Michael, I can’t open a tab without being assaulted by one or a variety of the following names: Florence Pugh. Olivia Wilde. Shia LaBeouf. Harry Styles. I don’t know where to start with this story. What’s going on?
Steph, welcome to your crash course in the film they are (or were) all starring in, which, for a movie called Don’t Worry Darling, has actually involved a significant quantity of worrying.
Directed by Olivia Wilde (of Booksmart and breaking-up-with-her-fiance-to-date-Harry-Styles fame), it has courted a great deal of controversy over the past few months, but let’s begin with the most recent turn of events: Don’t Worry Darling has its world premiere on Monday at the Venice film festival, but Florence Pugh, who co-stars alongside Styles, will not be appearing at a prescreening press conference.
This is because Pugh’s flight from Budapest (where she is filming the Dune sequel) doesn’t land until the conference is over – though of course it could also (hypothetically) be an elaborate way to avoid spending time talking about a film you (hypothetically) did not enjoy working on and do not wish to promote.
OK. This is ringing some bells. Say more.
So let’s whip back to 2020, the early stages of the film’s production. Shia LaBeouf was initially cast in Styles’ role – a company man living with his wife (Pugh) in a Stepford-y town, whose world begins to unravel when shady stuff goes down at work.
The relationship between LaBeouf and Wilde quickly soured, and he was replaced in the role. In an interview last month with Variety, Wilde says: “His process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions. He has a process that, in some ways, seems to require a combative energy … my responsibility is to the production and to the cast, to protect them.”
But then, the plot thickened: LaBeouf fired back his own receipts, claiming he was the one who chose to quit.
Amid the he said/she said, Pugh was caught in the crossfire – in one video LaBeouf shared with Variety, Wilde hints at on-set tensions with her. “This might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo,” she says. “If she really commits, if she really puts her mind and heart into it at this point and if you guys can make peace … what do you think? Is there hope?”
How does Harry Styles fit in?
Well, the whole sordid affair is exacerbated by … the other affair happening on set. The timeline of it all is a little murky, but most agree that after Wilde split from her fiance Jason Sudeikis in November 2020, she met Styles while shooting Don’t Worry Darling and the pair were seen holding hands two months later (the most middle-school way of confirming a relationship possible).
Fast forward to July of this year: a source tells Page Six that “Flo seeing Olivia and Harry all over each other on set did not go down well”. As we all know, “a source told Page Six” is not a line that holds much credibility – and indeed other sources have denied that Wilde and Styles’ burgeoning relationship was ever an issue.
There was also another – again, unconfirmed – rumour too: around pay disparity between Styles and Pugh. Wilde has vehemently denied these claims as merely “invented clickbait”.
Perhaps the biggest issue is Styles’ acting? For a film set in the suburbs of 1950s America, this man is sounding very
British Australian Irish unplaceable. It’s … um … avant garde.
I also seem to be hearing a lot about the sex scenes in this film?
Yes – although on this, you’d be forgiven for confusing Don’t Worry Darling with the other Harry Styles film that’s caused some recent sex scene controversy.
In Wilde’s film, the trailer features a sex scene between Styles and Pugh that sent the internet into extremely horny mania – before Pugh distanced herself from the discourse in one of the only pieces of promo she’s done. “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,” she said in a Harper’s Bazaar interview. “It’s not why I’m in the industry.”
Fair enough – but this doesn’t seem to gel with Wilde’s take: that there should have been more sex in the trailer, as she recently told Associated Press.
For a film whose star isn’t giving any press, this film does seem to be getting a lot of press. Did I read something about Jordan Peterson too?
I’m so sorry you had to see that. Unfortunately (as if it wasn’t messy enough already), there is a character inspired by Peterson, played by Chris Pine.
Right. Has Pine said weighed in on all this?
No. Unbothered king!