The 'Don't Worry Darling' director also opened up about Shia LaBeouf's firing and hiring Harry Styles.
Olivia Wilde showers Florence Pugh with compliments in a profuse manner for Variety's cover story, perhaps in an effort to dispel rumors the two are on the outs. But despite all the adulation, Wilde has been met with silence from Pugh.
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, Don't Worry Darling, starring Pugh, Wilde's boyfriend, Harry Styles, and Chris Pine. According to Variety, the studio had set its sights on another actress, but Wilde, following a lunch meeting with Pugh, knew she had found her Alice.
"I had been blown the f**k away by her," says Wilde, while referencing 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.
For starters, Wilde took to Instagram and posted a behind-the-scenes photo of Pugh, praising her work ethic. Wilde wrote, "Watching this woman work was such a f**king thrill! Cannot wait to show you more. @florencepugh." Internet sleuths would later discover that Pugh didn't acknowledge the post. When Pugh appeared on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, the actress reposted her co-star, Gemma Chan's, post. Wilde had also done the same, but Pugh, again, ignored the post.
Neither Wilde nor Pugh have addressed the supposed feud. But Wilde's flattery for Pugh continues. In fact, Wilde revealed to Variety that she teamed up with Pugh to find the actor who would play her on-screen partner, Jack. Wilde said she and Pugh were enthusiastic about Styles joining the film, especially after seeing his work in Dunkirk. But the singer had a schedule conflict and was unavailable. The part would ultimately go to Shia LaBeouf.
However, in September 2020, it was announced that Styles would replace LaBeouf. Reports later surfaced that LaBeouf was fired from the set after clashing with the cast and crew.
"I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work," says Wilde, who has a "No a**holes policy" on her sets. "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's firing opened the door for Styles to be part of the project. And he didn't just act in the film. He also lent his musical genius. In the film, Alice hums a mysterious tune that, on the script, it was described only as "the trigger song."
"Harry called me and said, 'What's the trigger song? Like, what's the melody?' I said, 'I don't know. I'm going to different writers to write it. Do you have anything in mind?' And he said, 'I'll think about it,'" Wilde explains. "Five minutes later, he sent me a demo from his piano, and it was what ended up in the film. He called me and said, 'What about this?' and I was like, 'Yeah, that's it. That's it. And that's really insane that you did that in five minutes.'"
When reached for comment, Styles was in Toronto in the middle of his 84-date Love On Tour, but he took some time to open up about the tune he created for the film.
"I wanted something that could be both sweet and creepy, entirely dependent on the context," he tells Variety. "I remember first playing it on the piano, and it had a sort of homemade nursery rhyme feel to it. Applied to the different moments in the film, I think it takes on a couple of different lives -- I hope."
Styles dished on the best piece of advice his girlfriend/director gave him for the film.
"The first step is to lose the Oscar you won in the shower that morning," he says. "Listen, and do the scene with your partner, not at them. Be a human, tell the truth."
The "As It Was" singer also complimented Wilde for her unparalleled focus as the director.
"She communicated what she was looking for from the cast with both clarity and respect," Styles says. "I think transitioning from acting into directing has made her a director who knows how to get the best out of everyone."