It’s quite rare for entertainment drama to encapsulate the public sphere, recently. 

Most entertainment news seems to pass by with little criticism. Rather, it is up to the common populace to take new information that is brought forth and discuss how it may or may not impact their perception of their favorite mediums. 

No drama, however, has circulated to become a storm of toxicity quite like the press publicity run regarding Olivia Wilde’s latest film Don’t Worry Darling—and for those who are unaware of this public relations’ nightmare, let’s dive in.

Don’t Worry Darling is the second feature film from writer and director Olivia Wilde. Wilde was hailed as being one of the most exciting, up-and-coming filmmakers due to her 2019 critically acclaimed high school comedy, Booksmart. 

Don’t Worry Darling, which stars Harry Styles, Florence Pugh, Chris Pine and Wilde, tells the story of a couple in a 1950s utopian experimental community as the neighborhood’s most sinister secrets unravel. 

Like many sophomore features, this was highly anticipated, specifically due to the film’s leading man being Styles, who is seemingly the biggest pop artist in the world.

Styles has had some experience on the big screen due to his short appearance in Chirstopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Unlike in Dunkirk, however, Styles is the leading man in Darling

The problem arose during the filming of Don’t Worry Darling when Wilde and her then-husband, actor Jason Sudiekis, split up for seemingly no reason; the cause was later revealed to be a “fling” between both Wilde and Styles—a major scandal.

While debuting the trailer for Don’t Worry Darling in front of attendees at the convention titled “Cinemacon,” Wilde was interrupted by a lawyer giving her divorce papers from Sudiekis. 

Things were starting to become more real as the film was set to premiere at the Venice International Film Festival. 

Additionally, before shooting for Don’t Worry Darling began, Shia LaBeouf was originally slated to play the role of Jack. LaBeouf, however, left due to scheduling conflicts. 

Wilde opened up to Variety about LaBeouf’s departure from the project stating, “As someone who is such an admirer of his work, [LeBeouf’s] 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…that was my job.”

This was said at a time when LaBeouf’s reputation, once headed for a super-star comeback, was tarnished by abuse allegations released by singer FKA Twigs; the two met on set of LaBeouf’s autobiographical film titled Honey Boy.

Within two days, LaBeouf accused Wilde of lying and displayed the truth to Variety again, stating, “You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors and I couldn’t find time to rehearse.” 

He proceeded to send a video to Variety, which has since been leaked to the public, of Wilde saying, “I feel like I’m not ready to give up on this yet, and I, too, am heartbroken and I want to figure this out. 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. 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…” 

Once the video was released, Pugh limited her press appearance to only one public conference at the Venice International Film Festival. The rest of her appearances will be done via Zoom from the set of her next film, Dune Part II

The Venice International Film Festival began. There has already been bad press surrounding Don’t Worry Darling

To make matters even worse, Pugh skipped the press event for the film. Although she was still able to walk the red carpet and see the film with festival attendees, during the film’s standing ovation, Pugh never made direct eye contact with Wilde. Many believe this is due to several disagreements between the two both on set, over mishandling of the film. 

Even aside from the Pugh-less press conference, images of a disinterested Pine and videos of Styles’ liability to discuss the film have already made the rounds on social media. 

Then comes “spitgate”, in which a video circulated through a live broadcast of the festival before the film arose of Styles spitting on co-star Pine’s lap. Pine’s representatives have since denied these allegations, however, that did not stop the Internet from making a storm of viral memes and videos of the incident—even after Styles jokingly commented about the video in a concert. 

After the film premiered at Venice, critics were mildly split on the film; it currently sits at 38% on Rotten Tomatoes. More drama spewed out after the premiere about on-set fighting between Pugh and Wilde’s video to LaBeouf. These instances, however, felt insignificant in light of the public’s perception of Wilde and universal sympathy towards Pugh. 

The film was released on September 23rd, 2022 and debuted at number one at the domestic box office. Like the critics at Venice, it has received mixed reactions from moviegoers. 

Whatever side you’re on, did Styles spit on Pine, or does Wilde deserve the hatred? The universal agreement is that the Internet is a beautiful creation that has allowed this story to unravel and create many jokes and memes.

All-in-all, the drama serves as a testament to how far the mighty have fallen and how not to issue press for a highly anticipated film.

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