5 September 2022

‘Don’t Worry Darling’ controversy — What’s going on with Olivia Wilde, Florence Pugh and Harry Styles?

Perhaps Wilde, Styles, Pugh and Shia LaBeouf should be worrying intensely after all...

Unless you’re living completely off-grid, you’ve probably come across at least one of the controversies surrounding the Olivia Wilde directed, Don’t Worry Darling. The drama involved with this flick is, seemingly, endless… But while the film’s PR team may not be having the best of times, there’s no denying the hype around the film has reached fever pitch. 

After the reception to Wilde’s critically acclaimed teen-comedy Booksmart, the expectations for her next project were high. Throw in one of the best young actors of our generation, Florence Pugh, and arguably the biggest pop star in the world right now, Harry Styles, and there was surely no way this could go wrong. However, as the release date looms, more headlines are being made on account of the stars than the film itself. Here, HUNGER runs you through all the key controversies surrounding the upcoming feature.

Shia LaBeouf departs and Harry Styles joins

When one of your leading actors has to depart a project so early on, the omens probably aren’t good. In April 2020, when the film was announced, Wilde confirmed that Shia LaBeouf had been cast alongside Pugh and Chris Pine. While we won’t get into the specifics just yet, LaBeouf was replaced by Harry Styles only five months later. It was suggested at the time that the reason for his departure was a scheduling conflict. Stepping up to replace him was none other than global pop sensation Harry Styles, whose only acting gig prior was a small role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

In December of the same year, FKA Twigs, former girlfriend of LaBeouf, filed a lawsuit against the actor. The singer alleged “relentless abuse” including sexual battery, assault, and infliction of emotional distress. It was also claimed at the time that LaBeouf had in fact been fired from the production of Don’t Worry Darling with Variety citing insiders who claimed that he had “exhibited poor behaviour” and that his style “clashed with the cast and crew, including Wilde.”

Wilde and Styles reportedly start dating

The leading man and his director were spotted holding hands while attending a wedding, sparking several reports claiming that the two were romantically involved. The apparent relationship was never confirmed at the time but came two months after Wilde had split from her fiance Jason Sudeikis in November 2020.

Wilde commends Styles for not doing much at all

After filming had wrapped, Wilde drew criticism for her praise of boyfriend Styles. In an Instagram post, she wrote: “Not only did he relish the opportunity to allow for the brilliant @florencepugh to hold centre 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.” Wilde’s comments regarding Styles weren’t taken too kindly, with many wondering why she would praise him for simply conceding the lead role to Pugh.

Pugh seems to distance herself from the film

Speculation had gradually grown on social media surrounding a supposed fallout between Wilde and Pugh after filming had wrapped. Followers pointed out a lack of Don’t Worry Darling-related social media content as an indication of the alleged bust-up. In an Instagram post, Wilde said it was a “fucking thrill” to watch Oscar-nominated Pugh work. However, the post was not shared or liked by Pugh which only added further to the speculation.

Fans also noted that in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Pugh discussed the film, but there was a glaring lack of discussion about either Wilde or Styles. However, she did comment on the sex scenes, which had previously been championed by Wilde. “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,” said the actor. “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,” she continued. “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.”

Wilde denies rumours of a pay disparity

In August 2022, While speaking to Variety, Wilde spoke out against rumours that Styles had been paid three times Pugh’s salary for the film. “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,” she told the publication. She also slammed talk of a feud, claiming: “Tabloid media is a tool to pit women against one another and to shame them.”

Wild fired LaBeouf to “protect” the stars

During the same interview, Wilde claimed that she fired LaBeouf to help ensure Pugh felt “safe.” The director said: “I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work. 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, and I don’t personally believe that is conducive to the best performances. 

She continued: “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.”

LaBeouf denies he was fired 

Only days after the interview was released, LaBeouf hit back and denied the claims. The actor said he left the production on his own accord after being unable to “find time to rehearse” with the other cast members. He also sent screenshots of his and Wilde’s emails and text messages, as well as a video of Wilde apparently trying to convince LaBeouf to stay attached to the project. In the footage, which was leaked online, Wilde is seen saying that she was “heartbroken” over LaBeouf’s exit.

“You know, I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo,” she says, seemingly referring to Pugh. “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?”

Clips of Styles’ acting go viral

After a few clips of the film and its trailer began circulating online, fans were quick to criticise Styles for his delivery and inconsistent accent in the pre-released material. In one scathing take, a user on Twitter wrote: “I can’t stop thinking about this. I don’t remember the last time I saw such an obvious leap in acting quality between two people. It’s baffling,” in reference to a scene involving both Styles and Pugh.

Venice film festival

As the release came closer and talk around the film reached new heights, Wilde, Styles and Pugh were in attendance at the Venice film festival. Of course, there had to be some controversy didn’t there, and it came from Pugh’s lack of appearance at the press conference. However, it was later confirmed by Variety that this was because her flight landed after the fact, and she would be attending the red carpet event with her director and co-stars. 

Don’t Worry Darling is out in cinemas on September 23rd.

  • Writer Chris Saunders

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