On paper, Don’t Worry Darling should have been a surefire win.
The psychological thriller had, in Olivia Wilde, a buzzy up-and-coming director, fresh off the glowingly received teen comedy Booksmart.
In Florence Pugh, it had a young actor hailed as one of the very best of a generation, who had just been nominated for her first Oscar (for Little Women).
When it was announced that Pugh would be joined by Harry Styles, one of the biggest pop singers in the world, it seemed the film was all-but guaranteed to be a major box-office draw. So what went wrong?
As the film’s September release date has drawn ever closer, controversy surrounding the film has snowballed.
Rumours of on-set feuds, disputes around firings and questionable acting performances have seen many pundits brand Don’t Worry Darling a disaster waiting to happen.
Here’s a timeline of Don’t Worry Darling’s behind-the-scenes troubles...
July 2019 –The film is announced
Wilde was confirmed to be directing the film, from a story conceived by Carey and Shane Van Dyke. It was also suggested that Wilde was going to star in the project.
Early 2020 – Olivia Wilde splits from her long-term partner
At the beginning of the year, Wilde separated from her partner, Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis, with whom she shares two children.
The split wasn’t publically known until months later.
April 2020 – The cast is announced, including Shia LaBeouf
In the first major update since Don’t Worry Darling was announced, Wilde confirmed that Pugh had been cast alongside Shia LaBeouf and Chris Pine.
On Instagram, Pugh reacted enthusiastically to the news, describing Wilde as her “idol”.
September 2020 – Shia LaBeouf departs the project, and Harry Styles joins
For reasons that have since become the subject of some dispute (more on that later), LaBeouf left the film in September 2020.
It was suggested at the time that the reason for his departure was a scheduling conflict.
Stepping in to replace him was Styles. While he is best known for his pop career, as a solo artist and with the former boyband One Direction, Styles had in fact acted before, most notably in a small role in Christopher Nolan’s epic war movie Dunkirk.
December 2020 – LaBeouf is sued for abuse by FKA twigs
Near the end of the year, the musician FKA twigs, a former girlfriend of LaBeouf, filed a lawsuit against the actor alleging “relentless abuse” including sexual battery, assault, and infliction of emotional distress. He later denied “each and every” claim.
At the time, it was also alleged 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 behavior” and that his style “clashed with the cast and crew, including Wilde”.
January 2021 – Wilde and Styles are reported to be dating
The director and her leading man were pictured holding hands while attending a wedding, sparking a flurry of reports that they were romantically involved.
The supposed relationship was not confirmed to the media by either party at the time.
February 2021 – Filming wraps
Members of the cast and crew mark the occasion on Instagram. Wilde is particularly effusive in her praise of Styles, writing: “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.”
Wilde’s remarks about Styles drew some criticism, with many questioning why she was praising him simply for conceding the lead role to the Oscar-nominated Pugh.
April 2022 – Wilde is served custody papers while on stage
While introducing a clip of the film at an event in Las Vegas, Wilde was served custody papers by Sudeikis in front of a crowd.
She was handed an envelope marked “private and confidential” by an unknown person. After opening and scanning it on stage, she resumed her speech, later revealing to press that the envelope had in fact contained Sudeikis’s legal filing.
11 August 2022 – Wilde praises Pugh on Instagram
In the year and a half since filming wrapped, speculation had gradually grown on social media surrounding a supposed feud between Pugh and Wilde. Some followers had pointed to a lack of Don’t Worry Darling-related social media activity on Pugh’s part as an indication that she was beginning to distance herself from the film.
In a glowing social media post, Wilde said it was a “f***ing thrill” to watch Pugh work. The post was not shared or “liked” by Pugh, prompting further speculation among followers.
She did, however, share her own post about the film shortly after.
16 August 2022 – Pugh discusses the film in an interview
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Pugh discussed the film, but some fans observed a conspicuous lack of discussion about either Wilde or Styles. She did, however, discuss the movie’s 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.”
24 August 2022 – Wilde praises Pugh, denies rumours of a pay disparity
In an interview with Variety, Wilde lavished praise on Pugh once again, describing her as “extraordinary” and “clearly the most exciting young actress working today”.
“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 rubbished talk of a feud, claiming: “Tabloid media is a tool to pit women against one another and to shame them.”
24 August 2022 –Wilde says she fired LaBeouf to “protect” the stars
In an interview, Wilde claimed that she fired LaBeouf from the production to help ensure that Pugh felt “safe”.
“I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work,” she said. “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.”
26 August 2022 – LaBeouf denies he was fired, shares video of Wilde
Just days after this interview was given, LaBeouf denied Wilde’s claims, saying that he had left the production of his own accord as he was unable to “find time to rehearse” with the other cast members.
He sent screenshots of his email and text exchanges with Wilde to Variety, as well as a video of Wilde apparently trying to convince LaBeouf to stay attached to the project.
In the footage, which leaked online, Wilde is seen saying that she is “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?”
5 September 2022 – Olivia Wilde and cast arrive at Venice film festival
Talk around the film reached fever pitch ahead of Venice film festival, where Wilde, Styles, Pugh and other members of the Don’t Worry Darling cast were in attendance. Eyebrows were 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, and she would be attending the red carpet event with her director and co-stars.
That doesn’t mean the first day at Venice was free from controversy. A reporter claimed he was told not to ask Wilde questions about LaBoeuf during the press conference. Wilde also gave a conveniently vague answer when asked about rumours of a feud between her and Pugh, rather than quashing them outright.
Pugh arrived in Venice to attend the premiere of the film later that night. While appearing on the red carpet on Monday (5 September) evening, Pugh appeared to hint at the discord when asked by a journalist what she found “inspiring” in the film.
“I think it’s very very inspiring to see a woman push back and say ‘no’, and question everything” she replied. “It’s very exciting to see a woman do that on and off camera.”
5 September 2022 – Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh’s stylists wade in on the drama
Karla Welch, a Los Angeles-based stylist who frequently works with Wilde, shared a story on Instagram last night that apparently was in reference to the speculation.
“There’s always more to the story…” the stylist wrote at the same time as reporting on the rumoured feud was escalating.
Welch’s post came around the same time as Florence Pugh’s stylist, who called the actor “Miss Flo” in an Instagram post that was an apparent jibe at Wilde.
6 September 2022 – clips of Chris Pine “checking out” of the premiere go viral
One clip which has caught the attention of fans sees the actor sat alongside his co-star Harry Styles. The camera zooms in on Pine’s face as Styles gives a somewhat convoluted answer to a reporter’s question.
“Proof that Chris Pine is a good actor – he didn’t make a ‘what the f*** is this idiot on about’ face or burst into hysterical laughter listening to his co-star answer (if you can call it that) this question,” said someone else.
The Star Trek actor was also seen putting on sunglasses for the premiere of his film later that night. “Chris Pine putting on his sunglasses as the lights cut… oh that man is taking a nap,” wrote one person alongside a clip.
6 September 2022 – Viral video sparks claims Harry Styles ‘spat’ at Chris Pine at premiere
In a video taken at the festival, posted by Twitter user JZMaclin, Styles supposedly “appears to spit” on Pine while taking his assigned seat next to the actor, who then looks down at his lap and stops clapping.
Since the video clip was posted online early Tuesday morning (6 September), it has received over 5.5 million views, with many fans claiming Styles “definitely did” spit on his co-actor.
Other viewers have dismissed the “spitting” claim and said it is more likely that the pair were joking around.
Sources close to Pine and Styles, however, have told The Independent that the spitting claims were untrue.
A rep for Pine told People that the clip was nothing more than an “odd online illusion”.
Ongoing – clips of Styles’s acting circulate on TikTok
In recent weeks, clips from the film and its trailer have circulated on the video messaging platform Tiktok.
Fans have weighed in on the performances, with many criticising Styles’s line delivery and seemingly inconsistent accent in the pre-released material, while praising Pugh.
Don’t Worry Darling is out in cinemas on 23 September.