Maybe my headline’s not super original, but neither is this whole situation. A director dating their star? All too common! Two women feuding in Hollywood? Done to death! Cast members assaulting each other? Tale as old as time!
So, why is the drama on this particular film set getting so much internet attention?
Two words: Harry Styles.
No one — minus a few niche TikTok celebrity gossip pages — would be paying the Don’t Worry Darling drama any mind if it weren’t for your favorite ex-One Direction member. (My favorite switches daily between Louis and Niall. Man, I wish they got more than two seconds of mic time on Up All Night.) However, Mr. Styles is very involved, asis the reason that people care so much about a random indie film as well as the catalyst of this viral phenomenon.
Initially, mostly B-list former Disney Channel star, viral meme, and violent abuser Shia LaBeouf was cast in Don’t Worry Darling as Jack Chambers, husband to protagonist Alice, played by Florence Pugh. A few months later, it was reported that LaBeouf exited the project. The film’s director Olivia Wilde claimed that she fired him because of his behavior on set. Harry Styles was soon cast as the new Jack Chambers. Wilde claimed that Styles was her first choice anyways. (Yeah, so would his 47 million Instagram followers.)
Soon after the cast had been finalized, in late 2020, it was reported that Olivia Wilde and comedian Jason Sudeikis (better known as America’s hot, funny uncle), had split up. The internet, being the internet, chose sides immediately. And of course, they sided with the man who played Ted Lasso. After all, actors are exactly like the characters they portray on screen. It’s not like their jobs are to act. Besides, who doesn’t want to jump on the opportunity to attack a woman without any negative repercussions?
In Jan. 2021, photos of Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde holding hands leaked to the press. Harry Styles’ lovely, rabid fan base immediately developed a deep distaste for the actress and director. How dare another woman become romantically involved with their future husband? Like every Harry Styles girlfriend before her, Wilde was flooded with hate and vitriol from a fandom whose tagline is “treat people with kindness.” People were left feeling disgusted that she had moved on so quickly from her partner of seven years. Some people began to theorize that Wilde had cheated on Sudeikis with Styles. The internet became an echochamber of Olivia Wilde hate. I found myself siding with Wilde. I had a soft spot for Harry Styles’ former girlfriends. I remembered the hate Taylor Swift got when she began dating Styles. I thought this was just a repeat of that.
In April 2022, Olivia Wilde was served custody papers while she was speaking on stage at CinemaCon about Don’t Worry Darling. Some people rejoiced at her embarrassment and some people sympathized with her. Wilde called the serving a “vicious act” while Sudeikis claimed that he was not aware of when or where the papers would be served.
Beginning in 2022, rumors began spiraling that there were some tensions between Olivia Wilde and lead actress Florence Pugh (star of Instagram spectacle Cooking With Flo). Pugh initially posted heavily about DWD and spoke extensively about how she admired Wilde. After filming wrapped, Pugh got suspiciously silent on social media about the film. This was enough to begin the rumors of a feud. People do love drama. Especially when they can pit women against each other! She also eventually revealed that she will not be doing press for the movie due to scheduling conflicts and made comments about her displeasure at the marketing focus on DWD’s sex scenes. This further supported the belief that Pugh had some issue with DWD.
In a Variety interview in Aug. 2022, Wilde claimed that LaBeouf’s process did not mesh with the way she directed and thus, he had to be let go. A few days later, LaBeouf refuted Wilde’s claims. With his denial, he also, allegedly, leaked a video of Wilde asking LaBeouf to not exit the project and referring to Pugh derisively as “Miss Flo.” (I love supporting women’s wrongs, but I also love Florence Pugh, so I was very confused on what my very valuable take was going to be.)
Then came the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 5, 2022. Harry Styles made a fool of himself when he claimed that DWD was “a movie that felt like a movie” while Chris Pine, best known for being the love-interest in Princess Diaries 2, dissociated next to him. Wilde was asked about her feud with Pugh and she refused to feed the internet, claiming it was “sufficiently well nourished.” Pugh showed up late, glowing and chaotic, and did not interact with Wilde. Pine, the last man left who does not own a smartphone, took photos of Pugh on his disposable camera. Styles and Wilde awkwardly stood far apart from each other and barely interacted. They were just like my best friend’s divorced parents at our high school graduation.
And here is my favorite part of all: People thought Styles spat on Pine! Because why wouldn’t Harry Styles spit on people! He even admitted to it at his Sept. 7 Madison Garden show, joking about how he had “just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine.”
Writing all this down, it seems absurd how big this has all gotten. It’s all very tame. This is no Bette and Joan or Taylor and Kanye. But this drama has been very good for the film. Honestly, a part of me thinks that this has all been a conspiracy for publicity. I, personally, would have gone to see it anyway. I loved Wilde’s previous film, Booksmart, and think she’s a talented filmmaker. But I know that this drama has brought millions of new eyes to the film. Though the drama might be slightly annoying for the DWD cast and crew, it’s gonna get them a lot of money. And that’s all that matters in Hollywood. Besides protecting abusers, of course.