Don’t Worry Darling: A timeline of the behind-the-scenes controversies

·7-min read

On paper, Don’t Worry Darling should have been a surefire win.

The psychological thriller had, in Olivia Wilde, a buzzy up-and-coming director, fresh off the glowingly recieved teen comedy Booksmart.

In Florence Pugh, it had a young actor hailed as one of the very best of a generation, who had just been nominated for her first Oscar (for Little Women).

When it was announced that Pugh would be joined by Harry Styles, one of the biggst pop singers in the world, it seemed the film was all-but guaranteed to be a major box-office draw. So what went wrong?

As the film’s September release date has drawn ever closer, controversy surrounding the film has snowballed.

Rumours of on-set feuds, disputes around firings and questionable acting performances have seen many pundits brand Don’t Worry Darling a disaster waiting to happen.

Here’s a timeline of Don’t Worry Darling’s behind-the-scenes troubles...

July 2019 –The film is announced

Wilde was confirmed to be directing the film, from a story concieved by Carey and Shane Van Dyke. It was also suggested that Wilde was going to star in the project.

Early 2020 – Olivia Wilde splits from her long-term partner

At the beginning of the year, Wilde separated from her partner, Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis, with whom she shares two children.

The split wasn’t publically known until months later.

Sudeikis and Wilde in 2019 (Getty Images for IFP)
Sudeikis and Wilde in 2019 (Getty Images for IFP)

April 2020 – The cast is announced, including Shia LaBeouf

In the first major update since Don’t Worry Darling was announced, Wilde confirmed that Pugh had been cast alongside Shia LaBeouf and Chris Pine.

On Instagram, Pugh reacted enthusiastically to the news, describing Wilde as her “idol”.

September 2020 – Shia LaBeouf departs the project, and Harry Styles joins

For reasons that have since become the subject of some dispute (more on that later), LaBeouf left the film in September 2020.

It was suggested at the time that the reason for his departure was a scheduling conflict.

Stepping in to replace him was Styles. While he is best known for his pop career, as a solo artist and with the former boyband One Direction, Styles had in fact acted before, most notably in a small role in Christopher Nolan’s epic war movie Dunkirk.

December 2020 – LaBeouf is sued for abuse by FKA twigs

Near the end of the year, the musician FKA twigs, a former girlfriend of LaBeouf, filed a lawsuit against the actor alleging “relentless abuse” including sexual battery, assault, and infliction of emotional distress. He later denied “each and every” claim.

At the time, it was also alleged that LaBeouf had in fact been fired from the production of Don’t Worry Darling with Variety citing insiders who claimed that he had “exhibited poor behavior” and that his style “clashed with the cast and crew, including Wilde”.

Shia LaBeouf, star of ‘Transformers’ and ‘Honey Boy' (Getty Images for BFI)
Shia LaBeouf, star of ‘Transformers’ and ‘Honey Boy' (Getty Images for BFI)

January 2021 – Wilde and Styles are reported to be dating

The director and her leading man were pictured holding hands while attending a wedding, sparking a flurry of reports that they were romantically involved.

The supposed relationship was not confirmed to the media by either party at the time.

February 2021 – Filming wraps

Members of the cast and crew mark the occasion on Instagram. Wilde is particularly effusive in her praise of Styles, writing: “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.

“He didn’t have to join our circus, but he jumped on board with humility and grace, and blew us away every day with his talent, warmth, and ability to drive backwards.”

Wilde’s remarks about Styles drew some criticism, with many questioning why she was praising him simply for conceding the lead role to the Oscar-nominated Pugh.

Harry Styles and Florence Pugh in ‘Don’t Worry Darling' (Warner Bros)
Harry Styles and Florence Pugh in ‘Don’t Worry Darling' (Warner Bros)

April 2022 – Wilde is served custody papers while on stage

While introducing a clip of the film at an event in Las Vegas, Wilde was served custody papers by Sudeikis in front of a crowd.

She was handed an envelope marked “private and confidential” by an unknown person. After opening and scanning it on stage, she resumed her speech, later revealing to press that the envelope had in fact contained Sudeikis’s legal filing.

11 August 2022 – Wilde praises Pugh on Instagram

In the year and a half since filming wrapped, speculation had gradually grown on social media surrounding a supposed feud between Pugh and Wilde. Some followers had pointed to a lack of Don’t Worry Darling-related social media activity on Pugh’s part as an indication that she was beginning to distance herself from the film.

In a glowing social media post, Wilde said it was a “f***ing thrill” to watch Pugh work. The post was not shared or “liked” by Pugh, prompting further speculation among followers.

She did however, share her own post about the film shortly after.

16 August 2022 – Pugh discusses the film in an interview

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Pugh discussed the film, but some fans observed a conspicuous lack of discussion about either Wilde or Styles. She did, however, discuss the movie’s sex scenes, which had previously been championed by Wilde.

“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,” said the actor. “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,” she continued. “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.”

Pugh in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ (© 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved)
Pugh in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ (© 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved)

24 August 2022 – Wilde praises Pugh, denies rumours of a pay disparity

In an interview with Variety, Wilde lavished praise on Pugh once again, describing her as “extraordinary” and “clearly the most exciting young actress working today”.

She also denied rumours that Styles had been paid three times Pugh’s salary for his work on the film.

“There has been a lot out there that I largely don’t pay attention to. But the absurdity of invented clickbait and subsequent reaction regarding a nonexistent pay disparity between our lead and supporting actors really upset me,” she told the publication.

She also rubbished talk of a feud, claiming: “Tabloid media is a tool to pit women against one another and to shame them.”

24 August 2022 –Wilde says she fired LaBeouf to “protect” the stars

In an interview, Wilde claimed that she fired LaBeouf from the production to help ensure that Pugh felt “safe”.

“I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work,” she said. “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.

Olivia Wilde on set with Chris Pine (© 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved)
Olivia Wilde on set with Chris Pine (© 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved)

She continued: “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.”

26 August 2022 – LaBeouf denies he was fired, shares video of Wilde

Just days after this interview was given, LaBeouf denied Wilde’s claims, saying that he had left the production of his own accord as he was unable to “find time to rehearse” with the other castmembers.

He sent screenshots of his email and text exchanges with Wilde to Variety, as well as a video of Wilde apparently trying to convince LaBeouf to stay attached to the project.

In the footage, which leaked online, Wilde is seen saying that she is “heartbroken” over LaBeouf’s exit.

Pugh in ‘Don’t Worry Darling' (Warner Bros)
Pugh in ‘Don’t Worry Darling' (Warner Bros)

“You know, I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo,” she says, seemingly referring to Pugh.

“I want to know if you’re open to giving this a shot with me, with us. 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?”

Ongoing – clips of Styles’s acting circulate on TikTok

In recent weeks, clips from the film and its trailer have circulated on the video messaging platform Tiktok.

Fans have weighed in on the performances, with many criticising Styles’s line delivery and seeimingly inconsistent accent in the pre-released material, while praising Pugh.

Don’t Worry Darling is out in cinemas on 23 September.