Somehow the Don't Worry Darling Drama Leveled Up Again

A new report details more alleged beefing between Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh.

Ever since Booksmart landed to great fanfare in 2019, filmgoers have wondered what’s next for director Olivia Wilde. Now, finally, her follow-up is nearly here: Don’t Worry Darling, an erotic psychological thriller about a Stepford Wives-esque community hiding a dark secret lands this month.

Starring a who’s who of young Hollywood (more on that below), the film has become one of the biggest and most talked-about movie releases of the 2022, mostly because of a rather nuclear amount of drama surrounding the film. Here, we’re breaking down everything we know about it all, including a new report that details more alleged beefing between Wilde and the film's star, Florence Pugh.

What Is Don't Worry Darling About?

Pugh stars as Alice, a 1950s housewife living in a utopian California community with her husband Jack, played by Harry Styles. Alice and Jack are young, beautiful, and madly in love, but Jack is hiding a dark secret. In this community, the women spend their days at home building idyllic domestic lives for their husbands, while all the men work together at the mysterious Victory Project. Chris Pine plays Frank, the charismatic and sinister leader of the organization, while Kiki Layne plays Margaret, a spooked neighbor warning Alice that this community is not what it seems. When one of the wives goes missing, Alice becomes obsessed with understanding the community’s dark secret, pressuring the men for answers and attempting to rally her fellow wives to her cause.

Introducing the film at CinemaCon, Wilde compared it to Inception, The Matrix, and The Truman Show. She addressed the audience directly, saying, "Imagine a life where you could have anything you ever wanted, not just the tangible things… but also the things that really matter—true love with the perfect partner, real trusted friendships. What would it take for you to give up that perfect life? What are you willing to sacrifice to do what’s right? Are you willing to dismantle the system that is designed to serve you?"


What Does Don't Worry Darling Mean For Harry Styles?

Though the singer is just breaking into the big, wide world of acting, Styles is bringing an intensity that is just the right fit for Don't Worry Darling. In a new cover story for Rolling Stone, Wilde opened up about Harry's acting, which apparently left jaws on the floor. According to Wilde, while filming Jack's promotion scene (which, by the way, sounds very Wolf of Wall Street-esque), everyone on set was "in tears."

"The scene called for him to stand onstage with Frank and chant their creepy slogan, 'Whose world is it? Ours!' over and over again," Wilde said. "Dark as hell. But Harry took it to another level. He was so fully in the moment, he began screaming the lines to the crowd, in this primal roar, that was way more intense than anything we expected from the scene."

Later, she added that Pine even backed away, giving Harry the floor. "The camera operator followed him as he paced around the stage like a kind of wild animal," Wilde continued. "We were all gobsmacked at the monitor. I think even Harry was surprised by it. Those are the best moments for an actor—when you’re completely outside your body."

What’s With All The Drama Surrounding Don't Worry Darling?

If you spend any time online, any time at all, you’ve likely heard about a supposed beef between Pugh and Wilde. We’ll break it all down for you, but first, a disclaimer: most of what you're about to read is unsubstantiated hearsay, based on anonymous sources and Internet gossip. Take it with a grain of salt.

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TikTok is rife with rumors that the two fell out during filming over Wilde’s alleged lack of professionalism. What’s the evidence, you ask? A blind item on DeuxMoi, the Instagram celebrity gossip account, linked to Wilde: "I have it on very good authority that the director was not as involved in 'directing' as it would seem," an anonymous source wrote. Allegedly, the source of the tension on set was Wilde’s budding romance with Styles. "I can tell you for a fact that Flo seeing Olivia and Harry all over each other on set did not go down well as Olivia was still with Jason [Sudeikis] when she first hooked up with Harry," an anonymous source told Page Six.

The rumor mill exploded in July when Pugh failed to post about Don’t Worry Darling on her socials following a buzzy trailer drop. On the day the second trailer dropped, Pugh posted about another of her upcoming projects, Oppenheimer. Meanwhile, Wilde Instagrammed a behind-the-scenes photo of Pugh, writing, "Watching this woman work was such a fucking thrill!" Pugh didn’t like or reply to Wilde’s post, which some fans interpreted as a conspicuous silence. However, a source told Page Six, "I heard she was already scheduled to post [about Oppenheimer] that day for some specific reason. It had nothing to do with a response to Olivia."

Various news outlets also ran with an unverified report that claimed Styles made significant amount more than Pugh for his work in the film. In a recent cover story for Variety, Wilde emphatically shut down the reports via email. "There has been a lot out there that I largely don’t pay attention to," Wilde wrote. "But the absurdity of invented clickbait and subsequent reaction regarding a nonexistent pay disparity between our lead and supporting actors really upset me. I’m a woman who has been in this business for over 20 years, and it’s something that I have fought for myself and others, especially being a director. There is absolutely no validity to those claims."


Even at the Venice Film Festival, where the movie had its worldwide premiere, the drama continued. The Internet is presently going crazy, speculating that Harry Styles may have spit on Chris Pine. Pine's team quickly debunked this, telling People, "This is a ridiculous story—a complete fabrication and the result of an odd online illusion that is clearly deceiving and allows for foolish speculation." But a few somewhat normal things did happen during the premiere. Primarily, a press junket in which Wilde once again addressed the rumors of drama between her and the film's lead. Pugh was noticeably absent, due to her filming requirements for Dune: Part Two.

During the conference, one reporter asked Wilde, "Can you just clear the air and address whether there has been a falling out there and if so why, because it’s something that people are discussing?"

Wilde responded: "Florence is a force and we are so grateful that she is able to make it tonight despite being in production on Dune. I know as a director how disruptive it is to lose an actor even for a day so I’m very grateful to her and Denis Villeneuve [director of the Dune series] for helping us–we’re really thrilled we’ll get to celebrate her work tonight."

"I can’t say enough how honored I am to have her as our lead," she continued. "She’s amazing in the film and as for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, I mean, the Internet feeds itself. I don’t feel the need to contribute, I think it’s sufficiently well-nourished."

Though Wilde praised Pugh, she did not explicitly deny the tension between her and the star. Now, new reports have revealed that Pugh will also be skipping out on the New York City premiere for the film. The officially cited reason is due to filming requirements for Dune: Part Two. (If that's the case, it's unlikely she was ever expected to attend.)

Speaking to Rolling Stone, two insiders reported on the tension between the two and the possibility of a Flo–less New York premiere.

"From what I understand, there is friction, but I don’t know why," one source who was on the Don’t Worry Darling set said about the actor and director. "It’s pretty clear she’s choosing not to be a part of the PR," she said of Pugh. "It’s clearly not beneficial to Olivia to not have her be a part of the PR. It has to be a Florence decision."


Taking the drama to its natural fever pitch, another anonymous source told Vulture that Pugh and Wilde got into a vicious screaming match around three-quarters of the way through filming back in January 2021. According to the source, Pugh became fed up with the lack of time Wilde spent on set, due to her romance with Styles. "Olivia and Harry would just disappear," the source recalled. Toby Emmerich, the big brass Warner Bros. executive at the time, was allegedly forced to step in and begin a "long negotiation process" regarding Pugh's involvement in promoting the film. It seems they agreed on... not at all.

Since opening on Friday, September 23, predicting ticket sales has reportedly become a "schizophrenic" nightmare. Another anonymous source close to the film's production told Vulture that they believed Wilde was either, "a mad genius who figured out a way to make people more aware of the movie in a way that just drives up the box office, or she doesn’t have any self-awareness that she is fucking up her movie."

Wait, Wait, Wait—What's This About Shia LaBeouf?

Wouldn't you know it, Shia LaBeouf used to be in this movie! He was supposed to play Jack instead of Styles, but Wilde reportedly fired him from the film, speaking about it in the same Variety profile. Here's what she 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. 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.”

After the story hit, apparently, LaBeouf forwarded emails between himself and Wilde to Variety, disputing these claims. The emails he claims to have sent Wilde insist that he quit Don't Worry Darling on his own terms, writing, “You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors and I couldn’t find time to rehearse.” The Variety story includes a truly staggering amount of correspondence between LaBeouf and Wilde, including a description of a video LaBeouf claims Wilde sent him.


Is The Movie Even Good?!

Now that the movie has officially premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, it's certainly worth asking! Given the amount of rumors surrounding this movie, it would be quite a letdown if it wasn't any good. Well, now that the first few reviews are in from critics. And... it's clear that it's time to start worrying, darling. At the time of this writing, Don't Worry Darling holds a score of 46% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics seem to agree that Wilde's Stepford-wives-esque thriller falls short, while others are milder in their opinions. Plenty of critics praised Miss Flo for her performance, though.

For IndieWire, Kate Erbland wrote that Pugh "has never turned in a bad performance," and noted that she "excels at turning her characters—all women on the verge—into fully realized people, unafraid to tap into their worst impulses alongside their most admirable ones. Most of Don't Worry Darling is told through Alice's perspective and thank goodness for that, because she's the film's unmitigated highlight."

Steph Green for the BBC gave the film only two stars, writing. "Don't Worry Darling is similarly laden with half-baked, risk-free ideas that do little to shock or stir." Meanwhile, some critics acknowledged the film's aesthetics as one of its only selling points. Leah Greenblatt for Entertainment Weekly wrote that the film is a "movie high on snazzy midcentury style, but considerably less bothered by the mechanics of cohesive storytelling."

While many praised Pugh's performance, the jury's opinion on Styles was mixed. For The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern, Styles "struggles to match [Pugh's] go-for-broke intensity," and "is like a deer in headlights throughout much of the proceedings." Stern added that it is "unfair" that Styles "was paired with an actress as formidable as Pugh in his first leading role."

Others, however, were much more forgiving in their opinions on the singer's performance. Owen Glieberman wrote for Variety that there may be promise in Styles's future: "With his popping eyes, floppy shock of hair, and saturnine suaveness, he recalls the young Frank Sinatra as an actor. It’s too early to tell where he’s going in movies, but if he wants to he could have a real run in them."

When Will Don't Worry Darling Hit Theaters?

Don’t Worry Darling lands in theaters on September 23, but rest assured, we'll likely see plenty more drama before then.

FromEsquire US

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Adrienne Westenfeld
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Adrienne Westenfeld is a writer and editor at Esquire, where she covers books and culture.
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Ammal Hassan
Ammal Hassan is a writer and Esquire's Snapchat Editor. She covers all things culture with a focus on music and pop culture. She is from Nairobi, Kenya and lives in New York City.
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