Some people have sports. Some people garden or knit or birdwatch. And some people have the Don’t Worry Darling press tour.
Personally, everything I’ve learned about the feature film — which stars Florence Pugh and should use a comma after “worry” in its title — has been against my will. I couldn’t tell you the plot (something about ’50s housewives?) but know all too much about the supposed behind-the-scenes drama, from the interviews to the non-interviews, the snubs and the Shia and the spit takes. Now that I’ve experienced the Don’t Worry Darling press tour, I wish I could go back in time and live in a world where I didn’t.
Much of the drama comes back to director Olivia Wilde, who among other things told Variety that only women have orgasms in the film. Let’s back up.
While filming, Wilde split with her longtime partner Jason Sudeikis and began dating the lead of Don’t Worry, pop star Harry Styles. Speculation is that Wilde and Styles may have had an affair on set. That timing would explain why Sudeikis served Wilde custody papers during a huge promotional stop for the movie. Meanwhile, Pugh, the star of Don’t Worry, hasn’t been on the same page as her director.
While Wilde has been effusive about Pugh, Pugh has not been promoting this movie or returning Wilde’s warmth. And in one of the rare moments when she has spoken about the movie, Pugh grumbled at the idea of her performance being reduced to sex scenes. There have also been rumors that Pugh didn’t care for Wilde and Styles’s relationship.
Tensions between Pugh and Wilde have, like the love triangle between Styles, Wilde, and Sudeikis, eclipsed the movie itself. Add to that the possibility of Styles spitting on co-star Chris Pine during the film’s Venice Film Festival premiere, and it’s clear that Don’t Worry has become one of those movies where the real drama is behind the scenes. To that end, we’ve attempted to bring you all the drama to one place, in semi-chronological order.
All that scandal and speculation can be fun in its own special way, but when it comes to this movie — darling, I’m worried.
To fully fathom this entire saga, one important thing to understand is that back in 2020, Wilde and Sudeikis were a beloved celebrity couple. (Bear with me; this concept is embarrassing for all of us.)
Wilde-Sudeikis were considered cool and “couple goals.” Part of being “couple goals” in Hollywood is that both famous people have to be independently successful. If there’s lopsided success, a celebrity couple just isn’t aspirational. Unsuccessful couples are definitely not couple goals.
In 2019, Wilde directed Booksmart, which was a critical success. It was so widely loved that many, Hollywood insiders included, felt that its modest $25 million box office haul was a sign of how broken the movie industry is. Because of Booksmart’s triumph and Wilde’s growing reputation as a director, a heated bidding war for Don’t Worry Darling began that summer, and in April of 2020, it was announced that Pugh and Shia LaBeouf would star. Styles replaced LaBeouf that September. (More on this later.)
Meanwhile, Sudeikis’s Ted Lasso premiered in August 2020. That show quickly became a hit; Sudeikis and his eponymous character have become a cultural shorthand for earnestness. If something has Ted Lasso vibes, that means it is sweet and wholesome. Sudeikis is the poster man for that.
Sudeikis was nice. Wilde was cool. He was sweet. She was smart. The in-demand director was engaged to the good-guy TV star. They were both hitting their stride at the same time. Couple goals!
In a few months, that all exploded.
Wilde and Sudeikis announced in November 2020 that they broke up, and actually stopped seeing each other earlier in the year. The couple, who have two children together, released a statement that said the split was “amicable.” According to a source who spoke to Entertainment Tonight: “They just fell out of love in a romantic way, but still have love towards one another as people … They consider themselves friends and co-parents first and foremost.”
But a few weeks later, on January 5, 2021, Wilde and Styles were photographed “holding hands at a friend’s wedding,” according to People. People’s sources said the two began dating on set, though it’s unclear when. In polite society, a wedding is the kind of event that you take someone serious to, not someone you just began seeing.
According to Page Six’s sources, Wilde and Styles had an affair on set, which seems to indicate that the split wasn’t as amicable as the ex-couple’s statement said. Don’t Worry finished filming a month later in February, and from there Wilde and Styles go from “happy” to having “one-on-one down time” to having “grown closer as a couple.”
At the end of the year, in December 2021, Wilde had an interview with Vogue in which she said she’s living her best life. She did not mention Styles by name, but implied that her relationship with him is worth the scrutiny and possible backlash: “It’s obviously really tempting to correct a false narrative … But I think what you realize is that when you’re really happy, it doesn’t matter what strangers think about you. All that matters to you is what’s real, and what you love, and who you love.”
The interviews Wilde has given about the movie have framed it as a female empowerment vis-a-vis female orgasm film. They also seem to function as a subtle way of speaking about pursuing her relationship with Styles.
After the initial shock of the split with Sudeikis, the press surrounding Wilde’s romantic life seemed to settle down. There were even reports of the former couple making peace, and Styles getting to know Wilde and Sudeikis’s children.
But in April 2022, while Wilde was promoting the movie at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, she was served custody papers on stage. A source close to Sudeikis told Variety that the company that processes the papers is responsible for the timing and that Sudeikis had no prior knowledge of when Wilde would be served, but the optics sure seem like all those reports of a friendly breakup were way off, and Wilde agrees.
“I hated that this nastiness distracted from the work of so many different people and the studio that I was up there representing,” Wilde told Variety in an interview, going into depth about what it was like to get served in front of all those people. “But, you know, sadly, it was not something that was entirely surprising to me. I mean, there’s a reason I left that relationship.”
Don’t Worry is far from the first time a director broke up with their partner to pursue someone they’re making a movie with. And actors have fallen in love on movie sets before, sometimes to the chagrin of the people they were seeing. But the combination of Sudeikis’s nice-guy persona, Wilde’s female empowerment stance, and Styles’s pop star status has made this particular triangle gossip gold.
With the Wilde-Styles-Sudeikis triangle in full effect, it’s been sort of easy to forget that Florence Pugh is in this movie. She’s not involved in those headlines, and she generally tends to keep a low profile. But Pugh, one of the buzziest names attached to the project, has made her invisibility more apparent by barely promoting the film. Officially, according to Pugh’s reps, she is shooting Dune: Part Two, and that scheduling conflict is why she hasn’t been promoting Don’t Worry.
Unofficially, speculation is that Pugh hasn’t been promoting Don’t Worry because she and Wilde had a falling out.
People who have a lot of time and attention to detail noticed that Pugh was initially gleeful about the project but then didn’t really hype the film on Instagram, a social media platform where actors and their teams usually do that type of stuff. They also noticed that on a Valentine’s Day post that celebrated the end of filming, Pugh thanked the behind-the-camera crew that worked on the movie but didn’t mention Wilde. And on an August 11 post where Pugh promoted the film the caption (“‘Not everyone gets this opportunity…’ Not long now! Only in theatres September 23rd”) was brief. Pugh’s captions aren’t always brief. Fans spotted that Wilde would post about Pugh but never be reciprocated.
In the rare moments where Pugh has talked about the film, she seemed to contradict Wilde’s comments. Pugh spoke about the attention, encouraged by Wilde, to the movie’s sex 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 told Harper’s Bazaar, not mentioning Wilde’s supposed boyfriend by name. “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.”
Evidence of a rift also surfaced late last month when actor Shia LaBeouf responded to Wilde’s assertion that he had been fired.
Wilde told Variety she had fired LaBeouf because she felt that she could not create “a safe, trusting environment” with him onboard (FKA twigs, who dated LaBeouf, sued the actor in January 2021 and accused him of sexual battery, assault, and infliction of emotional distress). LaBeouf shared screenshots of text messages and a video from Wilde with Variety that he claims are proof that he quit and that Wilde actually wanted him to continue with the project. Variety writes that in the video Wilde made an allusion to LaBeouf and Pugh not getting along and seemed to take LaBeouf’s side, dismissing Pugh’s concerns.
“I feel like I’m not ready to give up on this yet, and I, too, am heartbroken and I want to figure this out,” Wilde allegedly says in the video. “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?”
In the wake of LaBeouf’s response and the alleged messages between him and Wilde, Pugh announced she was skipping the Don’t Worry premiere press conference at the Venice Film Festival this past week, another instance where Pugh would not promote the movie with Wilde.
The assumed professional fracture between Wilde and Pugh put their actions at the Venice Film Festival’s Don’t Worry premiere under a microscope.
Despite the tight scheduling conflict that was cited for skipping the press conference, Pugh had enough time to arrive in Venice this weekend and show off a purple ensemble. Her stylist, Rebecca Corbin-Murray, also posted a shot of Pugh’s red carpet look with the caption “Miss Flo” — the nickname that Wilde used to refer to Pugh in her video to LaBeouf. On Twitter, Corbin-Murray also liked a post that defended Pugh and used the hashtag “TimesUpOlivia.”
At the premiere, many noted that Pugh and Wilde were never photographed next to each other. According to Variety editor Ramin Setoodeh, Pugh did not make eye contact with Wilde during the four-minute standing ovation for the movie.
The lack of eye contact, the lack of interaction between the two, and Pugh’s stylist speaking in social media subtext point to the falling out being real.
That was far from the only tension, however. People also noticed that Wilde and Styles kept their distance from one another. Like Pugh and Wilde, they weren’t photographed next to each other and they didn’t sit next to each other at the showing. Styles and Wilde also arrived separately to the movie’s conference. That’s all led to chatter about a possible split, which would give us a fitting, symmetrical end to the movie’s mythology.
And there’s been one more twist to Don’t Worry!
During the press conference that Pugh skipped, media and fans noticed the pained expression of Chris Pine, one of Hollywood’s better Chrises, as he listened to his co-star Styles speak.
At a junket interview with both men, Styles was asked what he liked about the film, and cobbled together a word salad, saying, “My favorite thing about the movie is that it feels like a movie. It feels like a real, like, go to the theater film-movie — you know — the reason you go to watch on a big screen.” While Pine remained silent, many construed the shape of his face and vacancy in his eyes to mean that his spirit was escaping his body, or that he was experiencing some kind of active dissociation.
There was also a moment in which Styles allegedly spit on Pine during the seating for the premiere. In the clip, Styles, arriving at his seat, seems to spit into Pine’s lap; at that same moment, Pine appears to react by stopping his applause and flashes a look many read as something between annoyance and bemusement. Having zoomed in on photos and slow-motion scrubbed back and forth on the videos that exist of Styles sitting down next to Pine, I am exhausted at looking at Styles’s lip quiver but did not see any spittle flying in any one direction. There’s also a theory that Pine was merely realizing his sunglasses were on his lap at the same time that Styles approached him. Pine’s rep has flatly denied that there was spitting, calling it a “result of an odd online illusion.”
Is there a feud between Pine and Styles? Is this supposed discord between Styles and Pine evidence that Wilde favored her pop star boyfriend and created chaos on set? Is Pine in the same boat as Pugh, tired of Wilde’s behavior? Can co-star Nick Kroll help them all just get along? Or is the whole thing just some fanfic manifestation of the rumors orbiting the movie?
At this point, the line between media scrutiny, actual drama, and projected discord is indistinguishable. What does seem true is that these people are all actors and have done a poor job acting like everything about this movie has been standard. To add to the trouble, critics who screened Don’t Worry at Venice have given the movie mixed reviews.
Good or bad or filled with female orgasms, the film will be a crystallized reminder of the drama surrounding it, trapped forever in amber. When it comes out, fans will scrutinize each scene for the moment where Wilde and Styles fell in love, the frame that ignited Wilde and Pugh’s cold war, and perhaps any sign that their co-stars were projecting to the astral plane to forget this mess. When the box office receipts come back, that’s when we’ll know if this press tour was something to worry about or if it will make the film an unexpected financial darling.
Don’t Worry Darling will be released in theaters on September 23, 2022.