Olivia Wilde did her best to dodge questions about the scandals that have hit her feature Don’t Worry Darling during a Venice Film Festival press event on Monday, with some significant help from the festival itself.
In what felt at times like a carefully stage managed media meet that sought to ignore several elephants in the room, many journalists saw their raised hands passed over as Wilde and Harry Styles fielded numerous questions about costumes, sets and cinematography and Styles’ career. It was only right at the end when Wilde was asked about the absence of her lead star Florence Pugh — reportedly shooting Dune 2 in Budapest (although that didn’t stop Timothee Chalamet doing the full press schedule in Venice) — and rumours of discord on set.
After speaking enthusiastically about Pugh, who she described as “a force” and noting her commitments on Dune 2, she said: “As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, I mean, the internet feeds itself.” She added: “I don’t feel the need to contribute. I think it’s sufficiently well nourished.”
The Hollywood Reporter then attempted to ask about question about Shia LaBeouf, only for the moderator to shut it down, claiming that she had “already answered that” in relation to “internet noise.”
Don’t Worry Darling had come into the festival with more baggage than most other films in the lineup, baggage that had amassed just weeks earlier. Rumors originally emerged that Wilde and Pugh had fallen out after Wilde had stated a romantic relationship with Styles during the shoot. A few days later, the rumors grew to suggest that Pugh had actually been paid less than a third of what her male co-star made for the film ($700,000 to Styles’ $2.5 million salary, reportedly). In a subsequent interview, Wilde said there was absolutely no truth to the claims of the pay gap, but she also alluded to the fact she had fired LaBeouf (whose role went to Styles), saying that she did so over his “combative energy” and to keep Pugh “safe.” In what became a very public online drama, LaBeouf then hit back, asserting in an email two days later that he actually “quit” the movie, while a leaked 2020 video showed Wilde seemingly pleading with him to change his mind while also appearing to blame Pugh for having issues with the actor.
Adding fuel to the situation, it had already been revealed that Florence Pugh, the film’s lead, would not be attending the media meet, with her flight only landing later in the day in time for the red carpet and premiere screening on the Lido.
Wilde’s sophomore feature following her directorial debut Booksmart, Don’t Worry Darling sees Pugh and Styles play an idyllic couple living in 1950s America in an experimental cult-like community. Gemma Chan, Kiki Layne, Nick Kroll and Chris Pine — alongside Wilde herself — also star.
“We were really interested in the kind of problematic nature of nostalgia itself for everyone, but a very slim portion of the population. And, you know, we started writing this film in the era of make America great again,” Wilde earlier said about the film. “And we were really questioning what exactly is meant by that? I think also with this film, you have to remember everything is a metaphor. You know, the paradox of victory is that everything that is beautiful, is also sinister. And that’s by design.”
She added: “We thought a lot about the generations of women that came before ours, but unfortunately, also the generation of women that we are in right now — in terms of bodily autonomy. It was a huge part of why we wanted to tell the story.”
Following its bow in Venice, Don’t Worry Darling will screen at the Deauville American Film Festival and the San Sebastian International Film Festival before its theatrical release on Sept. 23.