If you want an illustration of the power of cinema, look no further than the Don’t Worry Darling press tour. In the months preceding its release, Olivia Wilde’s Stepford Wives pastiche has become an object of internet fascination thanks to long-running rumblings about offstage drama between its A-List cast and crew. This mishegoss reached its height over the weekend, when Don’t Worry Darling made its grand premiere at the Venice Film Festival and, in a few short hours, provided enough memes and conspiracy theories to stop the entire entertainment blogosphere in its tracks. None of this had anything to do with the film itself — Bilge Ebiri, our man on the Lido, calls it “neither as good nor as bad as you were hoping” — but with the simple fact that every moment its stars were in the same room together was a rich text for gossip hounds to examine for possible tension.
Whatever did or did not happen on the set of Don’t Worry Darling, some sort of rift has seemingly occurred between director Olivia Wilde and star Florence Pugh. While Wilde has been effusive in praise of her leading lady, Pugh has barely done any press for the film or mentioned the project on social media. (Eagle-eyed fans noticed that her Instagram posts from Venice refrain from even saying the movie’s title.) Pugh didn’t provide as much as a secondary interview for Wilde’s Variety profile, a 15-minute ask that’s usually the bare minimum for promotional commitments. And she topped it off by skipping the film’s photo call and press conference in Venice, then making a Big Movie Star Entrance on the Adriatic shortly thereafter.
The company line was that Pugh was so busy filming Dune: Part Two in Budapest that she couldn’t possibly handle any more DWD promo. This always strained credulity. Dune and Don’t Worry Darling are being released by Warner Bros., which has every incentive to organize Pugh’s schedule to accommodate both films, and even if it couldn’t, Venice is only an hour’s flight from Budapest, not far in movie-star time. And her alibi got only flimsier once Timothée Chalamet, the actual star of Dune, had no trouble making the promotional rounds for his own Venice entry, the Luca Guadagnino cannibal romance Bones and All. The baldness of the lie seems intentional: Not only is Pugh snubbing the film, she can’t even be bothered to come up with a plausible excuse.
There’s a separate thread of controversy around the film’s original male lead, Shia LaBeouf, who was either fired because of his “combative energy” or quit because of a lack of rehearsal time. (He was replaced by Harry Styles, who began dating Wilde at an unspecified point in human history, adding yet another level of intrigue.) The LaBeouf controversy intersected with the Pugh side of things when LaBeouf leaked a video of Wilde asking him to return to the project and dismissively referring to Pugh as “Miss Flo.” And now even the stylists have gotten involved: When Pugh’s posted a photo of the star on the Venice red carpet, you can guess which two words she used as the caption. (You can read a comprehensive timeline of all the drama here.)
Clearly, there’s a lot going on here. But as with any murky situation, the gap between what we know and what we wish we knew has been filled by all manner of theories and rumors — some much more plausible than others. Here’s a ranking of all the Don’t Worry Darling conspiracy theories, from baseless conjecture to unverified gossip and the ones that may actually have some basis in reality.
Did Harry Styles Spit on Chris Pine?
Shortly before the lights went down at the DWD premiere, a momentary interaction between Styles and Chris Pine would spur Zapruder-level obsession. At the heart of it was a simple question: Had Styles — either completely by accident or with malice aforethought — unleashed a mouthful of spit upon his elder co-star? Why in the world he would do this was beside the point; the point was that he might have done so, and so it was imperative that the internet’s finest minds begin a full investigation. The theory was quickly debunked, however: Pine’s rep called the spit story “ridiculous,” “a complete fabrication,” and “foolish speculation,” and a longer video of the interaction appeared to show the actor was merely reacting to momentarily losing his sunglasses. But the micro-controversy provides a window into the world of Don’t Worry Darling conspiracies, where everyone is way too famous and they’re all either sleeping with each other or hating each other’s guts.
Verdict: Don’t worry, darling.
Did Florence Pugh Avoid Making Eye Contact With Olivia Wilde for Four Whole Minutes?
It was a story too good not to repost: a video from Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh alleging to show Pugh pointedly acknowledging everyone but Wilde during the film’s four-minute standing ovation in Venice. (Don’t be put off by the length; when it comes to clapping, European film festivals have their own peculiar etiquette.) Those with a normal experience of time, however, will notice that Setoodeh’s video is only 45 seconds long. Where are the missing three minutes and 15 seconds? Again, more footage revealed the truth: At one point in the lengthy ovation, Pugh did in fact turn and acknowledge her director. A small gesture perhaps, but a glance is a glance. The drama lovers out there will have to be content with the Variety write-up of the premiere, which notes that Pugh cut the applause session short by being the first cast member to head toward the exit.
Verdict: The bare minimum, darling.
Is the Root of the Pugh-Wilde Feud … Zach Braff?
Many hypotheses surround the precise source of the bad blood between the film’s director and its star, and one centers on an unlikely subject. At the time DWD was filming, Pugh was dating Zach Braff, who is commonly said to be a “good friend” of Wilde’s ex Jason Sudeikis. Thus, Pugh was doubly stung by the Wilde-Styles romance — it wasn’t just that her co-workers were hooking up; she had a personal connection to the unhappiest point of the love triangle. But there’s a tiny hole in this theory: Are Braff and Sudeikis even that close? They played drinking buddies on SNL, and Braff did direct an episode of Ted Lasso. But the Braff-Lasso connection isn’t really Sudeikis but series creator Bill Lawrence, who also made Braff’s show Scrubs. In a Vanity Fair interview, Braff called Lawrence “one of my best friends on earth”; he did not say the same about Sudeikis. The guys are clearly friendly, but are they friends to the level that Braff’s girlfriend would hold a months-long grudge on Sudeikis’s behalf?
Verdict: Not proven, darling.
Did This Insipid Quote From Styles Cause Pine’s Soul to Leave His Body?
Styles is a man of many talents: dressing well, quoting When Harry Met Sally, looking exactly like a young Mick Jagger, etc. But, bless him, even he doesn’t have the charisma to make it through a film-festival Q&A session, a place where insightful conversation goes to die. “You know, my favorite thing about the movie is it feels like a movie,” Styles remarked during DWD’s Venice press conference, while an un-spat-upon Pine sat nearby with the vacant gaze of someone reading another tab during a company Zoom session. If you’ve ever attended one of these conferences, you know Pine is wearing the default expression of any actor who isn’t currently occupying the room’s attention. Chalk it up as another bad quote from Styles in a season full of them, and move on.
Verdict: Maybe worry, darling.
Did Pugh Actually Direct ‘Most of the Movie’?
One of the earliest pieces of Don’t Worry Darling gossip was a barely disguised blind-item TikTok from a woman who purportedly worked as a production assistant on set. She alleged all sorts of bad behavior on Wilde’s part, including that the filmmaker was absent from set so often that Pugh had to step in and direct parts of the movie herself. The PA even overheard an argument between the two women in which Pugh laid out all of Wilde’s flaws in convenient detail! Taken as a whole, this is weak evidence: Even setting aside the unfortunate fact that many female directors before Wilde have been tarred with similar accusations of being “too demanding,” the story has the feel of fanfic written by an axe-grinding stan. Yet one element does appear to be backed up by actual reporting. According to Matthew Belloni of Puck News, “multiple sources on the project” have confirmed that Pugh “wasn’t a fan of her director disappearing so often with her leading man.” Is this where the seeds of the conflict were sown?
The verdict: Possibly worry, darling.
Is Pugh Upset With the Way Wilde Is Promoting Don’t Worry Darling?
One of the only pieces of press Pugh has done around Don’t Worry Darling is a Harper’s Bazaar profile from August in which she spoke of her unease with the chatter around the film’s sex scenes, which get prominent placement in its trailer. “When it’s reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it’s not why we do it. It’s not why I’m in this industry,” she said. The profile writer was careful to pin this on the fans, but it’s hard not to notice who else has been foregrounding DWD’s cunnilingus on the promo trail: Wilde herself, most recently in that Variety story. This doesn’t appear to be the root cause of the rift, which seems to predate the trailer’s release. But as supporting evidence, it’s the only on-the-record lead we have about what may be driving this feud. For anything more, we’ll just have to wait for the eight-part Hulu miniseries, Kill Your Darlings, coming in spring 2027.
The verdict: Definitely worry, darling.