By Sara Nigro
The Venice Film Festival, which is arguably the most prestigious film festival in the world, spotlighted more than just on-screen dramas this past week. From Aug. 31 to Sept. 10, the festival premiered the most highly anticipated films of the year, including “Bones and All,” starring Timothee Chalamet, and “The Whale,” starring Brendan Fraser and Sadie Sink. Following a tame and sophisticated start to the event, the cast and crew of the “Don’t Worry Darling” (a thriller/mystery) appeared in Venice on Sept. 5.
“Don’t Worry Darling,” which was directed by the former actress and “Booksmart” director, Olivia Wilde, and stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, is no stranger to the news as the personal relationships and issues within the cast have been highly publicized over the last few weeks. While the majority of the drama seems to be recent, there have been rumors of drama within the cast for the past two years — even prior to the start of filming.
In the original casting announcement in April 2020, the public learned that the role of Jack would be played by Shia Labeouf, not Harry Styles. In September of that same year, Styles replaced Labeouf, with Wilde citing scheduling conflicts as the reason behind the switch.
As filming began, a rumored romance between director Wilde and actor Styles spread, creating an often questioned timeline as Olivia Wilde separated from her partner of nearly nine years, Jason Sudekis in Nov. 2020, according to Page Six.
This relationship was rumored to cause tension on set — especially between Pugh and Wilde. Pugh has also stated that she felt her role and the entirety of the film was being oversexualized and overshadowed by the sexual scenes between her and Styles.
“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,” Pugh said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.
In Dec. 2020, Variety reported that Wilde fired Labeouf due to poor behavior and different work styles, not because of scheduling conflicts as previously stated.
On Aug. 26, a video of Wilde talking about her lead actors, Labeouf and Pugh, or “Miss Flo,” as she refers to her costar in the video, was leaked to the public, which led to many fans rallying to defend the actress. The video was originally intended for Shia Labeouf, the former lead actor in the film, and alleged abuser; in December of 2020, Labeouf had been accused of emotional and physical abuse by his former partner, musician FKA Twigs. In the video, Wilde contradicts her previous statement, placing blame on Pugh for not commiting to a schedule that would allow for her and Labeouf to rehearse together.
“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 said, pleading with Labeouf to make the schedule work.
After the video was leaked, Pugh’s team announced she would not be able to attend the press conference at the Venice Film Festival due to scheduling conflicts as she films Dune 2, according to Variety.
On Sept. 5, the set day of the premiere, the cast arrived and was immediately analyzed by in-person and online viewers. Viewers critiqued each interaction and looked between the cast members trying to piece together the puzzle.
When asked about the drama between her and Pugh during the festival’s press conference, Wilde skated around the rumors regarding the feud between herself and Pugh, saying that she doesn’t need to add to the drama because the internet is “sufficiently well-nourished.”
Styles took a two-day break from his tour, Love on Tour, and flew to Italy for the press and premiere of the film. He has yet to reveal an opinion defending either Wilde or Pugh, although his widely-rumored romance with the director is still a trending topic of conversation.
During the premiere, viewers speculated that Styles spit on fellow actor Chris Pine. Styles' public relations team denied this rumor, which was later denied by Pine as well, but not before internet virality, according to MSN.
Following the premiere, the film received a five-minute standing ovation, which ended when Pugh left. During the applause, Styles walked up to supporting actor and comedian Nick Kroll and kissed him, leaving viewers with more questions regarding the current relationship between Wilde and Styles.
A few days after the cast left the Venice Film Festival, Labeouf posted text messages between him and Pugh on social media to further prove that the reason for his exit from the film was in fact due to scheduling — not his behavior.
Critics have rated the film at 42% on Rotten Tomatoes as of Sept. 12. The most consistent consensus seen throughout the many articles and critic’s reviews is that Pugh delivers a notable performance. There have been many negative reviews as they have critiqued the storytelling of the film, Wilde’s directing and Style’s acting abilities.
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ will be released in theaters on Sept. 23.