On Sunday, it was confirmed that Florence Pugh would not be attending Monday morning’s press conference for Don’t Worry Darling ahead of its premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
In fact, her only press commitment for the film’s rollout is to walk the red carpet at the Monday evening premiere, despite being the movie’s lead actor.
The news came after months of mounting speculation that there is a rift between Florence and the movie’s director, Olivia Wilde.
The two women seemingly had polar-opposite ideas about what Don't Worry Darling was and how the movie should be marketed, with Florence speaking out against the hypersexualization of the movie, while Olivia repeatedly boasted about how the portrayal of female pleasure was one of her biggest goals in the project.
Olivia’s relationship with Florence’s costar Harry Styles is also thought to have been another source of contention between the two women; there are reports that Florence was “uncomfortable” with their blossoming romance during filming.
It has also been claimed that Olivia was so distracted by Harry that Florence ended up directing parts of the movie. Meanwhile, Olivia recently denied rumors of a huge pay disparity between Florence, the movie’s star, and Harry, who has a supporting role.
But just 10 days ago, the messy situation reached a boiling point when Shia LaBeouf released a series of emails, text messages, and a video recording that directly contradicted comments that Olivia had publicly made regarding Florence in the past.
In case you didn’t know, Shia was originally cast to play Harry’s character, Jack, but he left the project before filming began. Over the past few months, Olivia has repeatedly suggested that she fired him, starting in February, when she said that she has a strict “no assholes” policy on set.
Last month, Olivia told Variety that Shia had “a combative energy,” so she let him go from the project in order to “protect” Florence and make her feel “safe.”
“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,” she said.
“I believe that creating a safe, trusting environment is the best way to get people to do their best work,” Olivia added. “Ultimately, my responsibility is to the production and to the cast to protect them. That was my job.”
But just days later, Shia presented the same publication with all of his receipts, which revealed that he was the one who chose to leave the production because he didn’t feel like he had enough time to rehearse.
One text from Olivia, which seemingly confirmed that leaving the project was Shia’s decision, 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."
And in a direct contradiction of what Olivia had said about protecting Florence, a video that she sent to Shia two days after he quit showed her begging him to reconsider as she claimed that Florence — whom she referred to as “Miss Flo” — needed a “wake-up call.”
In the clip, which later leaked on social media, Olivia told Shia, “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.”
She added, “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. 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?”
Olivia has not publicly commented on Shia’s exposé, and when the topic came up during Don’t Worry Darling’s press conference on Monday, it was quickly — and awkwardly — shut down.
Olivia appeared alongside a press moderator and the movie’s actors Styles, Gemma Chan, and Chris Pine — with Florence notably absent.
A journalist referenced this as he addressed the bubbling discourse surrounding the film, saying to Olivia, “It’s a shame not to have Florence here. Can you just clear the air and address if there’s been a falling-out there, and if so, why? Because it’s something people are discussing.”
Looking uncomfortable, Olivia heaped praise on Florence’s work in the movie and suggested that Florence couldn’t make the conference because of her filming commitments for Dune: Part Two, which is currently shooting in Budapest. However, Olivia refused to deny that there is a rift between them.
“Florence is a force, and we are so grateful she’s able to make it tonight despite being in production on Dune,” she said of the upcoming premiere. “I know as a director how disruptive it is to lose an actor, even for a day, so I’m very grateful to her, I’m grateful to [Dune: Part Two’s director] Denis Villeneuve for helping us, and we’re really thrilled we get to celebrate her work tonight.”
Olivia continued, “I can’t say enough how honored I am to have her as our lead. She’s amazing in the film, and as for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, I mean, the internet feeds itself. I don’t feel the need to contribute; I think it’s sufficiently well nourished.”
A journalist for the Hollywood Reporter followed up, saying, “I would also just like to ask about the noise that you mentioned, and this question’s to Olivia…”
But he was quickly interrupted by the press moderator, who was sitting next to Olivia. She sternly stated, “The question has been answered.”
“It’s separate,” the journalist replied. “It’s about Shia LaBeouf…”
But the moderator refused to budge, repeating, “I think the question [was] answered when she talked about the internet,” as Olivia nodded in apparent agreement.
Olivia could then be heard thanking the moderator as the camera awkwardly lingered on the stars while they waited for a different question.
In addition to the text messages and video that Shia shared about his decision to walk away from Don’t Worry Darling, he provided an email that he sent to Olivia after her Variety interview was published.
In the message, he told her that he was “a little confused about the narrative” that he was “fired.” The email continued: “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.”
Shia went on to accuse 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.”
He claimed that she did not respond to his emails.
While the tension surrounding the movie is now palpable, this certainly wasn’t always the case; when Florence was first cast in Don’t Worry Darling back in 2020, she painted a very different picture.
Announcing her involvement in the project on her Instagram page at the time, Florence called Olivia her “idol” as she wrote, “@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 time the movie wrapped in February 2021, something appeared to have shifted, with Florence giving the first hint that all wasn’t well when she posted a selection of behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot and heaped praise on the various crew members involved.
Olivia was not included in the incredibly lengthy caption, and ever since, Florence has seemed to be reluctant to discuss the film in any capacity and has barely posted about it on her social media page.
Then, in August, Florence spoke out against the way that the movie was being marketed in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, with fans left shocked when Don’t Worry Darling’s trailer included a graphic sex scene that showed Harry’s character, Jack, performing oral sex on Florence’s character, Alice.
Months after filming had wrapped, Olivia told Vogue that depicting female pleasure onscreen was a priority to her because she wanted her audience to “realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure.”
Olivia also said that she wanted to make sex scenes good again through Don’t Worry Darling and was obviously thrilled when she was praised by the Clit Test for “showing how it’s done” following the trailer’s release.
And she recently told the Associated Press that she originally had more sex scenes in the trailer and was “upset” when regulators forced her to cut them.
But Florence was vocal in her disagreement with this stance: “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 told Harper’s Bazaar.
“Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that,” she 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.”
Florence further fueled the feud speculation when she reposted her Don’t Worry Darling costar Gemma’s congratulatory message about the interview to her Instagram story but pointedly ignored Olivia’s.
One month earlier, Florence had also ignored a gushing tribute that Olivia had posted about her on her Instagram page.
Soon after Florence’s views on the Don’t Worry Darling sex scenes were made public, Olivia’s interview with Variety was published and really reiterated just how different their perspectives are.
In the opening paragraph of the profile, Variety highlighted Olivia’s unabashed pride at her female character orgasming onscreen. She then boasted, “Men don’t come in this film, only women here!”
Much of the chat went on to focus on the sex scenes, and Olivia explicitly contradicted Florence’s comments when she insisted that they are “integral” to Don’t Worry Darling’s story.
Interestingly, Variety revealed that Florence had declined to speak to the outlet as part of Olivia’s profile.
Another element of Florence and Olivia’s apparent strained relationship stems from the director’s treatment of Harry, with Olivia sparking backlash last year when she celebrated him for being willing to take on a supporting role in a “woman-led” film.
Many pointed out that up until this point, Harry only had one other acting credit to his name, a bit part in the war epic Dunkirk, while Florence is an Academy Award nominee.
“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,” journalist Roisin O’Connor summarized at the time.
Olivia, however, doubled down on this stance in her Variety interview, where she once again championed Harry for being “such a great supporter of [Florence’s], as someone who understood it was her film.”
Florence, who has a history of shutting down online rumors via her social media page, has not publicly commented on any of the reports, and neither Olivia's nor her representatives have responded to a BuzzFeed News request for comment.