don’t Worry Darling” footage to theater exhibitors, she was handed an envelope onstage which contained legal papers aimed to establish jurisdiction for Wilde’s and his children. “Papers were drawn up to establish jurisdiction relating to the children of Ms. Wilde and Mr. Sudeikis,” a source told TheWrap.
The source added that “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.”
July 21, 2022 — Pugh Ignores the “Don’t Worry Darling” Trailer to Promote “Oppenheimer” on Instagram Instead
A reddit user picked up traces of tension when Pugh, who is the star of “Don’t Worry Darling,” decided to share the poster for the upcoming Christopher Nolan film “Oppenheimer” (in which she has a supporting role) on Instagram the same day that trailer for “Don’t Worry Darling” came out. She did not post about “Don’t Worry Darling.”
TikTok user @clairenotdanes observed that Pugh always posts for anything she is involved in, and that Wilde posted two things “basically kissing [Pugh’s] ass.”
Pugh did later post a clip on Aug. 11 of her and Styles’ characters cuddling, which was later violently interrupted by a black and white snippet of a woman going close up to the camera, with three other women behind her, all dressed in bathing-suit-like outfits. Pugh captioned her post: “Not everyone gets this opportunity… Not long now! Only in theatres September 23rd #dontworrydarling”
August 1, 2022 — More Rumors, More Worries
Blind Item #8 of Aug. 1 contained the below not-so-ambiguous description of “Don’t Worry Darling” and its players that fueled much speculation about the drama unfolding now.
“This A-list actress has thrown the director of an upcoming movie in which the actress stars, under the bus. It isn’t just for ethical reasons, but also because the movie is not good. Maybe because the director was focused on something other than making a good movie?”
Aug. 16, 2022 — Pugh’s Harper’s Bazaar Profile Debuts, Her Only “Don’t Worry Darling” Press Interview to Date
A majority of the press that Wilde had done leading up to the film (in addition to speaking on Styles’ casting) included praising Pugh’s leading performance and highlighting the movie’s emphasis on female orgasms and showcasing the “good sex” she believes is missing from the screen these days (something she doubles down on in her own cover story, see below). That’s why some social media users took Pugh’s own comments on the sexual nature of the psychological thriller as an allusion to her dislike of “DWD” getting boiled down to its more explicit scenes.
“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 in Harper’s Bazaar, which remains the only interview she’s done specifically about “Don’t Worry Darling” so far. “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.”
Aug. 24, 2022 — She’s So Golden: Wilde’s Cover Story With Variety Drops
Here is where gears shift into overdrive. In her cover story with Variety, Wilde addressed everything from CinemaCon to LaBeouf’s recasting, saying that LaBeouf was fired from the production because “his process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions,” officially revealing that he did not leave the production due to scheduling conflicts as had previously been explained.
“I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work,” Wilde said. “He has a process that, in some ways, seems to require a combative energy, and I don’t personally believe that is conducive to the best performances. I believe that creating a safe, trusting environment is the best way to get people to do their best work. Ultimately, my responsibility is to the production and to the cast to protect them. That was my job.”
Among other things, Wilde also alluded to the fact that there was a “reason” she left Sudeikis (in response to his serving her custody papers) and shared her indignance at being the target for online vitriol and sexism. After Page Six ran an anonymously sourced story that Pugh was unhappy with Wilde and Styles’ relationship and that the latter was being paid triple her salary, Wilde responded in an email as reported by Variety: “There has been a lot out there that I largely don’t pay attention to. 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.”
Conspicuously, however, Wilde declined to comment on rumors of tension between her and Pugh in the piece, and Pugh “was not available” to grant an interview in support of Wilde’s cover story. The reason given was that she was busy in production on “Dune: Part Two.” Styles answered questions over email for the story while on tour.
Aug. 26, 2022 — Florence Pugh to Skip the Press Tour
TheWrap exclusively reported that Pugh would not be doing press for “Don’t Worry Darling” beyond attending the Venice Film Festival world premiere of the film. The formal reason given was that Pugh would be busy shooting “Dune: Part Two,” and would attend the red carpet and premiere for the film at Venice but would not be doing any further promotional interviews.
Aug. 26, 2022 — Shia LaBeouf Enters the Chat
Shia LaBeouf responded to Wilde’s remarks that she fired him in the Variety cover story very swiftly, saying that he chose to quit the film instead. The actor contacted Variety directly after the publication of its cover story, sharing emails that he allegedly sent to Wilde claiming that he left the film on August 27, 2020 due to a “lack of rehearsal time.”
“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,” he said in part in the email. “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 you, and that your film is successful in all the ways you want it to be.”
Fans also leaked a video message that Wilde appeared to have sent LaBeouf asking him to reconsider leaving the film, which you can read more about below…
Aug. 27, 2022 — The Video Wilde Allegedly Sent LaBeouf Leaks
As first reported by Variety, that 45-second-long clip — which was part of LaBeouf’s “receipts” claiming he was not fired but rather quit the “Don’t Worry Darling” production — leaked. Mere hours after the disgraced actor gave his initial defense, social media users could judge for themselves how to interpret the now-infamous moniker “Miss Flo.” A day after this, Puck reported that several unnamed sources said Pugh “wasn’t a fan of her director disappearing so often with her leading man.”
Sept. 4, 2022 — Pugh Skips the Venice Film Festival Press Conference
Although initial reports indicated that Pugh would limit her press appearances to both the Venice Film Festival press conference and red carpet premiere, a last-minute switch-up the following week revealed that, actually, no, Pugh would not be partaking in the press conference after all. At the time, it was reported that her flight would not land until after the conference’s conclusion.
Sept. 5, 2022 — D(WD)-Day: The Red Carpet Premiere, Press Conference and Standing Ovation
Put your seatbelts on, because this section is a doozy. Throughout Monday, it seemed as if the deluge of photos, videos and statements related to the film and its red carpet premiere, press conference and subsequent screening would never end. From Pugh’s late arrival to Venice and the thinly veiled beef between her and Wilde’s stylists, we have you covered on everything that went down:
As established earlier, Pugh skipped the press conference for the film after it was initially reported that she would make room for that main panel, which included Wilde, Pine, Styles and Gemma Chan. The no-show was due to scheduling conflicts and a late flight from Budapest (where “Dune: Part Two” is filming), which would touch down supposedly after the conference concluded. However, it’s important to note that her “Dune 2” co-star Timothée Chalamet, the film’s lead, was able to clear several days for Venice to promote his upcoming movie “Bones and All.” The New York Times wrote on the issue, “One would presume that since Warner Bros. is distributing both ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ and the ‘Dune’ sequel, an accommodating schedule could have been carved out for Pugh the moment she signed on for the latter film, especially since it features a sprawling ensemble cast.”
Meanwhile, the press conference: Wilde dodged a straight answer to a question regarding her alleged feud with Pugh, stating that she doesn’t “feel the need to contribute.” She said, “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.”
The filmmaker also added that the leading star is a “force,” saying “We are so grateful she’s able to make it tonight [at the red carpet] 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, and to [director Denis Villeneuve] for helping us. And we’ll get to celebrate her work tonight. I can’t say how honored I am to have her as our lead. She’s amazing.” At the same time, a moderator blocked a question about LaBeouf, citing that Wilde’s previous answers had addressed the matter, which the New York Times said prompted the film’s stars to “stare neutrally into space.”
Five minutes after this took place, social media users were able to revel at a video posted by Pugh’s stylist Rebecca Murray to her Instagram Stories, showing the actress enjoying an aperol spritz in head-to-toe purple Valentino (she’s the lux brand’s beauty partner, darling) as she strutted to Tony Sebastian’s “Midnight,” which features her vocals, in Venice.
Another portion of the press conference that made the rounds concerns Pine and leading man Styles. In a set of photos circulated on Twitter, Pine seemed to disassociate from the conference’s proceedings. Additionally, a clip showing Styles’ response to a journalist’s question appeared to provide video evidence of Pine’s apparent indifference. (We highly recommend watching Styles’ answer, the transcription of which is as follows: “My favorite thing about the movie is it feels like a movie, it feels like a real, go-to-the-theater film, movie, the reason why you go to watch something on the big screen.”)
Next up, the red carpet: Pine and Pugh seemed to be having the time of their lives as the former ecstatically took photos of the latter, who was donned in a sheer black (you guessed it) Valentino dress that was adorned with a starry pattern — apt for the film’s star. That was where the cast courtesies seemed to end, however, as users on social media noted the lack of photos featuring Wilde and Pugh posing together. (To be fair, there are also none with Wilde and Styles together, and the two are dating. Additionally, Variety reported that each figure’s arrival was spaced out a “healthy window,” with mainly solo shots available on Getty’s site.) Overall, a video from the carpet also seemed to indicate some lack of enthusiasm on part of the cast for a group photo opp, though it’s always hard to coordinate those!
Also on the red carpet, Pugh conducted a brief interview with an Italian outlet, where she was asked how the film can be inspirational to women breaking free from oppression. In an answer that many interpreted as an allusion to all the off-screen controversy surrounding “DWD,” she said, “I think it’s very, very inspiring to see a woman push back and say ‘no’ and question everything, and it’s very exciting to see a woman do that [on] and off camera. I’m so lucky that I get to do that, especially in this role.”
Now, onto the actual screening: In a since-deleted video, Pine was captured putting on sunglasses just as the lights dimmed in time for the screening, leading folks to joke that he was getting ready for some shut-eye amid all the chaos. (And yes, hold tight, we’ll be covering “spitgate” in the next section.)
After the screening, “Don’t Worry Darling” received an absurdly long standing ovation, as is festival tradition. Throughout this, Variety reported that Wilde, Styles and Pugh kept their distance, with the latter even seemingly avoiding eye contact with the filmmaker and instead facing Nick Kroll (who got a huge smooch from Styles, because why not). The leading actress also left the room around the applause’s three-minute mark, cutting the celebration short as the rest of the cast followed her out. However, in one video, notably posted to the film’s official Instagram page, the two can be seen exchanging glances.
Around the same time, a battle waged online as Wilde and Pugh’s respective stylists seemed to throw shade at one another. Murray captioned a behind-the-scenes post of Pugh getting ready with “Miss Flo.” Meanwhile, Wilde’s stylist Karla Welch wrote on her Instagram Story, “There’s always more to the story…” though this is perhaps unrelated. What a ride!
Did Harry Styles Actually Spit on Chris Pine?
Arguably the most Mad Lib-sounding portion of the evening, a video purportedly showing the pop superstar spitting on Pine’s lap quickly made the rounds on Twitter, as everyone and their mom leaned on their “CSI” skills to deduce — “Seinfeld” JFK parody style — whether spittle was spilled from Styles’ mouth. People reposted the video in slo-mo; they zoomed in on Pine’s seemingly incredulous resulting laugh and demanded testimony from an audience member who sat behind the costars. There were memes aplenty.
But the chaos on social media was fairly short-lived as on Sept. 6, Tuesday morning, multiple media reports wrote that Pine and Styles’ reps adamantly denied the “ridiculous story.” Here are the respective statements:
Pine’s rep stated: “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.”
Meanwhile, according to the Guardian, a “source” close to Styles simply noted, “This is not true.”
What Do the Critics Say About “Don’t Worry Darling?”
Oh yes, the movie! So now that it’s premiered, is it any good? With just under three weeks to go until Wilde’s sophomore film hits the big screens, reviews are somewhat mixed. The film has garnered such declarations as to be a knockoff of a “Black Mirror” episode or pale imitation of “The Truman Show” and “Stepford Wives.” Critics praised Pugh’s performance as well as Pine’s, but that’s about where the positive notes end. Nearly all major publications addressed and/or glossed over the off-screen turmoil in some capacity, but the resulting conclusion was that the film — for better or for worse — did not produce enough entertainment to merit all the hubbub around it. As it currently stands, “DWD” holds a 42% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a similar 48% on Metacritic.
At least a couple of critics also pointed out the severely underwritten role of Margaret, portrayed by KiKi Layne, the film’s sole Black actress. Rolling Stone wrote, “A case could be made that an African-American character might naturally be able to see what’s really going on behind the polite society of a 1950s township with more clarity than her white counterparts. And an even stronger case could be made that casting one of the few Black actors in your ensemble in such a barely sketched out, completely sacrificial role isn’t exactly a great look. Let’s just say this might have been thought through a little better.”
Surely the “Don’t Worry Darling” drama isn’t over just yet, but that’s the story so far.