Olivia Wilde’s psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling received an enthusiastic reception at its world premiere Monday night in Venice despite the whiff of slow-burn scandal that has been trailing the film for weeks.
The Venice audience responded with hearty applause and some hooting as the curtain closed on the feminist-themed Warner Bros. Pictures movie, with the crowd rising to give Wilde and her cast a standing ovation lasting around seven minutes. Some of the loudest cheers were undoubtedly reserved for Florence Pugh and Harry Styles. The popstar turned actor attracted a red carpet contingent to rival only the Chalamaniacs in its ardor — some Styles super-fans were even spotted camping out beside the carpet the night before to secure their place in the front row.
Before the screening, costume designer Adrianne Phillips was awarded the Campari Passion for Film award. In her speech she praised Wilde and the cast, noting that the director — who also stars in the film — for directing “in high heels, makeup and costume” and describing her as “Grace under fire.”
Meanwhile, Wilde and Pugh appeared to try to put some distance between the film and the many rumors alleging a major falling out. The director and her star walked arm-in-arm into the screening on the red carpet and seemed entirely civil throughout the night.
The negative press around Don’t Worry Darling began in mid-August when tabloid rumors emerged that Pugh — who plays the film’s 1950s suburban housewife in an idyllic cult-like community called Victory — had fallen out with Wilde after the director started a relationship with co-star Styles during the shoot. The rumors expanded days later with the allegation that the actress had been paid less than a third of what her male co-star was earning ($700,000 to Styles’ $2.5 million, reportedly). Wilde denied the allegation, but days later another flap occurred when she suggested that she had fired actor Shia LaBeouf early in the production — and recast him with Styles — because of LaBeouf’s “combative energy” and to keep Pugh “safe.”
LaBeouf then fired off emails that included several SMS messages he’d received from Wilde as evidence that, actually, he had “quit” the movie, while accusing her of pushing the “clickbait” story of him being fired “because of the current social landscape” and the “social currency it brings.” Later that day, a leaked 2020 video message surfaced on social media and appeared to confirm LaBeouf’s claims, showing Wilde in her car pleading with him to change his mind and not drop out of the film, while also seeming to slight Pugh — or “Miss Flo” as she referred to her — for being concerned about working with the actor. And the internet has been up in arms ever since…
Pugh skipped the Venice press conference for Darlings earlier on Monday, fueling further speculation. At the media gathering, Wilde was asked about the absence of her star and the rumors of discord on set. Wilde described Pugh as “a force” and seemed to suggest the actress hadn’t attended the conference because of filming commitments on Dune 2. Wilde then added: “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.”
Don’t Worry Darling follows Alice (Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Styles), a young, happy couple in the 1950s, living in the seemingly perfect company town of Victory, California, which has been created and paid for by Jack’s mysterious employer. Curiosity about the nature of her husband’s work on the secret “Victory Project” begins to consume Alice, while cracks begin to form in their utopian life as her investigation into the project raises tensions within the community.
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 North American theatrical release on Sept. 23.
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