Every week on Don’t Let This Flop RollingStone‘s podcast about internet news and culture, we feature a segment called Straight People, about the comings and goings of toxic heterosexuals on the internet. While this segment most often features breakup and dating news, perhaps no online drama is more quintessentially straight than that surrounding Don’t Worry, Darling, the upcoming film that has been subject to a tempest of rumors, speculation, and general misogyny-inflected invective aimed at its prominent female director. It has also prompted virtually every news outlet on the planet to run some variation of the above headline over the past 72 hours. Why? Happy, baby!
I don’t know what this movie is. Do I need to know?
I mean, that depends how you feel about mid-century modern period horror/drama/thrillers. Directed by Olivia Wilde, Don’t Worry, Darling is a film that is at least ostensibly about a group of housewives (including star Florence Pugh) trying to unearth the truth behind their husbands’ (including RollingStone cover star Harry Styles) top-secret project. There is also apparently a subplot about female sexual empowerment, if a buzz-worthy oral sex scene in the trailer — and Wilde’s constant discussion of the subject in her press tours for the film — are any indication. In one photo she posted from set, she wore a The Future Is Female Cumshot T-shirt. It’s a little on the nose, but she’s a millennial, so that’s OK.
One could be forgiven, however, for knowing next to nothing about this premise, as the bulk of the coverage of the film has focused on the alleged — alleged! — gooey pelvis-bumping of its director (Wilde) and its male star (Styles), who reportedly got together on set, suspiciously close to the time that Wilde broke up with her then-fiance Jason Sudeikis.
Since early 2021, starting with their public debut at a Hollywood exec’s wedding, Styles and Wilde have had a whirlwind courtship. Though neither of them have publicly remarked at length on the relationship, Wilde has been spotted on tour with him many times dancing sexily in the crowd, inciting the ire of Styles fans worldwide. Against the backdrop of this courtship, rumors have also started to swirl that Pugh, the lead of Don’t Worry, Darling, was unhappy with Wilde and Styles’ relationship. In the media, there was speculation Pugh, a film star in her own right, got paid a lot less for Don’t Worry, Darling than Harry, which Wilde has staunchly denied; rumors have also swirled that Pugh was angry that Styles and Wilde often “disappeared” from set to “canoodle” (industry trade parlance for “fucking”).
The fact that Pugh has commented on almost none of these rumors, and has publicly done very little to promote the film, has merely added fuel to the fire. So has the fact that, in a recent Harper’s Bazaar profile, Pugh appeared to allude to Wilde’s public comments about the oral sex scene between her and Styles in a not-so-nice way, 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. Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that. That’s just not what I’m going to be discussing because [this movie is] bigger and better than that.”
Completely unclear. Almost no one has discussed whether this movie is actually good. It’s about as big a state secret as Area 54, or why Lucy Hale keeps getting cast in network pilots.
OK, but isn’t this all kinda tabloid-y, virtually unfounded speculation about the sex lives of two grown-ass, albeit very attractive, people?
Yeah, it is. But it’s also necessary context for understanding what happened late last week, after Wilde appeared in a splashy variety profile as promotion for the film. In the profile, Wilde discusses why Shia LaBoeuf, who had originally been cast in Styles’s role, was fired from Don’t Worry, Darling. She issues the type of gristle-free pablum that is the foodstuffs of most press tours:
“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.“
Aside from the fact that this sounds like the kind of thing an HR manager would say after firing a middle manager for getting drunk off canned G&Ts during the corporate Easter egg hunt, everything Wilde says here makes sense. LaBoeuf is, at the very least, what a second-grade teacher would generously refer to as a “big personality.” He was arrested in 2014 for grabbing Alan Cumming’s ass at a Broadway performance of Cabaret. He was arrested for disorderly conduct at a bar, where bodycam footage captured him making racist remarks. (LaBoeuf later, kind of, apologized for this incident.) And in late 2020, shortly after he would leave the set of Don’t Worry, Darling, LaBoeuf’s ex FKA Twigs would also allege in a suit that he had sexually and physically abused her and another one of his exes. So when Wilde initially said that she had fired LaBoeuf for being an asshole on set and to protect her other performers, no one was particularly surprised — except, perhaps, for Shia LaBoeuf himself.
Shortly after the variety story was published, LaBoeuf decided to unleash the receipts. He sent an email to variety that he sent to Wilde after publication, refuting that he had been fired and saying that he quit due to lack of rehearsal time. “Firing me never took place, Olivia,” he wrote in the email. “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.” A video of Wilde that had been sent to LaBoeuf around this time later went viral on social media, in which she appears to be begging him to stay on the project despite conflict between him and Florence Pugh, whom she refers to somewhat condescendingly as “Miss Flo”:
Is it just me, or is she saying “Shia” weirdly in that video?
It’s not just you. Shia. Shia Shia Shiaaaaaaa.
How did Twitter react to this?
Soberly, and with great nuance. Nope, (in French accent), I am making a light-hearted comedic interjection! They used the video to paint Wilde as a liar who threw Pugh under the bus to keep an abuser on set. Many on Twitter compared her to Amber Heard, which is kind of a weird thing to say considering Heard is accused by her haters of lying under oath about her celebrity ex raping her with a wine bottle and Wilde is being accused of…. not being fully honest to a variety report. But apparently that is what we are calling women on the internet who we don’t like these days.
Is the video a smoking gun?
Not….really. It’s clear that she’s trying to ingratiate herself to Shia to get him to not quit and to save her film, but in truth this seems less like the work of a devious gaslighting sociopath and more like an instance of a manager trying to salvage a difficult project by mediating conflict between two employees. Indeed, considering LaBoeuf’s own track record, it’s fair to say that he has done a great deal more harm to his own reputation and career than Wilde could’ve done in any one interview. But in any event, the alleged clash between LaBoeuf and Pugh, as well as the subsequent alleged conflict between Wilde and Pugh, has again spawned the ongoing media cycle surrounding this film which, I would be postponed in failing to once again point out, we have no idea is any good to begin with.
So who wins here?
One could say that Florence Pugh has come out looking the best from this saga, considering she has largely kept her mouth shut about the whole thing (and because she no longer has to pretend she enjoys fucking Zach Braff). For my money, however, the real winners are the other prominent actors in the film who have emerged from this totally unscathed, to the degree that we don’t even know they’re in it, such as Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll, and Chris Pine. Chris Pine is in this film, and no one cares. He’s gonna go on this press tour with his flip phone and porno Gandalf vibes and absolutely no idea about any of the shit that has gone down online over the past few weeks and I for one think that’s beautiful.
This week on DLTF cohosts Liz Garber-Paul (filling in for Brittany Spanos) and Ej Dickson also discuss Yung Gravy’s VMAs debut with Addison Rae’s mom, a moral panic about stripper poles, and proper airline attire.
Don’t Let This Flop is released Wednesdays on all audio streaming platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Stitcher and more.