While nobody could have ever predicted the amount of drama that Don’t Worry Darling was going to provide us with, the first signs that all was not well behind the scenes came before filming even began back in 2020.
The psychological thriller is Olivia Wilde’s second venture into directing, and she initially cast Florence Pugh and Shia LaBeouf as the movie’s leads. However, Shia mysteriously left the project during preproduction and was replaced with Harry Styles.
Olivia has repeatedly suggested that she fired the actor due to tensions between him and Florence. In February, she said that she has a strict “no-assholes policy” on her movie sets, and she homed in on this during an interview with Variety last month.
Discussing Shia’s exit from the movie, Olivia said that he’d had a “combative energy” and she made the decision to let him go 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 claimed. “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 went on.
Referencing Florence directly, she added: “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 just days later, Shia rebuked this narrative when he sent the publication a series of emails, text messages, and even a video of Olivia that painted a very different picture.
In a text conversation between Shia and Olivia in August 2020, it was suggested that they had met in person to discuss his exit from the project because he was concerned that he didn’t have enough time to rehearse.
After the meeting, Olivia texted him: “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 told Variety that he “officially” quit Don’t Worry Darling the next day, which was Aug. 17, 2020. Two days later, he received a video from Olivia begging him to reconsider.
The video later leaked online, and Olivia can be seen telling 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 added. “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?”
Following Olivia’s comments in her Variety interview, Shia had also emailed her to privately call out what she’d said about him. When she didn’t reply, he made these public and he can be seen telling the director that he is “a little confused about the narrative” that he was “fired.”
“You and I both know the reasons for my exit,” the email goes on. “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 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.”
Olivia did not publicly respond to the shocking exposé, and when a journalist tried to ask her about it at Don’t Worry Darling’s press conference at the Venice Film Festival on Monday, they were awkwardly shut down by the moderator.
On Thursday — three days after the conference — a new profile on Olivia was published by Vanity Fair. In the interview, which had taken place before Shia released the receipts, Olivia had doubled down on her claims that she’d fired him for Florence’s sake.
The article reads: “During preproduction, Wilde tells me in London, Pugh told her that she was uncomfortable with LaBeouf’s behavior. Wilde says she called LaBeouf herself and fired him."
“My responsibility was towards her. I’m like a mother wolf. Making the call was tricky, but in a way he understood,” Olivia told the publication. “I don’t think it would’ve been a process he enjoyed. He comes at his work with an intensity that can be combative. It wasn’t the ethos that I demand in my productions. I want him to get well and to evolve because I think it’s a great loss to the film industry when someone that talented is unable to work.”
After Shia appeared to publicly disprove Olivia’s narrative, the journalist followed up with her via email. But Olivia claimed that the text screenshots he’d provided were taken out of context, and made no mention of the leaked video.
“This issue is so much more nuanced than can be explained in private texts released out of context,” she insisted. “All I’ll say is he was replaced, and there was no going forward with him. I wish him the best in his recovery.”
A source went on to claim that Shia had asked Olivia to choose between him and Florence, and Vanity Fair reported that Olivia let Shia “believe what he wanted to believe: that he was quitting” in order to spare his ego.
However, this is not reflected in the texts, emails, and videos that Shia provided.
Elsewhere in her Vanity Fair interview, Olivia branded speculation that there is a rift between her and Florence as “baseless gossip.”
In recent weeks, the rumor has been fueled by telltale interviews from Florence, as well as her incredibly pointed social media activity. She has publicly shared her disapproval at the way that Don’t Worry Darling is being marketed, which is objectively at odds with Olivia’s point of view.
Florence has also ignored repeated Instagram posts that Olivia has made about her, despite interacting with similar ones from her costars in the film, and her promotion of Don’t Worry Darling on her usually active Instagram page has been kept to the bare minimum.
After the video of Olivia referring to her leading lady as “Miss Flo” leaked online, it was revealed that Florence’s only press commitment for the film would be attending its Venice premiere on Monday.
During the press conference earlier in the day, Olivia suggested that Florence was unable to attend because she couldn’t get away from her filming commitments in Budapest in time.
However, this was almost instantly debunked when Florence was filmed walking around Venice with an Aperol Spritz in hand while the press conference was still underway.
Before she made her red carpet debut at the premiere, Florence’s stylist shared some behind-the-scenes photos where she referenced Olivia’s infamous jibe by captioning her post, which was liked by Florence, “Miss Flo.”
Once on the carpet, Florence enthusiastically greeted every one of her costars apart from Olivia and Olivia’s boyfriend, Harry Styles. In fact, the supporting cast were treated like human buffers during the awkward photo calls, standing between Olivia, Harry, and Florence throughout.
In her only press interview, Florence appeared to reference her behind-the-scenes discomfort during Don’t Worry Darling, when she said: “I think it’s very, very inspiring to see a woman push back and say ‘no’ and question everything, and it’s very exciting to see a woman do that [on] and off camera. I’m so lucky that I get to do that, especially in this role.”
She then abruptly left the movie theater just three minutes intoDon’t Worry Darling’s standing ovation and further raised eyebrows when she posted six Instagram grid posts about Venice Film Festival but only mentioned the movie one time, in a hashtag, and didn’t mention Olivia at all.
Despite this, Olivia insisted that there is no validity to the rift claims, telling Vanity Fair: “Florence’s performance in this film is astounding. It’s just baffling to me that the media would rather focus on baseless rumors and gossip, thereby overshadowing her profound talent. She deserves more than that. As does the movie, and everyone who worked so hard on it.”
“She fulfilled every single expectation I had of her. That’s all that matters to me,” she added.
After all of the furor surrounding Don’t Worry Darling, it has been met with a lukewarm response from critics, but they have all heaped praise on Florence’s performance — which Vanity Fair called “a testament to [Olivia].”