The Don't Worry Darling controversies explained

Harry Styles and Florence Pugh in Don't Worry Darling
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Don't Worry Darling hasn't even reached cinemas, yet the movie has been making global headlines for various – and increasingly weird – headlines. The dystopian drama stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as Alice and Jack Chambers, a young happy couple living in what appears to be a 1950s paradise, until strange occurrences lead Alice to doubt the utopian nature of their life. 

Ahead of the film's release, Don't Worry Darling has been the subject of several controversies, with the majority coming from the movie's premiere at the 79th Venice Film Festival. If you're confused about what's going on – or just want to why everyone's talking about saliva – we've rounded up all the major talking points in one place. Things are about to get sticky.

Olivia Wilde vs Shia LaBeouf

Olivia Wilde and Chris Pine in Don't Worry Darling

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

A far cry from heartthrob Harry Styles, former Disney Channel star Shia LaBeouf was initially cast as the male lead opposite Florence Pugh. LeBeouf swiftly exited the film back in 2020, with the studio explaining it away as a conflict in schedules, though it appeared connected to allegations of abuse made by former partner FKA Twigs. In a recent interview with Variety, however, Olivia Wilde shared her own reason for the actor's recasting.

"I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work," she said of LeBeouf. "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."

Wilde went on to suggest that she wanted to create "a safe, trusting environment" on set to allow people to do their "best work." She added: "Ultimately, my responsibility is to the production and to the cast to protect them. That was my job."

LaBeouf responded with a lengthy, public email to Wilde insisting that he wanted to quit. He then released a private video he received from Wilde in order to back up his side of the story – in the video, it appears Wilde is asking LeBeouf to return to the production. The director also brings Florence Pugh into the conversation.

"This might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo, and I wanna know if you're open to giving this a shot with me," she says in the video, asking LeBeouf to return to set. "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 her point of view and I respect yours – what do you think? Is there hope?"

Pugh allegedly (and understandably) felt uncomfortable working with LaBeouf, and there were various internet rumors that she had fallen out with Wilde during the making of Don't Worry Darling. This was also linked to Wilde beginning dating LaBeouf's replacement, Harry Styles, as they worked on the movie, though those rumors appear to be internet hearsay rather than substantiated fact.

Florence Pugh skips Venice press conference

Florence Pugh in Don't Worry Darling

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Following the release of the Wilde-LaBeouf video, reports circulated that Pugh would no longer attend a press conference taking place before the global premiere of Don't Worry Darling at the Venice Film Festival. However, at the conference, Olivia assured the crowd that everything was fine between her, Pugh, and the cast. 

"Florence is a force," she said. "We are just so grateful that she is able to make it tonight despite being in production on Dune. I know how disruptive as a director it can be to lose an actor... We're really thrilled to celebrate her work... As for all the endless tabloid nonsense and gossip out there and noise out there, the internet feeds itself. I don't really need to contribute, I feel it's significantly well nourished."

Pugh touched down in Venice shortly after the press conference ended, wearing head-to-toe Valentino and sipping an Aperol Spritz.

Harry Styles gives some interesting answers during the Don't Worry Darling press interviews

During and after the press conference, Harry Styles – global pop star and gifted performer – was quizzed by the press, and he sure gave some answers, sending the internet into a tizzy.

When asked how he juggles both acting and music, Styles responded: “Personally, I find them to be kind of opposite in a lot of ways. I think making music is a really personal thing. There’s aspects of acting where you’re drawing from experiences you’ve had but for the most part you’re pretending to play someone else. I think that’s what I find the most fun about it: playing pretend.”

He added: “I think the fun part is you never know what you’re doing. Music I’ve done for longer, but what I like about acting is I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.”

In another interview conducted alongside co-star Chris Pine, Styles when asked what he enjoyed most about Don't Worry Darling, told the reporter: "My favorite thing about the movie is that it feels like a movie."

And just as the internet was dealing with Styles' slightly strange interview technique, the internet seemed to completely forget about his comments after a viral video hit Twitter later that very evening...

Did Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine? Wait, what?

It really is as silly as it sounds. A video of Styles taking his seat at the Don't Worry Darling premiere next to co-star Chris Pine went viral after some Twitter users alleged that the former One Directioner spat on Pine. In the clip, which you can watch above, Styles takes a seat and Pine stops clapping and looks bemused at something. A second video showing the alleged incident – embedded below – shows a different angle, and we'll let you make up your own mind over what happened.

The internet started running rampant with theories over what happened, leading to the term "Zapruder" trending on Twitter – people were comparing the analysis of the moment to that of the infamous Zapruder film of the JFK assassination.

Pine reacted by saying the whole thing was baloney, issuing a statement reading:: "This is a ridiculous story – a complete fabrication and the result of an odd online illusion that is clearly deceiving and allows for foolish speculation. There is nothing but respect between these two men and any suggestion otherwise is a blatant attempt to create drama that simply does not exist." A source close to Styles then told the Guardian that the whole thing was simply "not true".  

It appears #Spitgate may have been overblown by the internet. Not the first time that's happened...

Those are the primary controversies around Don't Worry Darling – which reaches cinemas on September 23. And that's without even talking about the movie's quality: the Don't Worry Darling reviews are out, and they're decidedly mixed.

Lauren Milici
Senior Writer, Tv & Film

Lauren Milici is a Senior Entertainment Writer for GamesRadar+ currently based in the Midwest. She previously reported on breaking news for The Independent's Indy100 and created TV and film listicles for Ranker. Her work has been published in Fandom, Nerdist, Paste Magazine, Vulture, PopSugar, Fangoria, and more.

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