It seems not a day goes by that we’re not talking about the apparent feud between Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde, who worked together on the upcoming psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling. So much has happened between when the cast was first announced to now, and as the film approaches its premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2022, it wouldn’t be surprising if you’re struggling to keep up or completely unaware what the controversy is in the first place. This is the Olivia Wilde-Florence Pugh feud explained, plus why we think it sounds more legitimate than ever.
When did Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde start feuding?
Way back in late April 2020, Florence was announced to star alongside Shia LeBeouf and Chris Pine in an upcoming psychological thriller directed by Olivia Wilde. At the height of the pandemic, Florence seemed really excited to be joining the project, sharing on Instagram a screenshot of the news with the caption: “@oliviawilde just tagged me in a picture *gasp no.1* @oliviawilde casted me in a film *gasp no.2* @olivawilde is my idol and allowed me to be a part of this fecking incredible cast. Shia?!? Chris?!? *gasp no. 3* I can’t wait to join this project when all of this is over. Until then, masks up. Gloves on. Stay home. Read script 17,000 because.. you know.. it’s @oliviawilde!! #DontWorryDarling”. But by the time filming had wrapped in February 2021 there was a significant shift in Florence’s mood. In an Instagram post, she did a rollcall of the film’s “talented crew”, listing grips, gaffers, and Covid medical staff among them. An unnamed “Director”, meaning Olivia, was fourth from the bottom of a very long list. You’d think she’d get a personal shoutout, no? As more time progressed, fans began speculating that something was off between Florence and Olivia. The film’s director was enthusiastically promoting the film on her social media, while Florence, who is otherwise very active on social media, hadn’t mentioned it at all. So, what happened?
Shia LeBeouf’s dramatic exit
In September 2020, it was announced Harry Styles had replaced Shia in one of the lead roles. At the time, it was attributed to “scheduling conflicts.” However, Variety reported in December 2020 that he had been “dropped” from the film due to “poor behavior.” Olivia said in an interview with Variety that Shia “has a process that, in some ways, seems to require a combative energy” and that it was Liv’s responsibility to make Florence “feel safe.” After the Variety story was published, Shia denied being fired from the film and shared emails and texts between him and Olivia that told a different story. He asked her to correct the narrative. “You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors & I couldn’t find time to rehearse,” he wrote. A video leaked by Shia in late August 2022 showed Oliva begging Shia to stay on the project. “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,” Olivia said. Don’t Worry Darling began filming in October 2020.
But Liv has since explained Shia’s exit in more detail. On Late Night with Stephen Colbert on September 22, 2022, Liv was asked to clarify whether he was fired or he quit. Olivia explained she had tried to “play mediator” between Florence and Shia, but ultimately she sided with Flo. “Once it became clear that it was not a tenable working relationship, I was given an ultimatum,” she said. “I chose my actress, which I’m very happy I did. At the time, was I bummed that we weren’t able to make it work? Sure. Did information about him come to light later that made me confident we made the right decision? Absolutely.”
Did Olivia cheat on then-fiancé Jason Sudeikis on set?
For seven years, Olivia was in a relationship with Ted Lasso creator and star, Jason Sudeikis. They were engaged and share two children together, Otis, now 8, and Daisy, 5. News of their split was confirmed by a source to People in November 2020: “The split happened at the beginning of the year,” but there are conflicting statements about this timeline.
“Olivia called off the engagement in early November but only after she already had gotten close to Harry,” another insider told Us Weekly in mid-November. “Whether Harry knows it or not, he was a reason for the split and it blindsided Jason — he totally adores Olivia and is devastated. Family is his biggest priority.” In January 2021, Olivia and Harry attended a wedding together where the One Direction star apparently referred to her as his girlfriend. In April 2022 in the middle of a presentation for Don’t Worry Darling, Olivia was served custody papers from Jason Sudeikis. On stage in front of 3,000 people. “I hated that this nastiness distracted from the work of so many different people and the studio that I was up there representing,” she said in her Variety cover story. “To try to sabotage that was really vicious. But I had a job to do; I’m not easily distracted.” She added, “But, you know, sadly, it was not something that was entirely surprising to me. I mean, there’s a reason I left that relationship.” The Ted Lasso star maintains he had no knowledge of how the documents were going to be delivered.
All quiet on social media
In July 2021 as Don’t Worry Darling’s promotion ramped up, Olivia shared a photo of Florence from the set with the caption: “Watching this woman work was such a fucking thrill! Cannot wait to show you more.” Fans began sensing something was off when Florence didn’t give the post a ‘like’. Olivia has proceeded to share lots of promotional material for the movie in the lead-up to its release, but Florence, who is normally very active and outspoken on Instagram, has remained mum.
Apparently, Florence was uncomfortable with the affair that started on set
Later that month, a source revealed to Page Six that a rift between Florence and Olivia was due to Liv’s affair with Harry. “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,” the source said. Another inside revealed that “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.”
There have been accusations of a lack of professionalism on Olivia’s side, too, with sources saying Florence was disappointed Liv kept “disappearing” to canoodle with her new boyfriend in between takes. Puck News reported that “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,” the site’s reporter Matthew Belloni contended in an article published on August 27, 2022.
In the trailer for Don’t Worry Darling, it’s clear there’s some debaucherous content and Olivia has doubled down on that as a focus of the film. In her January cover story for Vogue, Liv said her visual influences for her film were erotic thrillers like Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal. “[Those movies are] really sexy in a grown-up way,” she said. “I kept saying, ‘Why isn’t there any good sex in film anymore?” and has since made comments on the lack of female pleasure in mainstream cinema: “When it comes to female pleasure, it’s something that we just don’t see very often unless you’re talking about queer cinema,” she told the Associated Press.
But in an August 2022 interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Florence expressed disappointment sex was such a focus. She also took an apparent dig at Olivia’s decision to give her boyfriend Harry the lead role. “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,” she said. “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. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that.”
Don’t Worry Darling’s premiere
On September 5, 2022, Don’t Worry Darling premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and wouldn’t you know it, more drama. Florence attended the red carpet but managed to dodge the press conference, as was earlier speculated by TheWrap, speaking to three executives who said it was because of Flo’s commitment to Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Part Two, which is currently being shot in Budapest. “[Florence will] be doing greetings for us from the set of Dune because she’s not doing press,” a studio executive said. While in isolation, this decision would not have been controversial because the schedules of actors and their various commitments are pretty full and can be unpredictable. In the context of everything else that’s happened in the lead-up to Don’t Worry Darling’s release, though, it’s another piece of evidence that suggests the feud between Olivia and Florence is real.
During the press conference following the screener at Venice, Olivia addressed Flo’s absence, saying: “Florence is a force, and we are so grateful that she’s able to make it tonight despite being in production on Dune. I know, as a director, how disruptive it is to lose an actor even for a day, so I’m very grateful to her, to Denis Villeneuve for helping us. And we’re really thrilled we’ll get to celebrate her work tonight. I can’t say enough how honored I am to have her as our lead. She’s amazing in the film.”
She added: “As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, I mean, the internet feeds itself,” she continued, seemingly confirming there was a rift between the two actors. “I don’t feel the need to contribute. It’s sufficiently well nourished.” On September 7, a source told Rolling Stone that Florence would be skipping the New York premiere entirely on September 19, with the film’s production studio Warner Bros. confirming she wouldn’t be participating in the Q&A. “From what I understand, there is friction [between Florence and Olivia], but I don’t know why,” one source who was on the Don’t Worry Darling set told the magazine. “It’s pretty clear she’s choosing not to be a part of the PR,” she said of Pugh. “It’s clearly not beneficial to Olivia to not have her be a part of the PR. It has to be a Florence decision.”
Another source completely refuted the speculation that the two were even clashing. “Do I think her and Flo hate each other? Absolutely not. Was it fun and enjoyable on set? Absolutely. Were [Wilde and Styles overtly] romantic, or did she favor him? Nope. She was very professional,” the source told Rolling Stone. That source as well as others blamed sexism for the intense scrutiny Wilde is facing. “No one would be talking about this if this was a male director,” said another. Workplace relationships can be tricky, especially when those involved are so high-profile. You do have to wonder whether the reason this so-called scandal is getting so much airtime is that the two main players are women (the tabloids and public love to pit women against each other. Plus, there’s obviously a lot more going on behind the scenes that we’re not privy to.
Olivia told Stephen Colbert that, if it was a male director, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. “People would actually be talking about the movie itself,” she said. “[Men are] praised for being tyrannical. They can be investigated time and time again, it still doesn’t overtake conversations of their actual talent or about the films themselves. This is something we’ve come to expect. It is just very different standards that are created for women and men in the world at large.” Spot on.
Don’t Worry Darling is in cinemas now. It’ll be available to stream on HBO Max on November 7.
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