It’s fair to say that it has been a rocky few weeks for Olivia Wilde, with the release of her latest film, Don’t Worry Darling, shrouded in controversy.
The psychological thriller is Olivia’s second venture into directing after 2019’s Booksmart, and stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, and Chris Pine.
The two women appeared to clash over the hypersexualized way that Don’t Worry Darling is being marketed, and Florence was also said to have been “uncomfortable” with Olivia and Harry striking up a relationship while working on the film.
Florence seemed to be reluctant to promote the movie on social media, and repeatedly ignored Olivia’s Instagram posts about her. But amid the tension, Olivia spoke highly of her leading lady, and even claimed that she fired Shia LaBeouf from the movie and replaced him with Harry in order to “protect” Florence.
Shia was initially cast in the role of Florence’s character’s husband, Jack, but abruptly left the project in August 2020 — before filming had even begun.
Olivia claimed that she let him go because of her strict “no-assholes policy” on set, and told Variety that Shia had a “combative energy” and her loyalties were with Florence.
“For our film, what we really needed was an energy that was incredibly supportive,” she said as she explained Shia’s departure. “Particularly with a movie like this, I knew that I was going to be asking Florence to be in very vulnerable situations, and my priority was making her feel safe and making her feel supported.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Olivia said that she is “like a mother wolf” and made the decision to call Shia herself and fire him after Florence expressed discomfort at working with him.
“My responsibility was towards her,” she said of Florence. “Making the call was tricky, but in a way he understood.”
But just two weeks ago, Shia rebuked this narrative by publicizing a series of email and text exchanges that he’d had with Olivia, as well as a video of her that painted a very different picture.
After they’d met face-to-face to discuss Shia’s concern that he didn’t have enough time to rehearse for the movie in August 2020, Olivia had texted him: “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.”
Shia went on to tell Variety that two days after he’d “officially” quit Don’t Worry Darling, he received a video from Olivia begging him to reconsider. The video later leaked online.
In the clip, Olivia seems to be exasperated as she tells Shia that “Miss Flo” needs a “wake-up call.” She said on camera: “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.”
“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,” she continued. “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?”
Shia also revealed that he had recently emailed Olivia privately because he was “a little confused about the narrative” that she had “fired” him. When she didn’t respond to his messages, he made them public too.
In the email, Shia accused Olivia of claiming that she fired him because it’s “attractive clickbait” and said: “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.”
Olivia did not publicly respond at the time, but shortly after the video leaked it was confirmed that Florence’s only press commitment for the movie would be attending the Don’t Worry Darling premiere at Venice Film Festival.
This took place on Monday, following an uncomfortable press conference with Olivia and some of the other cast members, where she awkwardly swerved a question about Florence’s absence and Shia’s exposé.
Things were even messier on the red carpet, with Florence enthusiastically greeting everybody who worked on the film aside from Olivia and Harry, who she kept a distance from throughout.
Adding to an already messy situation, Harry also appeared to be purposefully avoiding Olivia, and the three were separated from each other by other cast members during group photos and when seated inside the theater.
As if the apparent tension between Florence and Olivia wasn’t enough, Harry’s behavior towards the director also sparked speculation that they had split up. And just when things seemingly couldn’t get any more dramatic, #spitgate came along.
A video of the moment went viral on social media, and everybody was analyzing the evidence that this had happened until Chris’s rep vehemently denied the claims on Tuesday.
In short, the rollout for Don’t Worry Darling has been one big mess from start to finish, but at the end of it all did it at least get good reviews?
Erm… The answer is no. In fact, while Florence’s performance has been widely praised, the film itself currently has a rating of 43% on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, which analyzes all of the critics’ ratings and generates an average.
Writing for the Guardian, Pete Bradshaw said of Don’t Worry Darling: “It superciliously pinches ideas from other films without quite understanding how and why they worked in the first place.”
Owen Gleiberman wrote for Variety: “To really work, the film needed to reel us in slowly, to be insidious and surprising… Instead, it’s ominous in an obvious way.” Kate Erbland wrote in indieWire: “If this film is really about female pleasure, we’d hate to see Wilde’s interpretation of a film about female pain. This one hurts enough.”
David Fear’s Rolling Stone review read: “Don’t Worry Darling plays like a bad Op-Ed piece that wants you to believe its good intentions are more significant and righteous than they actually are.” And Steph Green wrote in her BBC review: “Laden with half-baked, risk-free ideas that do little to shock or stir.”
Richard Lawson added for Vanity Fair: “Don’t Worry Darling glides along, its jumble of repurposed elements in lively enough harmony until it’s time to knuckle down and really get into what’s happening to Alice. It’s then that [the] screenplay begins to falter, as does Wilde’s direction.”
And now an old interview with Olivia has come back to haunt her, with the actor-turned-director insisting in the resurfaced clip that a bad movie is solely a reflection of a bad director.
During a 2019 interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, Olivia said with a smile: “Y’know, if a movie’s bad, it is the director’s fault. And if anyone tries to…”
“Why didn’t you get a better performance out of that actor,” Stephen interjected.
“Exactly!” Olivia agreed. “It truly is. It’s truly the director’s fault.”
Amid the lukewarm reviews for Don’t Worry Darling, one person posted this clip to Twitter and wrote: “The reviews for dont worry darling all being bad seems like a fantastic time to bring this back.”
“Wonder if Olivia Wilde’s opinion on a movie being bad, it’s the director’s fault will change now her movie is getting panned,” someone else tweeted. A third asked: “No, but why would u ever say something like this in front of everyone if u want to be a director?”
“Why would she set herself up like that,” another person questioned. One more commented: “It keeps getting worse for this film lmao.”
Olivia also sparked fresh backlash on Thursday when she doubled down on her claim that she fired Shia in her Vanity Fair interview — despite him appearing to publicly disprove this less than two weeks ago.
And when she was confronted with the messages that he’d shared, Olivia made no reference to the leaked video as she told the publication: “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 also claimed that Olivia let Shia “believe what he wanted to believe: that he was quitting,” in order to spare his ego. However, this is not reflected in the texts, emails, and videos that he’d provided.
“The way Olivia Wilde kept lying about this whole situation when there’s proof of her begging Shia to come back.. when will the lying stop? Miss Wilde, give it a break. You’ve been caught,” one person tweeted. Someone else echoed: “Olivia Wilde stop lying we all saw the screenshots and your video of ‘shia shia shia.’”
Another tweeted: “Olivia still lying about the shia situation as if there’s not a video of her begging him to stay in her movie. girl, stop embarrassing yourself.”
Florence herself also subtly acknowledged the leaked video of Olivia, with her stylist captioning behind-the-scenes photos of her at Venice Film Festival: “Miss Flo,” which Florence liked.
And in her only press interview for the movie, she appeared to reference her uncomfortable experience with Don’t Worry Darling when she said: “I think it’s very, very inspiring to see a woman push back and say ‘no’ and question everything, and it’s very exciting to see a woman do that [on] and off camera.”