Last month, speculation that there is tension between Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh came to a head in spectacular fashion.
The two stars had worked together on psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling, which wrapped filming in February 2021 and is due for release later this month.
Olivia directed the film while Florence played lead character Alice, with Harry Styles cast as Alice’s husband, Jack.
When Florence was first cast in the movie back in 2020, Shia LaBeouf was slated to play Harry’s character, and Florence couldn’t hide her excitement as she posted about her new project on Instagram.
In fact, the Academy Award nominee called Olivia her “idol” when she shared a screenshot of her casting announcement. Florence wrote at the time: “@oliviawilde just tagged me in a picture *gasp no.1* @oliviawilde casted me in a film *gasp no.2* @oliviawilde is my idol and allowed me to be a part of this fecking incredible cast. Shia?!? Chris?!? *gasp no.3*”
But by the end of the shoot, the actor’s social media page painted a very different picture, and rumors of a feud between Olivia and Florence first began to bubble when Florence made an Instagram post to mark the end of filming but failed to mention the movie’s director in any capacity.
Sharing a selection of behind-the-scenes photos in February 2021, Florence pointedly heaped praise on various other crew members for their role in Don’t Worry Darling in an incredibly lengthy caption.
And ever since, Florence has been seemingly reluctant to discuss the film in any capacity, and while she is incredibly active on social media, she has barely promoted the much-anticipated movie.
When she did finally share a teaser trailer to her Instagram page just last month, the actor kept the caption as brief as possible, and simply wrote: “‘Not everyone gets this opportunity…’ Not long now! Only in theatres September 23rd #dontworrydarling.”
The reason behind Florence’s apparent desire to distance herself from the film has been attributed to a variety of possibilities in recent weeks, including Olivia’s relationship with Harry, the way the movie is being marketed, and her apparent discomfort at initially having to work with Shia.
And a source has now revealed that it could well be all of the above by claiming that Olivia and Florence locked horns many times both “personally and professionally” throughout the duration of the shoot, which could explain why the tension has now become so palpable.
Speaking to Us Weekly, the insider said: “Florence and Olivia have had several disagreements personally and professionally, that’s why Florence isn’t doing any press for the movie.”
The comment came after the Wrap reported that Florence’s only press commitment for Don’t Worry Darling is to attend the red carpet premiere at Venice Film Festival on Sept. 5.
Back in May, viewers had been left shocked by a graphic sex scene that had been included in the trailer, which showed Harry’s Jack performing oral sex on Florence’s Alice on the kitchen table.
Months after filming had wrapped, Olivia told Vogue that this scene was a priority to her within the film because she wanted her audience to “realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure.”
She also said that she wanted to make sex scenes good again through Don’t Worry Darling. She was noticeably thrilled when she was praised by the Clit Test for “showing how it’s done” following the trailer’s release.
But Florence had a different point of view entirely, telling Harper’s Bazaar: “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.”
“Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that,” Florence added in reference to Olivia’s now-boyfriend Harry. “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.”
And when the interview was published, Florence fueled the feud speculation when she reposted her Don’t Worry Darling costar Gemma Chan’s congratulatory message about the magazine cover to her Instagram story but ignored Olivia’s similar post.
The move was reminiscent of a separate scenario in July when Olivia posted a gushing tribute to Florence on her Instagram page only for Florence to not acknowledge it in any way at all.
Shortly after Florence’s views on the Don’t Worry Darling sex scenes were made public, Variety published an interview with Olivia that really brought home just how different the two women’s perspectives are.
In fact, the very opening paragraph in Variety highlighted Olivia’s pride at her female characters orgasming in the movie, as she boasted to the magazine: “Men don’t come in this film, only women here!”
“Female pleasure, the best versions of it that you see nowadays, are in queer films,” Olivia added. “Why are we more comfortable with female pleasure when it’s two women on film? In hetero sex scenes in film, the focus on men as the recipients of pleasure is almost ubiquitous.”
The director went on to focus on the movie’s sex scenes throughout the chat and even directly contradicted Florence’s comments by insisting that they are “integral” to the story.
“It’s all about immediacy and extreme passion for one another. The impractical nature of their sex speaks to their ferocious desire for one another,” Olivia said. “I think it’s integral to the story itself and how the audience is meant to connect to them. My early conversations with the cast were all about how the audience has to buy into the fantasy.”
Variety also revealed that Florence had declined to speak to the writer as part of Olivia’s profile.
Elsewhere in her interview, Olivia opened up about Shia’s departure from the film. In February of this year, the director had alluded to drama behind the scenes when she said that she maintains a strict “no-assholes policy” on set, which “puts everybody on the same level.”
The sentiment was echoed to Variety last week when Olivia said that Shia had “a combative energy” and that she let him go from the project in order to “protect” Florence and make her feel “safe.”
“His process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions,” she explained. “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.”
“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,” Olivia added.
Referencing Florence directly, she said of Shia’s exit: “For our film, what we really needed was an energy that was incredibly supportive. 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.”
But Shia wasted no time in rebuking these claims, sending Variety receipts in the form of emails, a video of Olivia, and text messages that revealed that he was the one who chose to leave the production because he didn’t feel like he had enough time to rehearse.
In fact, in an explicit contradiction to what Olivia said about protecting her leading lady, she told Shia that Florence needed a “wake-up call” as she tried to convince him to stay on the project in a video message.
Shia sent Variety screenshots of text messages that he’d sent Olivia in August 2020, which suggested that they’d met in person to discuss his exit from Don’t Worry Darling.
One text to Shia from Olivia following the meeting read: “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 said that he “officially” quit the film the day after that message, on Aug. 17, 2020. Two days after he quit, Olivia sent the video — which later leaked on social media — and told the actor: “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 went on. “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 forwarded the emails that he sent Olivia following her recent claims in her Variety interview. In them, he told the star that he was “a little confused about the narrative” that he was “fired.”
The email goes on: “You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors & I couldn’t find time to rehearse. I have included as a reminder the screenshots of our text exchange on that day, and my text to Tobey.”
Shia also accused Olivia of claiming that she fired him because it’s “attractive clickbait” and added: “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 has not publicly responded to Shia’s revelations. Shortly after, Florence’s limited press schedule was reported.
In addition to their differing standpoints on how the movie is being marketed as well as apparent tension with regard to Shia’s involvement in the film, Olivia’s relationship with Harry Styles is also reported to have been a source of contention on set.
Previously, sources claimed that Florence was “uncomfortable” with the way that the new couple were “all over each other on set” during filming, with it also theorized that Florence “had to direct parts” of the movie as a result of Olivia’s growing romance.
Soon after filming wrapped, Olivia sparked backlash when she heaped praise on Harry, who’d only acted in one other movie prior to Don’t Worry Darling, for being willing to take on a supporting role in a “woman-led” film.
At the time, many considered this to be an example of men being celebrated for doing the bare minimum, and journalist Roisin O’Connor summarized: “It is bizarre that she thinks someone with one released acting project where he had a minor role deserves such a massive round of applause for conceding the lead to a literally Oscar-nominated actor.”
Despite facing scrutiny in the past for this stance, Olivia reiterated it in her Variety interview, where she championed Harry for being “such a great supporter of [Florence’s], as someone who understood it was her film.”
She went on to deny reports that she’d paid Harry three times more than Florence in his supporting role, with it previously claimed that he’d taken home $2.5 million while Florence only pocketed $700,000.
Florence has not publicly acknowledged any of the speculation surrounding her and Olivia’s relationship, and neither star’s reps have responded to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.