For adoring fans of Harry Styles and the rest of the general public, one of the most anticipated events of the year has finally arrived. Olivia Wilde’s sophomore directorial offering, Don’t Worry Darling, premiered in theaters everywhere Friday. But buzz about the movie’s supposed celebration of millennial feminism, the female orgasm, and a mystery town called Victory has been surpassed by what people love more than a good film: batshit crazy drama.
This movie within a movie has everything: alleged steamy love affairs, alleged contentious breakups, alleged falling-outs between directors and stars, alleged onset issues, an alleged spitting incident at the Venice Film Festival premiere — and all of it is being discussed and dissected online in Twitter threads and TikTok explainers. But as the drama has continued, it has become an Olympic sport pinpointing each time things have, allegedly, gone to the dogs. As a refresher, below is a good ol’ college try of the full timeline of the Don’t Worry Darling Drama.
2019: Olivia Wilde Announces Don’t Worry Darling As Her Next Movie
Following the critical success of Wilde’s 2019 directorial debut Booksmart, Wilde announces that her new project will be a cerebral and psychological thriller surrounding a 1950s housewife whose picture-perfect life is not what it seems. Following a bidding war involving at least 18 major production companies, including Netflix, Apple, and MGM, Wilde choses New Line based on the promise of a theatrical release, according to Deadline.
April – September 2020: The Most Wanted Man On Earth Appears
After New Line decides to finance the film, stars are attached. Florence Pugh and Shia LaBoeuf, each fresh off the praise of their latest projects, Midsommar and Honey Boy, respectively, are announced as leads amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Pugh blasts her excitement over Instagram, calling Wilde her idol and saying “I can’t wait to join this project when all of this is over.”
As production begins in August, a disruption occurs. LaBeouf departs the project and pop star Harry Styles is cast in his stead. Very few people seem disappointed about the change, which Wilde’s team claims at the time was due to scheduling conflicts. When singer FKA Twigs reveals in January that she is suing LaBeouf for physical and emotional abuse, people wonder if there is more than released about LaBeouf’s departure. More on this later. LaBeouf calls his actions “failings” in an email to Wilde but continues to say Twigs’ narrative and many of her allegations are untrue.
Styles has already been attached to major theatrical projects, most notably Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, where he is virtually indistinguishable from the other scared white British men the film follows. But this opportunity to star as a leading man spins his fans into an absolute tizzy and anticipation for the film grows as production begins.
January 2021: The Wedding
What’s worse than a pop star? A pop star who is not in a parasocial relationship with his fan base and instead is publicly photographed at a wedding as the date of his somewhat older director. After a pap snaps a photo of Wilde and Styles holding hands while attending a friend’s wedding, the rumors start in earnest. It does not help that Wilde is currently in the middle of a surprise breakup from long-term partner and lovable SNL alum Jason Sudeikis, who is capturing the internet’s heart in Ted Lasso.
So first comes the misogyny. Fans latch on to Wilde’s age, her hair, her apparent low levels of hotness compared to Harry. But then come rumors: that the two often spent integral time on set “getting to know each other” when they were scheduled to work.
It doesn’t help that on Instagram, where Wilde has committed to documenting the film’s creation, she writes a flowing post about Styles following the release of the photos. In it, she praises Styles for being willing to play second fiddle to Pugh and commends him for his work ethic and talent. Pugh doesn’t like the post on Instagram. In fact, she stops posting about the movie almost entirely.
Harry Styles stans and those following the film on social media begin to whisper that Pugh has had a falling out with Wilde over her relationship with Styles and her directing style. A blind item on TikTok even claims that while Wilde and Styles were getting hot and heavy, Pugh took over a major part of directorial duties.
An anonymous source told Vulture that the resentment boiled over into a screaming match between Pugh and Wilde during filming in January. According to the report, Warner Bros. executive Toby Emmerich helped create a “long negotiation process” for how Pugh would take part in promoting the film.
Wilde handles most of this with enviable aplomb. She posts Instagrams raving over Pugh’s strength and acting chops. She is photographed often with Styles and attends multiple shows during his “Love on Tour” concert series, where fans take videos of her dancing, hair loose and carefree.
On this week’s episode of ‘Don’t Let This Flop,’ hosts Brittany Spanos and Ej Dickson discuss the ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ drama.
April 2022: Starting to Get Worried, Darling
Just as people begin to get used to the idea of Styles and Wilde as an item, the pop star releases “As It Was,” the first single for his upcoming album Harry’s House. In the song’s bouncing rhythm, the bridge contains the lyrics “Leave America / Two kids follow her,” which fans instantly believe references Wilde, who has said she splits her time between Los Angeles and the U.K. and has two children with Sudeikis.
The children remain a topic of interest, especially after Wilde is served what are later confirmed to be custody papers while onstage at CinemaCon to promote the film. In video clips, she is handed a large manila folder with the words “confidential” stamped on them. Her expression doesn’t help, a mix of confusion evident in her tone. “This is for me?” she can be seen asking. “Is this a script?”
The timing is, frankly, cinematic — even Wilde’s cool response after receiving the papers can’t prevent the clips from going viral. Sudeikis denied planning for the papers to be delivered on stage but Wilde called the incident upsetting.
“The only people who suffered were my kids, because they’ll have to see that, and they shouldn’t ever have to know that happened. For me, it was appalling, but the victims were an eight- and five-year-old, and that’s really sad,” Wilde told Variety four months after the envelope debacle.
May 2022: Going Down(hill)
The full trailer for the film finally drops and fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their beloved singer receive a picture perfect cut of Styles’ character going down on Pugh’s housewife. Wilde digs into the excitement over the oral sex scene in the trailer, going on long overtures about female pleasure and empowerment.
But as the promotional whirlwind begins, fans note that Pugh, who is famously effervescent about her upcoming projects on social media, has been silent on Instagram about the project, even as Wilde posts screengrabs and long thank you’s to the cast and crew.
August 2022: Profile Season Bites Back
With less than a month before the world premiere, Wilde and Styles continue to be spotted together at concerts, out on the town in New York, and on yachts off the coast of Italy. Pugh, because she is lovely, continues to keep quiet.
In a Harper’s Bazzar profile, Pugh deftly navigates questions about Don’t Worry Darling and its viral response, only saying, “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.”
As Rolling Stone’s first global cover star, Harry Styles doesn’t outright confirm his relationship with Wilde, but expressed his fears over starring in such a large film and explained how the process of acting differs from singing.
“When you’re filming and they say ‘cut,’ there’s maybe part of you that expects everyone to start clapping, [but] they don’t,” he tells Rolling Stone. “Everyone, obviously, goes back to doing their jobs, and you’re like, ‘Oh, shit, was it that bad?’ ”
It’s Wilde whose cover story sets off the latest round of jaw-dropping news. In an interview with Variety, while explaining her process as a director, Wilde claims that instead of leaving the production, LaBeouf was fired to protect the cast.
“I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work. His process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions,” Wilde said. “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.”
We could have all gone gently into that good night, with an awkward cast and a film critics have claimed has strong acting performances but fails to make the definitive statement on the patriarchy it set out to do. No one has focused much on LaBeouf’s replacement since it was announced, mostly because it was reportedly over scheduling issues.
But LaBeouf immediately shoots back against the accusations, saying he quit over lack of rehearsal time. “Firing me never took place, Olivia,” he wrote in an email to Wilde, which he posted online. “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.” To prove his point, he posts messages and a video from Wilde where she implies Pugh, who she refers to as “Miss Flo,” is the real hindrance behind the scenes.
General ick aside over a man using the words “current social landscape” not long after he was accused by a former partner of abuse, LaBeouf’s messages don’t exactly disprove anything Wilde said. It does muddle the reasoning around his departure enough to tip the gossip frenzy over the edge. After it’s reported that Pugh will not attend the cast press conference prior to the film’s release at the Venice film festival but will walk the red carpet, all eyes are now on the Don’t Worry Darling premiere.
September 2022: Chaos in Venice
There is always a certain magic that comes from the Venice Film Festival. Maybe it’s the old world aesthetics of culture and water taxis or the new world magic of haute couture and movie stars. Whatever the allure, it’s almost poetic that the one thing that dominates the news cycle is old-fashioned American mess.
Wilde and Styles come on separate boats, people remember that Nick Kroll and Gemma Chan are in this movie, and Chris Pine descends like a golden-haired, loafer-wearing reminder that he will always be the best Chris.
At the press conference, Wilde is immediately asked about Pugh’s absence on stage. “Florence is a force,” she says, adding she is grateful to the actress for working around her Dune 2 filming schedule. “As for all the endless tabloid gossip out there, the Internet feeds itself. I don’t feel the need to contribute. I think it’s sufficiently well nourished.” Timothee Chalamet, who also stars in Dune 2, had no problem adjusting his filming schedule to attend multiple days of the film festival.
People must have been hungry because during the press conference, the internet feverishly devours photos of Pugh. Despite scheduling concerns, she appears to have arrived in Venice with plenty of time to change into a purple Valentino three piece and walk around with an Aperol Spritz in hand.
Pugh returns for the red carpet, clad in another stunning Valentino piece. Fans rabidly post videos and clips of the stars awkwardly interacting, noting the ways Wilde and Styles seem to avoid making eye contact with each other, while Pugh chats and laughs with Pine and Kroll and seemingly refuses to look at anyone else.
But while the red carpet cameras focused on the awkward group photos, it is Pine who starts up another round of gossip inside the theater. When Styles comes to sit down beside him, Pine stops mid-clap, staring down at his lap with a smirk. When the film starts, he is captured putting on his sunglasses as the lights dim. Fans scouring the footage came back with one impossible question: Did Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine? All of the renewed attention on the movie’s cast makes spitgate viral before you can say Wilde. There are slow-motion clips of Styles sitting down, different angles of the moment being cut and clipped and reviewed like it was a crime scene.
Some spitgate truthers are adamant you could see spittle in the grainy cell-phone camera footage, while others believe Pine was reacting to accidentally misplacing his sunglasses in his lap.
In less than 24 hours, the theory grows so much that Pine’s representatives issued a flat denial to Rolling Stone and other outlets.
“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,” a representative for Pine said. “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.”
As if the Venice news cycle wasn’t enough, two insiders tell Rolling Stone that Pugh will not attend the only other scheduled premiere of the film in New York, citing, you guessed it, scheduling conflicts.
“From what I understand, there is friction, but I don’t know why,” one source who was on the Don’t Worry Darling set tells Rolling Stone. “It’s pretty clear she’s choosing not to be a part of the PR. It’s clearly not beneficial to Olivia to not have her be a part of the PR. It has to be a Florence decision.”
September 2022 continued: The Film Arrives
Given the twitter-shattering news that the Venice premiere of the film gave, it is a shock when the New York Premiere of the film lands with a whimper. Whether its the rainy New York weather or the focus on the final show of Styles’ residency at Madison Square Garden, little to no drama occurs as stars walk a quick red carpet and enter the event.
But it is a surprise when Pugh suddenly releases a torrent of content celebrating the film. On Instagram, the star posts several photo dumps of her time on set, including a photo of herself and Wilde together.
“This film was such an epic story on such a large scale to shoot, all while during peak Covid times. For that I will always be grateful,” Pugh says. “To all of you who helped make this, your dedication and love was seen daily – thank you.”
Fellow Don’t Worry Darling actress KiKi Layne is less than glowing in her tributes to the film, after her character, despite being a major player integral to the plot, virtually disappeared less than halfway through the film.
“The best thing about #DontWorryDarling is that I was lucky enough to meet Ari’el Stachel,” Layne writes in a post with her on-screen husband. “They cut us from most of the movie, but we thriving in real life. #GotMyCheck #GotMyMan.”
For a film dominated by alleged drama, shady public interactions, and a lukewarm reception from critics, Don’t Worry Darling still makes a perfectly respectable debut at the box office, netting $30 million globally its opening weekend, according to Deadline. It’s incredibly unlikely that any more drama can be wrung out of the thriller, but with so much personal energy already exhausted in the film’s making, Don’t Worry Darling could very well be on its way to cult status—and wouldn’t that be just what we deserve?