The six most disastrous film press tours, from Don’t Worry Darling to War of the Worlds

What happens when normal interviews take a turn...

Louis Chilton
Wednesday 07 September 2022 07:31 BST
Don't Worry Darling trailer

Don’t Worry Darling seems to be destined for infamy – and the film isn’t even out yet.

The psychological sci-fi thriller, starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, premiered this week at the Venice film festival, amid mounting reports of behind-the-scenes turmoil.

From a rumoured “falling out” between the film’s director and its star, to a dispute over a controversial cast departure, Don’t Worry Darling has truly endured the promotional campaign from hell.

Click here for a timeline of the behind-the-scenes controversies that have surrounded the film.

However, Don’t Worry Darling isn’t the only film to have its launch thrown into disarray by a wayward promotional campaign.

Whether we’re talking huge studio blockbusters or buzzy indie gems, sometimes all it takes is for one errant interview to spark a wave of bad – or merely strange – publicity.

Here are five of the most disastrous film campaigns in the history of cinema.

War of the Worlds (2005)

The promotional campaign for Steven Spielberg’s glossy War of the Worlds adapatation took a turn for the surreal when its star, Tom Cruise, appeared for an interview on Oprah.

While on the talk show, Cruise declared his love for Katie Holmes, the Batman Begins actor whom he was then dating (and who would later become his wife, before divorcing in 2012). He then memorably began jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s furniture.

The sofa-jumping incident was the most notorious of a number of regrettable public appearances Cruise made in the run-up to the film’s release. Other instances saw him quarrel with Matt Lauer during a 2005 interview on the Today Show, and lose his temper with a Channel 4 prankster who gently squirted him in the face with water.

Tom Cruise jumping on the sofa in the notorious Oprah intervview (YouTube.screengrab)

According to a 2007 article in Vanity Fair, Cruise’s shenanigans were frowned upon by Spielberg, who felt he had harmed the film’s prospects.

Two Lovers (2008)

Joaquin Phoenix’s interviews around the release of James Gray’s 2008 romance Two Lovers could charitably be described as “erratic”.

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He vowed that he was never going to act again, claimed he was intent on pursuing a rap music career, and appeared on David Letterman’s talk show while barely saying a word. At the time, people suspected that Phoenix was going off the rails – Two Lovers got all but completely drowned out by the noise.

Joaquin Phoenix poses dispassionately in front of a poster for his film ‘Two Lovers’ in 2009 (Getty Images)

However, it was ulimately all for a reason: Phoenix was deliberately playing with his off-screen persona as part of a separate film project, the faux-documentary film I’m Still Here.

Tower Heist (2011)

On the day Tower Heist opened in the US, the film’s diector Brett Ratner appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show. The interview prompted widespread condemnation over moments such as Ratner boasting about his sexual prowess, and discussing having sex with Lindsay Lohan.

Later that same day, Ratner attended a screening of the film where, at which he said: “Rehearsals are for f**s”.

He apologised for the homophobic slur, but the scandal had taken a toll on Tower Heist’s prospects. Ratner resigned as a producer of the Oscars, with the film’s star, Eddie Murphy, stepping down as host soon after.

In 2017, Ratner was accused of sexual misconduct, including allegations of rape and sexual assault, by multiple women. Ratner denied all of the allegations.

Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy in ‘Tower Heist' (Universal Pictures)

Melancholia (2011)

Things once looked bright for Melancholia, Lars Von Trier’s arthouse drama about depression and the end of the world.

At a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival, however, von Trier scandalised crowds when he began joking about casting Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melancholia’s stars, in a pornographic film.

He then spoke about his own Germanic heritage, joking about Jewish people, Nazis and “understanding Hitler” before infamously declaring: “I’m a Nazi.”

Von Trier at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (Getty Images)

The joke naturally fell flat among attendees, with the festival apologising later that day and banning von Trier from the Festival Palace.

Cold Pursuit (2019)

Liam Neeson thoroughly derailed the promotional campaign for his 2019 revenge thriller Cold Pursuit in an interview with The Independent.

The Schindler’s List star opened up about a past incident, unprompted, in which he apparently walked the streets with a “cosh” for days looking to kill a “Black bastard” after someone close to him was raped.

Cold Pursuit’s red carpet premiere was cancelled amid the resultant controversy, and the film was completely overshadowed.

Don’t Worry Darling (2022)

The story of Don’t Worry Darling’s turmultuous promotional campaign is probably too long and convoluted to go into fully here.

Early in the project, Shia LaBeouf was replaced by Harry Styles. Director Olivia Wilde later claimed that she had fired LaBeouf from the project to ensure that Florence Pugh felt “safe”. LaBeouf denied this, sharing a video from the time which appears to show Wilde asking him to stay on, and referring to Pugh as “Miss Flo”.

In 2021, reports surfaced that Wilde and Styles were romantically involved.

Rumours of a massive pay disparity between the two leads were denied outright by Wilde.

Harry Styles and Florence Pugh in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ (Warner Bros)

The controversies began snowballing during the film’s premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival. Eyebrows were first raised when it emerged that Pugh would not be attending the press conference. (It was later clarified that this was because her flight landed after the fact.)

The stylists for Pugh and Wilde appear to have both waded into the drama involving their clients.

Clips of Chris Pine appearing to zone out during the press conference for the film and at the premiere later that evening have gone viral.

Most sensationally, a video taken at the festival, posted by Twitter user JZMaclin, supposedly shows Styles “appearing to spit” on Pine while taking his assigned seat next to the actor, though this has been disputed by many online commenters.

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

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