As much as Olivia Wilde wants movie lovers to focus on all the work and talent that went into making her stylish new sci-fi thriller, “Don’t Worry Darling,” her recent provocative comments about Jason Sudeikis and Shia LaBeouf, and her very “obvious” romance with Harry Styles while directing the production, have made it difficult to focus on anything other than the off-screen drama.
In a new report for the industry newsletter, The Puck, author Matthew Belloni acknowledged that Hollywood sexism may make Wilde unfairly vulnerable to criticism about her personal life, especially when she’s following the questionable tradition of male directors who have started romances with their film’s stars.
Belloni, the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, also noted that talk about Wilde’s “ego and punishing demeanor” may play into “stereotypes of women in power” when she is hardly the first director to “run a tough shoot” or anger the film’s leading lady.
That said, Belloni spoke to people involved in the production of “Don’t Worry Darling” who have confirmed an earlier report that Wilde’s on-set behavior and focus on Styles was a problem for colleagues.
“Her relationship with Styles during the shoot was pretty obvious and annoying to the three people I spoke to, and the duo were sometimes tough to find during set-ups of shots,” Belloni wrote. Co-star Florence Pugh “in particular was angered by the absences, according to these sources, and one source personally witnessed a tense conversation about this issue between the two.”
“It doesn’t seem like a great environment,” Belloni added.
Late last month, Page Six reported that Pugh was angry about seeing Wilde and the pop artist “all over each other on set.” The reason is that Wilde was still in a relationship with Sudeikis.
“I can tell you for a fact that Flo seeing Olivia and Harry all over each other on set did not go down well as Olivia was still with Jason when she first hooked up with Harry,” one insider told Page Six, referring to the “Ted Lasso” star.
“I’ve never seen a relationship benefit from being dragged into the public arena, we both go out of our way to protect our relationship; I think it’s out of experience, but also just out of deep love.”
– Olivia on her relationship with Harry ❤️ pic.twitter.com/PFrCRiETbY
— Olivia Wilde Updates (@WildeUpdates) August 24, 2022
Sudeikis is the father of Wilde’s two children, Otis, 8, and Daisy, 5, and he was left “distraught” when he learned of her affair with Styles, Page Six reported. Wilde and Sudeikis announced the end of their eight-year relationship in November 2020.
“Jason and the kids visited Olivia on set at the beginning a few times, so I think this all made people feel a little uncomfortable,” the source told Page Six.
The set for “Don’t Worry Darling” would have been tense in other ways, given that filming took place in Los Angeles and Palm Springs during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, from October 2020 to February 2021. The production was halted when a crew member tested positive and Pugh, Styles and co-star Chris Pine all had to quarantine at one point.
From Belloni’s report, it sounds like Wilde took COVID-19 safety protocols pretty seriously – but only until they inconvenienced her.
“Wilde would often hold meetings preaching Covid safety and asking cast and crew to avoid large gatherings, especially around the holidays,” Belloni reported. But Wilde and Styles’ romance was publicly revealed when they were photographed together, attending the Santa Barbara-area wedding of Styles’ manager, Jeffrey Azoff, in early January 2021.
“Some on the crew took that as a sign that the safety rules Wilde preached didn’t apply to her and Styles,” Belloni wrote.
EXCLUSIVE: Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde are thought to be DATING after ‘growing close’ on the set of their new movie https://t.co/tLpbiT6eQA
— Daily Mail Celebrity (@DailyMailCeleb) January 4, 2021
Fast forward to the past few weeks as Wilde has ramped up promotional efforts for “Don’t Worry Darling,” her “Stepford Wives”-style thriller, due for release on Sept. 23. Unfortunately, people in Hollywood are wondering how a very talented and usually media savvy industry player such as Wilde could turn the press for her own movie “into a snakepit of tabloid headlines and social media bile,” as Belloni said.
Hollywood “wanted Wilde to succeed,” Belloni said. The TV actor-turned-director received rave reviews for her debut film, “Booksmart.” Executives were especially excited about “Don’t Worry Darling,” with Pugh and Styles playing a supposedly happily married couple in a utopian suburb. Belloni said the film promised to offer a mix of “social commentary” and “sci-fi chills” from a woman’s perspective.
But recent headlines about “Don’t Worry Darling” have focused on reports that Pugh has limited her promotional efforts, possibly because of her falling out with Wilde, but likely because she’s unhappy that Wilde and the movie’s marketing have focused on the theme of “female pleasure” and her sex scenes with Styles.
Oh it’s BAD for this movie darling pic.twitter.com/WqdlNEBZC2
— Meech (@MediumSizeMeech) August 26, 2022
The headlines also have focused on comments Wilde made in what Belloni called a “bizarre” Variety interview. Among other things, she disparaged Sudeikis, saying there’s “a reason” she left the relationship. She accused him of trying to undermine her film by having her publicly served with child custody documents when she was onstage at CinemaCon in April. Second, she talked about how troubled star LaBeouf came to be replaced by Styles as the film’s male lead. She didn’t use the word fired, but said she replaced him to to “protect the cast” from his “combative energy.”
“Celebrity gossip is interesting as a distracting tool to numb people from the greater pains of the world & painful reality of so many people’s lives […] but I think the tabloid media is a tool to pit women against one another and to shame them.” – Olivia Wilde for @Variety pic.twitter.com/pgmbstB8DT
— Olivia Wilde Updates (@WildeUpdates) August 24, 2022
Wilde’s remarks about LaBeouf prompted the actor to defend himself in a way that went viral and prompted more tabloid headlines. LaBeouf, seeking to redeem his reputation following arrests and domestic violence allegations made by his ex-girlfriend FKA Twigs, shared an email which indicated that he and Wilde mutually agreed to part ways because he and the other actors couldn’t get time to rehearse.
LaBeouf also shared a video online, which immediately hurt Wilde’s efforts to position herself as a crusading feminist filmmaker. It showed the director beg the actor to return to the project and patronizingly refer to Pugh as “Miss Flo.” Wilde suggested that Pugh may be the one who in need of an attitude adjustment by saying this “might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo.”
SOMEONE HOLD ME BACK
(the video olivia sent shia where she basically begged him to stay on the movie after ADMITTING that she knows shia makes florence uncomfortable) pic.twitter.com/ihlHOQlF6B
— percy 🌊 || who the fuck’s gonna stop us ? (@percystardust) August 26, 2022
Belloni said Wilde should have known that her comments about Sudeikis or LaBeouf would be a distraction or even backfire and draw attention to the “tabloid stuff she’s supposedly been trying to avoid.” All the off-screen drama about “Don’t Worry Darling” has also renewed attention to Wilde’s alleged on-set behavior with Styles.
“The whole point of press interviews—especially when you’re a director looking to be taken seriously—is to promote the work,” Belloni said, adding that it’s an unwritten rule in Hollywood that directors should never talk badly about “the talent.”
“Maybe she just couldn’t help herself,” Belloni said. Or maybe Wilde thinks that any attention — including negative attention — will pull audiences in.