While the steamy trailers for Olivia Wilde's sophomore film as a director, Don't Worry Darling, have intrigued the internet, the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the movie is even more buzzy. For months now, rumors have swirled about a potential falling-out between Wilde and the film's star, Florence Pugh, as well as the circumstances that led the filmmaker to replace original leading man Shia LaBeouf with Harry Styles — whom she's now dating.
Related video: Shia LaBeouf denies being fired by Olivia Wilde, surfaces email and texts
Wilde addressed LaBeouf's departure in a recent interview with Variety, claiming that she fired him after coming to feel that his specific acting process wouldn't translate to a "safe, trusting environment." That spurred the controversial Transformers star to issue his own version of events, indicating that he quit the production due to a "lack of rehearsal time."
With Don't Worry Darling set to make its global premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 5, followed by its theatrical premiere on Sept. 23, here's everything you need to know about this evolving story.
What is Don't Worry Darling about?
Based on an original story by siblings Carey and Shane Van Dyke (grandsons of legendary film and TV actor Dick Van Dyke), Don't Worry Darling appears to be a cross between The Stepford Wives and The Truman Show, with Pugh and Styles playing Alice and Jack Chambers — a picture-perfect couple in a picture-perfect 1950s suburban community.
But as the trailers reveal, there's something off about this town and Alice gradually awakens to the fact that her reality may not, in fact, be all that real.
Appearing at CinemaCon earlier this year, Wilde compared the film to Christopher Nolan's Inception and Lana and Lilly Wachowski's Matrix movies. "It's my love letter to the movies that pushed boundaries of ambition," she said. "What are you willing to sacrifice to do what’s right? Are you willing to dismantle the system that is designed to serve you?"
Who was in the original cast?
Wilde told Variety that she was originally going to play Alice when Warner Bros. gave the movie the greenlight, with Pugh playing Alice's best friend, Bunny. They ended up switching roles after the director decided she wanted the film to focus on a younger couple. (Pugh is 26 and Wilde is 38).
Shia LaBeouf, 36, joined the movie in the spring 2020 as Jack, alongside Chris Pine as the town's unofficial "mayor," Frank. Dakota Johnson was also cast around the same time, but ended up departing the production, with Gemma Chan and KiKi Layne coming onboard instead.
In August 2020, LaBeouf left the film with "scheduling conflicts" cited as the initial reason. Styles, 28, replaced him as Jack in September, and production began that October. Wilde and Styles were first photographed holding hands in January 2021, two months after she announced her separation from Jason Sudeikis.
In December 2020, LaBeouf was sued by former girlfriend, musician and actress FKA Twigs, who cited multiple instances of physical, emotional and mental abuse.
What has Wilde said about LaBeouf's departure?
Speaking with Variety, the Don't Worry Darling director indicated that she parted ways with the actor over concern about his working methods. "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. 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."
Wilde also noted that she was "troubled" when she learned more about LaBeouf's private life. "A lot came to light after this happened that really troubled me, in terms of his behavior. I find myself just really wishing him health and evolution because I believe in restorative justice. But 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."
What has LaBeouf said about why he left the film?
Following Wilde's interview, LaBeouf contacted Variety to offer a different account, and also provided emails, screenshots of text messages and a video. In an email addressed to Wilde, the actor wrote: "I am a little confused about the narrative that I was fired, however. You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors & I couldn’t find time to rehearse."
In a text message allegedly sent from Wilde on Aug. 16, 2020, the director said she was "gutted" by LaBeouf's decision to quit Don't Worry Darling. "I’m honored you were willing to go there with me, for me to tell a story with you."
Wilde allegedly followed that text message with a video message addressed to LaBeouf on Aug. 19, 2020, where she seemed eager to bring him back on board. "I feel like I’m not ready to give up on this yet," she reportedly said. "I too am heartbroken and I want to figure this out."
That video also suggested a possible creative dispute among Pugh, LaBeouf and Wilde. "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," Wilde allegedly said. "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?"
LaBeouf concluded his email to Wilde asking her to "correct the narrative" she offered to Variety. "I hope none of this negatively effects you, and that your film is successful in all the ways you want it to be."
Why is the Internet convinced that Pugh and Wilde are feuding?
When the film's trailer premiered earlier this year, Pugh fans noted that she didn't share it on her busy social media feeds, instead promoting the poster for one of her other films, Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer. (Pugh has since shared the poster for Don't Worry Darling on Instagram.)
In July, the New York Post's Page Six ran rumors alleging that Pugh was unhappy about Wilde and Styles's relationship. "I can tell you for a fact that Flo seeing Olivia and Harry all over each other on set did not go down well," a source said.
It was also rumored that Styles was paid more than three times Pugh's salary on the film, although Wilde disputed that in her Variety interview. "The absurdity of invented clickbait and subsequent reaction regarding a nonexistent pay disparity between our lead and supporting actors really upset me. I’m a woman who has been in this business for over 20 years, and it’s something that I have fought for myself and others, especially being a director. There is absolutely no validity to those claims."
Speaking with Variety, Wilde sought to quash any additional rumors of a feud with Pugh, insisting she was "blown the f*** away" by the actress. Pugh declined to comment for the story, and is reportedly limiting her press availability ahead of the film's release.
Don't Worry Darling premieres Sept. 23 in theaters.