Spitting Styles, Florence Pugh’s Eye Contact Keeps Drama Burning – The Hollywood Reporter

After the weeks of drama that had engulfed Olivia Wilde’s much-hyped sophomore feature Don’t Worry Darling, drama that somehow managed to crescendo even further following an awkward press conference at the Venice Film Festival on Monday (where questions were shut down by the moderator), there was no doubt some hope that all the scandal would be put to one side for the star-studded world premiere later that evening.

And, for the most part, it was.

Thanks to Harry Styles, the fans outside (many who had camped overnight) ensured that Warner Bros. Discovery’s psychological thriller generated probably the loudest screams of the festival, although the welcome for lead star Florence Pugh hit a similar decibel range. The screams continued beyond the red carpet and into the Salla Grande before the screening, while afterwards the film generated a solid seven-minute standing ovation.

But eagle-eyed cameras caught several moments that have poured fuel back on the bonfire of controversy and have ensured that much of the social media discussion is still firmly away from the film itself.

In what has become an overnight viral moment, as Styles’ sits down in the Salle Grande for the Don’t Worry Darling screening, he appears to spit at co-star Chris Pine. Or does he? The reaction from Pine certainly suggests he did. In any case, the footage has arguably become the biggest Twitter talking point from the premiere, generating millions of views.

Perhaps in second place, another piece of video footage captured after the screening shows Pugh acknowledging the cheers and applause, looking embarrassed, throwing kisses to the crowd and laughing with co-star Nick Kroll. But what it doesn’t show her do is make any eye contact whatsoever with her director Wilde, with watchers suggesting that she didn’t do that once during the entire seven-minute ovation. The two sat four seats away from each other and didn’t appear to interact whatsoever on the red carpet beforehand.

Given that much of the drama surrounding the film is connected to rumors of a rift between Wilde and her lead actress, who skipped the Venice press conference (her flight actually landed while it was taking place), the clips from the premiere only served to turn up the volume of the debate — or “internet gossip” as Wilde had described it in the press conference — even further.

In what THR has already suggested will become an impressive “controversies” section in the psychological thriller’s Wikipedia entry, in mid-August tabloid rumors emerged that Pugh — who plays a 1950s suburban housewife in an idyllic cult-like community called Victory — had fallen out with Wilde after the director started a relationship with Styles during the shoot. These rumors expanded just a couple of days later to suggest that she had been paid less than a third of what her male co-star made ($700,000 to Styles’ $2.5 million, reportedly).

Just days before Venice started, there was another explosion. In a lengthy interview in which Wilde said there was “no validity” to the claims of the pay gap, she also alluded to the fact she had fired Shia LaBeouf (whose role went to Styles), claiming that she did so over his “combative energy” and to keep Pugh “safe.” 

LaBeouf immediately hit back, writing a lengthy public email — that included several SMS messages he’d received from Wilde as evidence — asserting that he had “quit” the movie. A leaked 2020 video message appeared to confirm LaBeouf’s protests, showing Wilde in her car pleading with him to change his mind while also seemingly blaming Pugh — or “Miss Flo” as she referred to her — for being concerned about working with the actor.

With this the final update on the matter going into the festival, many eyes were on the press conference in the hope that it would be addressed by Wilde. Not so. After batting away a question about Pugh’s absence and their rumored fallout, saying she didn’t want to contribute to “all the noise,” the moderator then shut down The Hollywood Reporter‘s attempt to ask about LaBeouf.

On the lighter side of the online frenzy, Pine — a potential spit target later on in the day — became a viral hit himself due to the press conference. While much of the attention was on Wilde’s refusal to talk about the drama, photos from the media meet showed him looking spaced out by the proceedings. Or, as several Twitter users, wrote: “Chris Pine astral projecting.”

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