darling we're worried

How Did Don’t Worry Darling Become So Worrying?

“You got the cinema / I bring the pop to the cinema.” Photo-Illustration: Vulture. Photos: Getty Images

Don’t Worry Darling tells the story of an idyllic, seemingly perfect community that slowly reveals a sinister underbelly. Ironically, the conversations about the sci-fi thriller seem to have followed a similar progression. The movie, Olivia Wilde’s next feature directorial project after Booksmart, made a first impression so appealing that 18 studios competed to buy it in 2019, including winner New Line Cinema. Yet over the past three years, the movie has been plagued by reports of alleged behind-the-scenes drama. At the Venice Film Festival this week, the cast’s every interaction was picked apart for confirmation of tension.

Out in theaters on September 23, Don’t Worry Darling stars Florence Pugh as Alice, a 1950s housewife who begins questioning her life in an isolated California desert town called Victory. Harry Styles replaced Shia LaBeouf as Alice’s husband, Jack, while Wilde stars as another local housewife, Bunny. In this community, women are expected to stay inside while men go work on a mysterious project helmed by a suspicious-looking Chris Pine. Wilde marketed Don’t Worry Darling as a rare showcase of “female pleasure” and seemed to frame the production itself as an empowering workplace — one where her “no assholes” rule could cause LaBeouf’s exit in order to protect Pugh. Below, a timeline of events as audiences became more and more worried about Don’t Worry, Darling, from Wilde’s alleged on-set romance with Styles to a leaked video of her asking LaBeouf if he’d come back if Pugh “really commits.”

Making (and breaking) a cast

April 24, 2020: Florence Pugh is announced as the lead housewife of Don’t Worry Darling. According to Deadline, the movie will be set in an isolated, seemingly utopian community — not exactly a foreign concept to Pugh, who is coming off a star turn in Midsommar. Instead of a Swedish commune, however, she’ll be visiting the California desert in the ’50s. Shia LaBeouf, Chris Pine, and Olivia Wilde are set to join her.

“@oliviawilde is my idol and allowed me to be a part of this fecking incredible cast. Shia?!? Chris?!?” Pugh writes in an Instagram caption reacting to the news. Over on Twitter, Wilde is equally excited. “This cast is B A N A N A S. I’m the happiest director in the world,” she tweets. “To say that I’m honored/excited/elated/shitting myself would be a massive understatement.”

September 11, 2020: Harry Styles boards Don’t Worry Darling as Pugh’s new onscreen husband. He replaces LeBouf, who Deadline reports is departing the movie because of a scheduling conflict.

November 2020: Wilde and Jason Sudeikis break up after nine years together. (Sudeikis later confirms to GQ that the split happened during this month.) The pair share two children and were engaged for seven years.

November 13, 2020: Wilde tells Vogue that she was excited to cast Styles in a leading role because his fashion sense matched the movie’s “heightened and opulent” style. She recalls that she and costume designer Arianne Phillips “did a little victory dance” when his casting was confirmed.

December 11, 2020: The New York Times reports that FKA Twigs has sued Shia LaBeouf, accusing him of “relentless” physical, mental, and emotional abuse during their nine-month relationship. The sexual-battery lawsuit includes allegations that LaBeouf strangled her, knowingly gave her an STD, deprived her of sleep, and isolated her from others. Karolyn Pho, another ex of LaBeouf’s, is mentioned as another alleged victim of his abuse. Twigs says she will donate a “significant” portion of the money to charities that fight domestic violence if she wins.

According to the Times, LaBeouf responds to the lawsuit in multiple emails. In one, he claims that many of the allegations are false, but concedes that his exes deserve “the opportunity to air their statements publicly” and notes that he needs to “accept accountability for those things I have done.” In another, he reportedly writes, “I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say.”

December 12, 2020: Wilde posts a screenshot of the Times article to her Instagram Story to express her “love, respect, and support” for FKA Twigs in light of the lawsuit against Don’t Worry Darling’s former leading man.

December 24, 2020: Variety claims that despite previous reports, Shia LaBeouf did not actually leave Don’t Worry Darling because of scheduling conflicts. Unnamed sources tell the outlet that he “exhibited poor behavior and his style clashed with the cast and crew, including Wilde, who ultimately fired him.”

January 2021: LaBeouf starts treatment and enters an in-patient facility at some point during this month, according to Variety. It’s not clear what he is being treated for, though he has previously admitted to alcoholism and aggression. He reportedly decides to take a break from acting and voluntarily leaves his talent agency, CAA.

January 4, 2021: Per “Page Six,” 28-year-old Harry Styles and 38-year-old Olivia Wilde are dating. The pair are photographed holding hands while at a wedding for Styles’s manager. According to Us, he refers to Wilde as his girlfriend while officiating the ceremony.

January 5, 2021: People publishes a report claiming that Wilde and Styles made their relationship obvious on the set of Don’t Worry Darling. “What started out as a close friendship, quickly turned romantic,” a source tells the outlet. “Everyone saw it coming. During breaks, he hasn’t been able to stay away and visited her trailer.” Reportedly, Styles is seen standing outside of his director and co-star’s trailer chatting with her during the shoot.

The press tour

February 4, 2021: In a conversation for Variety’s “Directors on Directors” series, Wilde tells Promising Young Woman director Emerald Fennell that she has a “no assholes policy” to keep everybody on set “on the same level.” She explains that she was once told to assert her power as a director by having three big arguments a day on set. According to Wilde, the advice actually helped her by persuading her to do the exact opposite.

February 6, 2021: People reports that Wilde and Styles’s work romance is still going strong. They have been spending “all their time together” as filming for Don’t Worry Darling continues, a source says.

Matthew Belloni’s Puck newsletter later claims that Pugh was unhappy with how often the couple disappeared together. Three people who worked on the movie reportedly recall that the budding relationship was “pretty obvious and annoying” because Styles and Wilde were nowhere to be found during setups of shots. One source said they witnessed a tense conversation about the issue between Wilde and Pugh, who was particularly “angered by the absences.”

February 14, 2021: The movie appears to have wrapped, and Wilde marks the occasion by posting an Instagram photo of her hugging Pugh on the set of Don’t Worry Darling. “To work with an actor as talented and brave as @florencepugh is any director’s dream,” she writes in the caption. “I will forever be grateful for you, Flo. It was an honor to be your captain.”

February 15, 2021: Wilde posts another social media shout-out, this time praising Harry Styles for being willing to play a supporting role in a female-led film. “No joke, it is harrrrrd to find actors who recognize why it might be worth it to allow for a woman to hold the spotlight,” she writes in the lengthy caption of an Instagram photo. “Enter: @harrystyles, our ‘Jack’ . Not only did he relish the opportunity to allow for the brilliant @florencepugh to hold center stage as our ‘Alice’, but he infused every scene with a nuanced sense of humanity.”

September 13, 2021: Wilde drops an 11-second teaser for Don’t Worry Darling that includes shots of Pugh making out with her onscreen husband Harry Styles, Chris Pine screaming in a white tux, and Pugh attempting to rip cellophane off her head. The clip ends by revealing that the movie will release in theaters on September 23, 2022.

December 9, 2021: Wilde tells Vogue that she’s been wondering why there isn’t any “good sex” in film anymore. The piece alludes to a scene in Don’t Worry Darling  where Styles performs oral sex on Pugh. When asked about it, Wilde says that she wants her audience to “realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure.”

She adds that Styles was originally shortlisted for his role before the pandemic, but his tour conflicted with the movie’s shoot schedule. When LaBeouf left, COVID-19 canceled Styles’s tour, leaving him available again. Wilde doesn’t comment directly on her romantic relationship with Styles, stating that it doesn’t matter what strangers think when you’re really happy.

April 26, 2022: Wilde attends CinemaCon to introduce a new trailer for Don’t Worry Darling. She is publicly served with a manila envelope that she at first thinks contains a script. It’s later revealed that the contents are custody papers from her ex Sudeikis.

The trailer, released to the public on May 2, shows housewives like Alice being instructed to stay at home while men go out to work for the Victory Project. To her husband’s displeasure, Alice begins to have doubts about the system of dinners and ballet lessons and decides to try to break free. Social media particularly fixates on a scene of Jack (Styles) going down on Alice (Pugh) on a dining table.

May 2, 2022: Per Rolling Stone, FKA Twigs wins a trial date for the claims of sexual battery, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress that she first made in December 2020. A reported attempt at mediation failed to result in a settlement, and the civil case is scheduled to go before a jury on April 17, 2023.

July 21, 2022: A second official trailer is released, showing more glimpses of the seemingly idyllic community and the way Alice becomes disillusioned with it. (Yes, it also includes another look at that oral-sex scene.)

July 30, 2022: Page Six” suggests that Wilde and Styles’s relationship started as an affair. “I can tell you for a fact that Flo seeing Olivia and Harry all over each other on set did not go down well as Olivia was still with Jason [Sudeikis] when she first hooked up with Harry,” an insider reportedly says. The insider also claims that Sudeikis visited the set of Don’t Worry Darling with the two children he shares with Wilde.

August 10, 2022: Wilde alleges in court filings obtained by the Daily Mail that Sudeikis was trying to “embarrass” and “threaten” her by having her served with custody papers in front of thousands of film execs at CinemaCon. Sudeikis maintains that he did not want the documents to be served so publicly and regrets the way it happened.

August 16, 2022: Pugh pushes back against excitement for Don’t Worry Darling being focused on her onscreen intimacy with Styles. “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,” she tells Harper’s Bazaar. “It’s not why I’m in this industry. Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that. That’s just not what I’m going to be discussing because [this movie is] bigger and better than that. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that.”

August 22, 2022: Styles makes headlines by addressing the queerbaiting accusations he has faced. In response to claims that he has publicly dated only women, he argues to Rolling Stone that he hasn’t publicly dated anyone. He and Wilde may have been spotted on dates in London and Italy, but Styles contends that getting photographed doesn’t mean a relationship was intended to be public.

Wilde states in the article that she doesn’t believe the “toxic negativity” stems from her her not-so-secret boyfriend’s fan base. “The majority of them are true champions of kindness,” she says.

‘Shia, Shia’

August 24, 2022: Variety publishes a lengthy feature on Wilde and Don’t Worry Darling. In it, Wilde talks about LaBeouf’s leaving the movie for the first time, and Variety reports that she decided to fire him for his difficult behavior shortly after production started in 2020. “I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work,” she says. “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.”

Wilde adds that she needed an “incredibly supportive” energy on Don’t Worry Darling because of the movie’s content. “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,” she says. She notes that she was “really troubled” by allegations that came to light after LaBeouf’s role was recast but claims that she wishes him “health and evolution” as a self-described proponent of restorative justice.

Wilde also takes the interview as an opportunity to take up several other topics that have become part of the conversation around the movie. For example, she emphasizes her desire to portray “female pleasure,” dismisses the rumored pay disparity as “invented clickbait,” and expands on her displeasure with the CinemaCon incident with Sudeikis’s custody papers. (“I mean, there’s a reason I left that relationship.”) Wilde indirectly comments on rumors of Pugh’s frustration with the director’s on-set relationship with Styles, noting that she believes the tabloid media “is a tool to pit women against one another and to shame them.”

Pugh declines to be interviewed for the story, and her publicist tells Variety that she is busy filming Dune: Part Two. But Styles is available to answer questions and has plenty of compliments for his director–co-star–girlfriend’s approach to the movie. “She communicated what she was looking for from the cast with both clarity and respect,” he says over email. “I think transitioning from acting into directing has made her a director who knows how to get the best out of everyone.”

August 26, 2022: LaBeouf disputes that Wilde fired him, and he has receipts. Variety publishes two emails that he claims he sent to Wilde after her interview ran. “You and I both know the reasons for my exit,” he writes. “I quit your film because your actors and I couldn’t find time to rehearse.”

Variety reviews screenshots of texts from August 2020 in which he tells Wilde he will pull out of Don’t Worry Darling. According to the messages, the pair met in person on August 16, 2020 to talk about his decision. “Thanks for letting me in on your thought process,” Wilde texts him after the meeting. “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.”

LaBeouf also sends Variety a video of Wilde asking him to consider staying on the film. “Shia, Shia,” she says in a singsong voice at the beginning of the 45-second clip. She expresses that she is “heartbroken” and not ready to give up on him. “I think this might be a bit of a wakeup call for Miss Flo,” she says with a sigh, asking if he’ll give the movie another shot if Pugh “really commits, if she really puts her mind and heart into it.” She claims that she respects both Pugh’s and LaBeouf’s point of view and is hopeful that they can make peace with each other. The video begins circulating online with a #TimesUpOlivia watermark.

That same day, a studio executive tells the Wrap that Pugh’s availability is expected to be limited owing to her role in the Dune sequel. Reportedly, other than an appearance at the movie’s Venice Film Festival premiere on September 5, Pugh will not be doing press for Don’t Worry Darling.

September 5, 2022: At the Venice Film Festival press conference for Don’t Worry Darling, Wilde is asked if she can comment on her alleged tension with Pugh, but she skirts the question by praising Pugh’s acting. She also mentions that as a director, she understands why Pugh’s schedule is so packed for the Dune sequel. (Notably, Timothée Chalamet, Dune 2’s angsty lead, has time to do press for his film, Bones and All, at the festival.)

“As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, the internet feeds itself,” Wilde adds. “I don’t feel the need to contribute; I think it’s sufficiently well-nourished.” When another journalist tries to bring up LaBeouf, the moderator blocks the question and says that Wilde’s thoughts about the internet rumor mill are already an answer.

Later that evening, Pugh walks the Don’t Worry Darling red carpet. Pugh, Wilde, and Styles appear together in one photo, separated by co-stars. And according to Variety, a constant buffer of reps and other actors keeps the trio split up for the rest of the red carpet.

As Styles sits for the screening, he appears to spit on Chris Pine’s lap — or at least the internet convinces itself he did based on Pine’s reaction in now-viral footage.

Don’t Worry Darling reportedly premieres to a four-minute standing ovation, during which Pugh makes a point of clapping for Wilde. The applause ends when Pugh makes her way to the exit. The rest of the cast follows shortly after, and Wilde is the last to leave.

September 6, 2022: A representative for Chris Pine tells Variety Spitgate doesn’t amount to a bucket of a spit. “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,” Pine’s rep said in a statement. “Just to be clear, Harry Styles did not spit on Chris Pine. 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.”

September 7, 2022: Harry Styles becomes the first of the parties involved to publicly comment on Spitgate, joking about it on stage at Madison Square Garden. “I just popped over to Venice to spit on Chris Pine, but fear not, we’re back!” he shouted to a crowd of fully gagged fans.

Meanwhile, Miss Flo thanks the Don’t Worry Darling cast and crew for the movie’s Venice premiere — “A huge wonderful win in itself” — in an Instagram post. Pugh declines to mention Wilde and Styles by name, but does give Chris Pine a special shout-out. “I also just can’t help but post how bloody cute and hilarious Chris Pine is for being the no.1 photographer, getting down on white pressed trousered knees for angles,” she writes. “Now that’s dedication. Love you Chrissy.”

September 8, 2022: Olivia Wilde maintains that LaBeouf was let go after Pugh expressed discomfort with the actor. “My responsibility was towards [Florence],” Wilde says in an interview with Vanity Fair. “I’m like a mother wolf. Making the call was tricky, but in a way he understood. I don’t think it would’ve been a process he enjoyed. He comes at his work with an intensity that can be combative.” In response to the text-message and video leaks that complicate her claims, she calls the situation “much more nuanced than can be explained in private texts released out of context.”

“It is what it is,” LaBeouf says in a dueling interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Every blessing to her and her film.” Sorry, internet darlings, the drama isn’t over yet.

September 16, 2022: The New York Times reports that Wilde will no longer direct Perfect, a biopic of “Magnificent Seven” gymnast Kerri Strug. Wilde abandoned the project due to issues with the script, after requesting rewrites from multiple writers.

September 17, 2022: On The Hollywood Reporter’s podcast Behind the Screen, Don’t Worry Darling cinematographer Matthew Libatique claims the rumors of an unprofessional set environment were untrue. “When I hear that there are rumors of acrimony on the set — I reject it. It wasn’t apparent at all, to be honest,” he states. “From my standpoint, the stories are completely untrue when it comes to being on set. I can’t speak to post-production at all.”

September 21, 2022: Less than a week before the official release of Don’t Worry Darling, and Olivia Wilde is still doing Spitgate damage control. On The Late Show, the director expressly denies that Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine at Venice. But Stephen Colbert was more interested in teaching the controversy. “No, he did not,” Wilde says. “But I think it’s a perfect example of, like, people will look for drama anywhere they can. Harry did not spit on Chris, in fact—” In fact what? We’ll never know. Because Colbert interrupted Wilde at this juncture to say, “Only time will tell…The science isn’t in.”

September 25, 2022: KiKi Layne, who plays Margaret in Don’t Worry Darling, has waded into the drama behind the film with a brief Instagram caption. Layne posts a photo and a video of herself and co-star Ari’el Stachel at the premiere of Don’t Worry Darling captioned, “The best thing about #DontWorryDarling is that I was lucky enough to meet @arielstachel. They cut us from most of the movie, but we thriving in real life.” The actress added, “Love you Ari,” as well as the hashtags, “GotMyCheck,” “GotMyMan,” and “EverythingHappensforaReason.” The post also includes a sweet photo of the two on set of the film. Layne and Stachel, who plays Ted in the movie, met on set and have been dating ever since. “My love. You are a queen and your talent shines so bright. I was thirsty then and I’m thirsty now,” Stachel comments on Layne’s Instagram. Cute! At least something good came of all of this mess.

October 13, 2022: Olivia Wilde tells Elle that she’s disappointed that coverage of Don’t Worry Darling has been “minimized into bite-size TikTok points.” She criticizes people who are focused on a “sideshow” of drama rather than the “big questions” that the movie is trying to ask, and notes that the media pits women against each other. Naturally, she takes the opportunity to publicly side with Miss Flo a couple of times; Wilde says she agrees with Pugh’s claim that attention to sex scenes was overshadowing other parts of the movie.

As for the “untruths” surrounding the movie’s release, the director once again leans on the words of her leading lady. “Florence had a really wise comment that we didn’t sign up for a reality show,” Wilde reflects. “And I love that she put it that way, because it’s as though the general public feels that if you are making something that you’re selling to the public, you somehow have accepted that your life will be torn to shreds by a pack of wolves. No, that’s actually not part of the job description. Never was.” Will this finally mark the end of all the discourse? We’ll have to wait and see, darling.

February 14, 2023: Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde are given an unfortunate Valentine’s Day present, in the form of a lawsuit from their former nanny. According to NBC News, she is claiming that

March 1, 2023: Months after Spitgate, Don’t Worry Darling making very little awards show chatter, and the film dropping on the ever-decreasing catalog of HBO Max, Chris Pine finally comments. Speaking to Esquire, Pine denies getting spat uponst. “Harry’s a very very kind guy,” he says. Pine takes us through finding out about Spitgate, generating a statement with his publicist, and what really went down at the premiere. Apparently, what the internet viewed as a loogie being hawked was actually Styles sharing an in-joke with Pine. “I think what he said, is he leaned down, and I think he said, ‘It’s just words, isn’t it?’” Pine said. “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.’”

This post has been updated.

How Did Don’t Worry Darling Become So Worrying?