'Don't Worry Darling': Untangling Chris Pine-Harry Styles' Spitgate and the Olivia Wilde-Florence Pugh Drama
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Don't Worry Darling proved to be a very ironic title for director Olivia Wilde's sophomore directorial effort, as quite a bit of drama worth worrying about unfolded over the course of production and the subsequent promotional blitz ahead of the Warner Bros. film's release.
From the film's early casting shakeups -- with Harry Styles taking over for Shia LaBeouf -- to Wilde's high-profile split from her long-time partner, Jason Sudeikis, and subsequent romance with her new leading man, drama, rumors and mild scandals have permeated every facet of the film's production.
While the drama had largely been between Wilde, LaBeouf and Florence Pugh, Styles and co-star Chris Pine were dragged into the rumor mill over "spitgate" (it never happened!) at the Venice Film Festival -- which has been filled with drama for the film on all fronts.
With the tensions between Wilde and LaBeouf coming to a head in September as the actor accused the filmmaker of misrepresenting his exit from the film -- and rumors swirling over Pugh's alleged feud with Wilde supposedly due to her romance with Styles and split from Sudeikis -- it certainly felt like Don't Worry Darling risked being overshadowed by the controversy.
Amid the back-and-forth allegations and fan-fueled rumors, ET is breaking down all the Don't Worry Darling drama and examining the behind-the-scenes in-fighting and how the headline-grabbing feuds first formed.
The Casting Shakeup
In April 2020, news broke that Pugh and LaBeouf -- as well as Chris Pine -- had been cast as the leads of Wilde's forthcoming drama, which is set in the 1950s. At the time, Pugh was excited about the news and tweeted a screenshot of the casting reports, writing, "@oliviawilde just tagged me in a picture *gasp no.1* @oliviawilde casted me in a film *gasp no.2* @oliviawilde is my idol and allowed me to be a part of this fecking incredible cast. Shia?!? Chris?!? *gasp no.3*"
However, the harmony wasn't long-lived, it seems. In September 2020, news broke that Styles had signed on to the project to take over the role LaBeouf had been cast in. At the time, it was reported that LaBeouf had to back out due to scheduling conflicts.
However, in December 2020, allegations surfaced against LaBeouf leveled by his ex-girlfriend FKA Twigs, who accused him of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. The singer filed a lawsuit against LaBeouf, who denied the allegations. The lawsuit is currently set to be heard in court in April 2023. In the wake of the allegations, LaBeouf took a hiatus from acting altogether and largely stayed out of the public eye. LaBeouf and his on-and-off girlfriend Mia Goth welcomed a baby girl together, Isabel, in April of 2022.
Wilde's Version of Events
In February 2021, Wilde made some comments that many felt were directed at LaBeouf and his termination from Don't Worry Darling.
"Someone, who's a very established actor and director in this industry, gave me really terrible advice that was helpful because I just knew I had to do the opposite," Wilde told Emerald Fennell during Variety‘s “Directors on Directors” series. "They said, 'Listen, the way to get respect on a set, you have to have three arguments a day. Three big arguments that reinstate your power, remind everyone who's in charge, be the predator.' That is the opposite of my process. And I want none of that."
"The no a**holes policy, it puts everybody on the same level," she added. In concert with reports that LaBeouf had clashed with the other cast and crew, many felt that this remark was not-so-subtly directed at the mercurial actor.
In a cover story with Variety earlier this month, Wilde addressed LaBeouf's recasting directly and said that he'd been fired from the film because of his behavior.
"I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work," Wilde shared, "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."
LaBeouf Fires Back
In the wake of Wilde's comments in her Variety interview, LaBeouf contacted the publication, and, according to the outlet, shared screenshots of text messages, video and an email he sent to Wilde taking issue with her recent comments.
He told Variety in an email that he “quit the film due to lack of rehearsal time” on Aug. 17, 2020. In a text sent to LaBeouf on Aug. 16, 2020 -- a day before he allegedly quit -- Wilde reportedly wrote, “Thanks for letting me in on your thought process. I know that isn’t fun. Doesn’t feel good to say no to someone, and I respect your honesty. I’m honored you were willing to go there with me, for me to tell a story with you. I’m gutted because it could have been something special. I want to make clear how much it means to me that you trust me. That’s a gift I’ll take with me.” According to Variety, Wilde said in a video sent to LaBeouf two days after he claims he quit, “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."
She continued, seemingly referencing, Pugh, “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 an email he wrote to Wilde following her Variety interview, which he shared with the website as well, LaBeouf told her, "I am a little confused about the narrative that I was fired, however. You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors & I couldn’t find time to rehearse."
"I know that you are beginning your press run for DWD and that the news of my firing is attractive clickbait, as I am still persona-non-grata and may remain as such for the rest of my life," LaBeouf added in the message to the director. "This situation with your film and my 'firing' will never have a court date with which to deal with the facts... If lies are repeated enough in the public they become truth. And so, it makes it that much harder for me to crawl out of the hole I have dug with my behaviors, to be able to provide for my family... Firing me never took place, Olivia. And while I fully understand the attractiveness of pushing that story because of the current social landscape, the social currency that brings. It is not the truth. So I am humbly asking, as a person with an eye toward making things right, that you correct the narrative as best you can. I hope none of this negatively effects [sic] you, and that your film is successful in all the ways you want it to be."
Eventually, Wilde said in an interview with Vanity Fair that, "This issue is so much more nuanced than can be explained in private texts released out of context. All I’ll say is he was replaced, and there was no going forward with him. I wish him the best in his recovery." A source told the outlet, meanwhile, that the truth lay somewhere in the middle of their stories.
The mag reported that LaBeouf was unhappy with Pugh's lack of available rehearsal time, while Pugh was uncomfortable with LaBeouf's intensity. Forced to make a choice between the two actors, Wilde reportedly went with Pugh and -- to spare LaBeouf's ego -- "allowed him to believe what he wanted to believe: that he was quitting."
Wilde's Split and Subsequent Romance
The actress and her longtime fiancé, Sudeikis, called it quits in November 2020 -- two months after it was announced that Styles had been cast as the lead in the film. The pair share two children -- 8-year-old Otis and 5-year-old Daisy -- and the split came as a shock to many fans.
She and Styles first sparked romance rumors in January 2021, while still shooting Don't Worry Darling -- which wrapped production in February 2021. While the pair largely have kept their relationship out of the spotlight, the public's appetite for gossip and details has been voracious.
For the most part, Wilde and Sudeikis appeared to be as good at co-parenting as possible, until a high-profile incident this past April when Wilde was served with legal documents from her ex -- which were related to the former couple's children -- while making a presentation at CinemaCon.
Sudeikis' rep told ET at the time, "Papers were drawn up to establish jurisdiction relating to the children of Ms. Wilde and Mr. Sudeikis." The rep added that Sudeikis "had no prior knowledge of the time or place that the envelope would have been delivered as this would solely be up to the process service company involved and he would never condone her being served in such an inappropriate manner."
In her August interview with Variety, Wilde didn't hold back about her exact feelings following the events that unfolded at CinemaCon.
“It was my workplace,” Wilde said. "In any other workplace, it would be seen as an attack. It was really upsetting. It shouldn’t have been able to happen... I hated that this nastiness distracted from the work of so many different people and the studio that I was up there representing. To try to sabotage that was really vicious. But I had a job to do; I’m not easily distracted."
The fact that it transpired at all didn't come as a shock to Wilde, who said, "But, you know, sadly, it was not something that was entirely surprising to me. I mean, there’s a reason I left that relationship."
Speaking with Vanity Fair for the September issue, Wilde didn't mince words when asked about a rumor that she and Styles began dating while she was still involved with Sudeikis.
"The complete horses**t idea that I left Jason for Harry is completely inaccurate," she said. "Our relationship was over long before I met Harry. Like any relationship that ends, it doesn’t end overnight. Unfortunately, Jason and I had a very bumpy road, and we officially dissolved the relationship towards the beginning of the pandemic. We were raising two kids during lockdown, so we co-parented through that time. Once it became clear that cohabitating was no longer beneficial for the children, it became the responsible thing to not, because we could be better parents as friends who live in different houses."
The Florence Feud
The rumor mill really kicked into high gear in the last few months, with speculation that Pugh and Wilde are at odds. The bulk of the so-called "evidence" is Pugh's lack of social media support and publicity for Don't Worry Darling -- although it's allegedly due to scheduling conflicts.
Wilde, however, shut down rumors of the bad blood in her interview with Variety. The 38-year-old director opened up about why she decided to cast the Little Women star for the lead role of Alice in the psychological thriller.
"I had been blown the f**k away by her," Wilde said in reference to Pugh's performance in the 2019 horror Midsommar. "I loved the film, but I loved her. I was just like, 'Well, she's extraordinary. She's clearly the most exciting young actress working today."
As the film went into production in the middle of the pandemic, Wilde praised Pugh's working relationship with Styles, and vice versa.
"We were all brought so close by the bubble of the production, " she says. "She was really a great supporter of his as someone who was newer to a film set. And he was such a great supporter of hers, as someone who understood it was her film."
According to Variety, Pugh declined to be interviewed for the story, further fueling speculation that the young actress is feuding with her director. Pugh's publicist told Variety she's filming Dune: Part Two in Budapest, but declining to be interviewed for a story focusing on Wilde is just the latest in a long list of tell signs that Pugh's not happy with Wilde.
"It is very rare that people assume the best from women in power,” Wilde told Vanity Fair of the speculation surrounding their dynamic. "I think they don’t often give us the benefit of the doubt. Florence did the job I hired her to do, and she did it exquisitely. It is ironic that now, with my second film–which is again about the incredible power of women, what we’re capable of when we unite, and how easy it is to strip a woman of power by using other women to judge and shame them -- we’re talking about this."
She added: "Florence is one of the most in-demand actresses in the universe. She’s on set on Dune. I gather that some people expect for her to be engaging more on social media. I didn’t hire her to post. I hired her to act. She fulfilled every single expectation I had of her. That’s all that matters to me."
The Venice Film Festival Drama
The speculation regarding Pugh's possible issues with Wilde only got worse when it was announced that the actress wouldn't be attending the press conference for Don't Worry Darling at the Venice Film Festival. According to reports, Pugh wasn't missing the conferences by choice, but rather wouldn't be able to get to Venice in time from Budapest, where she's filming Dune 2.
Understandably, some fans didn't believe that particular explanation, seeing as how Timothee Chalamet -- the main star of Dune 2 -- managed to get time off from filming to promote his new film at the festival over the course of several days.
While Wilde was joined by Pine, Styles and co-star Gemma Chan at the press conference, a reporter told her it was a "shame" that Pugh wasn't there. The reporter further asked, "Can you just clear the air and address if there's been a falling out there and if so, why? Because it's something that people are discussing."
Wilde replied, "Florence is a force, and we are so grateful that she's 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, to Denis Villeneuve for helping us. And 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's amazing in the film."
"As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, I mean, the internet feeds itself," Wilde added. "I don't feel the need to contribute. It's sufficiently well nourished."
Pugh did make it to the red carpet premiere of Don't Worry Darling, where she brought her grandmother as her date.
Also notable: after spending much of the press conference seemingly zoned out, Pine was in high spirits on the red carpet, playing, laughing and joking with Pugh and snapping photos of her with a disposable camera. It was a remarkable difference from his time answering questions earlier in the day.
Pines vs. Styles?
A viral clip began circulating online showed Styles taking his seat next to Pine at the premiere in Italy, in which the "As It Was" singer appears to do something with his mouth at the exact moment that Pine stops clapping, smiles and shakes his head.
Soon after the clip began making the rounds, many fans were convinced that Styles spit on Pine in front of hundreds of attendees at the premiere.
Pine's rep, however, denies this happened. "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. Just to be clear, Harry Styles did not spit on Chris Pine," the rep told ET. "There is nothing but respect between these two men and any suggestion otherwise is a blatant attempt to create drama that simply does not exist."
Styles reacted to the story too, joking onstage during a concert, saying, "It's wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to be back in New York. I just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine. But fret not, we're back."
Later, Wilde weighed in during an interview on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, saying, "I think it's a perfect example of people who look for drama anywhere they can. Harry did not spit on Chris, in fact. He really didn't!"
Pine finally set the record straight in Esquire's March issue, telling the outlet it never happened while sharing how he found out about the whole thing.
"I was on the plane with my publicist, who says I look like Rachel from Friends [with my current hairstyle], we're flying back from Venice. And I'm sleeping, having a great time on the plane. I love planes," he tells Esquire. "And she wakes me up, in a, you know, in a state. She says, 'We have to craft a message about what happened in Venice.' And I'm like 'About what?' 'About Harry spitting on you.' Which I have no idea what happened. She showed me the thing. It does look, indeed, like Harry spitting on me. He didn't spit on me."
So, what actually happened then? Pine explains, too, describing the whole thing as an inside joke.
"I think what he said, is he leaned down, and I think he said, 'It's just words, isn't it?' Because we had this little joke, because we're all jetlagged, we're all trying to answer these questions, and sometimes when you're doing these press things, your brain goes all befuddled, you know, you start speaking gibberish, and we had a joke like, 'It's just words, man,'" he explains.
As for all the drama surrounding the film, Pine said he was oblivious to it all.
"I absolutely didn’t know about it, nor really would I have cared," says Pine about the drama. "If I feel badly, it’s because the vitriol that the movie got was absolutely out of proportion with what was onscreen. Venice was normal things getting swept up in a narrative that people wanted to make, compounded by the metastasizing that can happen in the Twittersphere. It was ridiculous."
Styles' Mom Is a Fan
Styles' mother, Anne Twist, took to Instagram to rave about the film after attending a screening, adding a bit of happy publicity to the internet.
"First time in the French cinema .. first day showing .. ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ you were excellent! Really enjoyed from start to finish," Twist captioned the pics of herself and some friends giving their thumbs up. "Well done @oliviawilde and team for drawing us in, well done baby @harrystyles for being a fabulous Jack. Very proud as usual 😊 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼"
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