Olivia Wilde's psychological thriller Don't Worry Darling has generated headlines from the moment it was announced in July 2019.
The film — which hit theaters on September 23 — has all the hallmarks of a highly anticipated release, including an A-list cast, buzzy director and eerie, teasing trailers. However, the project's behind-the-scenes drama has drummed up just as much intrigue and mystery as the plot itself.
A source told PEOPLE on Sept. 6 that the controversy surrounding the film has been "tough to navigate with a smile." The insider added that the situation is unfortunate because "everyone went into the movie with the best intentions."
The film is Wilde's second directorial project after 2019's Booksmart, and the actress-turned-director has been open about the pressure she faces with her sophomore movie.
"It's harder for women to get a second chance at directing," Wilde told Variety. "Fewer people will invest in the second film of a woman than a man."
Instead of sticking with another comedy, Wilde decided to take a risk with a thriller set in a utopian 1950s town called Victory.
"Life is perfect, with every resident's needs met by the company. All they ask in return is unquestioning commitment to the Victory cause," reads a synopsis of the film. "But when cracks in their idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can't help questioning what they're doing in Victory, and why. Just how much is Alice willing to lose to expose what's really going on in paradise?"
Wilde cast Midsommar star Florence Pugh as the lead character, Alice, while Shia LaBeouf was originally set to play the supporting role of Alice's husband, Jack. In September 2020, however, it was announced that LaBeouf had departed the film and Harry Styles had signed on in his place.
From casting shakeups to an on-set romance, the film kept movie fans and social media spectators abuzz in the months leading up to its release. Here is a complete breakdown of the Don't Worry Darling drama.
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic ; Emma McIntyre/Getty ; Steve Granitz/WireImage
July 2019: Don't Worry Darling is announced
The world first learned of Wilde's latest film in July 2019, when the script sparked a bidding war between 18 different movie studios and streaming services. New Line eventually won the auction in August, and Wilde later told Variety that she turned down larger offers from other studios because New Line promised her a theatrical release in writing.
At the time, Wilde was set to both direct and star in the psychological thriller.
April 2020: Shia LaBeouf and Florence Pugh are announced as the film's leads
Frazer Harrison/Getty ; Rich Fury/Getty
"This cast is B A N A N A S. I'm the happiest director in the world. To say that I'm honored/excited/elated/s----- myself would be a massive understatement," Wilde tweeted about the news.
Pugh also reacted to the casting on Instagram, sharing a screenshot of the announcement along with a tribute to Wilde. "@oliviawilde just tagged me in a picture *gasp no.1* @oliviawilde casted me in a film *gasp no.2*," she wrote before calling Wilde her "idol" and saying she couldn't wait to join the project.
Sept. 11, 2020: Harry Styles takes over for Shia LaBeouf
In September 2020, it was announced that Styles had signed on to the film, replacing LaBeouf in one of the lead roles.
At the time, Deadline reported that LaBeouf had exited the project due to a scheduling conflict.
November 2020: Olivia Wilde says she "did a little victory dance" when Harry Styles signed on for the film
Wilde made her excitement over her film's new lead actor clear in November 2020. In Styles' cover story for Vogue's December issue, Wilde explained why she and costume designer Arianne Phillips were so thrilled when the "Watermelon Sugar" singer joined the project.
"She and I did a little victory dance when we heard that we officially had Harry in the film, because we knew that he has a real appreciation for fashion and style," Wilde said of her and Phillips' reaction. "And this movie is incredibly stylistic. It's very heightened and opulent, and I'm really grateful that he is so enthusiastic about that element of the process — some actors just don't care."
Dec. 24, 2020: PEOPLE confirms that Olivia Wilde fired Shia LaBeouf
PEOPLE confirmed in December 2020 that Wilde had fired LaBeouf from Don't Worry Darling, despite previous reports that the actor left due to a scheduling conflict.
Variety first reported the firing revelation in an article on LaBeouf's career following the lawsuit his ex-girlfriend FKA Twigs, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, filed against him. Barnett accused the actor of sexually and physically assaulting and battering her and knowingly giving her a sexually transmitted disease in a lawsuit filed on Dec. 11, 2020.
While LaBeouf previously denied "each and every" assault allegation, he later addressed the accusations without naming Barnett directly. "I hurt that woman," LaBeouf told Jon Bernthal on his Real Ones podcast. "And in the process of doing that, I hurt many other people, and many other people before that woman ... I was a pleasure-seeking, selfish, self-centered, dishonest, inconsiderate, fearful human being."
According to Variety, insiders close to Don't Worry Darling said LaBeouf "exhibited poor behavior and his style clashed with the cast and crew, including Wilde, who ultimately fired him."
Jan. 5, 2021: Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles are photographed holding hands
John Shearer/Getty; Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic Olivia Wilde; Harry Styles
In early 2021, Wilde and Styles sparked dating rumors when they were photographed holding hands while attending a wedding together.
A source told PEOPLE at the time that the pair had been dating "for a few weeks" after they first connected during filming.
Another insider told PEOPLE that Wilde and Styles' "chemistry was very obvious" on set.
"What started out as a close friendship, quickly turned romantic," the source said. "Everyone saw it coming. During breaks, he's hasn't been able to stay away and visited her trailer."
Feb. 4, 2021: Olivia Wilde says she has a "no ass----- policy" after firing Shia LaBeouf
A few months after it was revealed that Wilde had fired LaBeouf from the film due to "poor behavior," the director elaborated on her number one rule when it comes to her sets.
"The no ass----- policy, it puts everybody on the same level," Wilde explained while appearing on Variety's "Director on Director" series. "I also noticed as an actress for years how the hierarchy of the set separated the actors from the crew in this very strange way that serves no one. I think actors would actually like to know more about, 'What's happening there when you're pulling my focus? What is that lens change?' But the idea of, don't bother the actors and keep them separate, and don't look at them. I think it makes everyone quite anxious."
Feb. 15, 2021: Don't Worry Darling filming wraps
To celebrate the end of filming, the movie's cast and crew posed for a group photo shared on Feb. 15, 2021. In the snap, Styles wrapped his arms around Wilde while they smiled next to their costars, including Pugh, Nick Kroll, Kate Berlant and Asif Ali, along with a few crew members.
Wilde also marked the end of the shoot on her own Instagram by sharing tributes to the cast. She praised Styles in the caption of a photo of him sitting in a classic car, writing, in part, "Not only did he relish the opportunity to allow for the brilliant @florencepugh to hold center stage as our 'Alice', but he infused every scene with a nuanced sense of humanity. He didn't have to join our circus, but he jumped on board with humility and grace, and blew us away every day with his talent, warmth, and ability to drive backwards."
December 2021: Olivia Wilde discusses highlighting "female pleasure" in the film
"I kept saying, 'Why isn't there any good sex in film anymore?' " she explained, adding that one of her goals was for the audience to "realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure."
Wilde also revealed that Styles had made her shortlist for the role of Jack when she first started casting, but the singer's tour conflicted with filming. However, Styles' plans were canceled due the pandemic, which made him the obvious choice to fill in for LaBeouf.
April 27, 2022: Olivia Wilde is served custody papers while promoting Don't Worry Darling at CinemaCon
VALERIE MACON/Getty Olivia Wilde
Wilde attended CinemaCon in Las Vegas in April 2022 to promote the upcoming thriller and share the film's first full trailer. While on stage discussing the project, she was given an envelope marked "Personal and Confidential" by a woman in the audience.
After remarking that the envelope seemed "very mysterious," Wilde said she was "going to open it now because it feels like it's a script." She then continued, "Okay, got it. Thank you," before going on with her presentation.
It was later revealed that the envelope contained legal papers served by her ex Sudeikis regarding their two children.
July 21, 2022: Olivia Wilde praises Florence Pugh on Instagram
Wilde posted a tribute to her Don't Worry Darling lead on Instagram alongside a snap of her watching one of Pugh's takes on set.
"Watching this woman work was such a f—--- thrill! Cannot wait to show you more. @florencepugh @dontworrydarling," she wrote.
Aug. 16, 2022: Florence Pugh says Don't Worry Darling shouldn't be reduced to sex scenes
Warner Bros. Pictures Harry Styles and Florence Pugh in Don't Worry Darling
After the film's first two trailers dropped, fans immediately began buzzing about the chemistry between Styles and Pugh's characters. The teasers featured two moments where Styles' character, Jack, appears to perform oral sex on Pugh's character, Alice.
Pugh reacted to the buzz during an interview with Harper's Bazaar in August 2022 and said the film is deserving of attention beyond her intimate scenes with Styles.
"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," Pugh told the publication. "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," she added. "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."
Aug. 24, 2022: Olivia Wilde calls Florence Pugh "extraordinary" and shuts down "clickbait" rumors
"I had been blown the f--- away by her," Wilde said. "I loved the film, but I loved her. I was just like, 'Well, she's extraordinary. She's clearly the most exciting young actress working today.' "
She added, "There was something about the youthfulness, the innocence, that really made sense for the story. If I was Alice, I was like, 'Well, I'm going to be with a Jack who's my age or older, and now we're in a different age bracket.' "
The director also addressed rumors that Styles was paid three times more than Pugh, calling the narrative "clickbait."
"There has been a lot out there that I largely don't pay attention to. But the absurdity of invented clickbait and subsequent reaction regarding a nonexistent pay disparity between our lead and supporting actors really upset me," she told the publication.
In addition to the pay disparity rumors, fans have been speculating about a possible feud between Wilde and Pugh after the Little Women actress didn't share or react to a few of Wilde's Instagram posts about the film, including the tribute she posted for Pugh in July. (Pugh shared a post about the film on her own Instagram on August 11.)
Wilde didn't respond to the speculation directly, but shared that she feels that "tabloid media is a tool to pit women against one another and to shame them."
Aug. 24, 2022: Olivia Wilde says she fired Shia LaBeouf to "protect" the set from "combative energy"
Taylor Hill/WireImage; Jon Kopaloff/Getty Olivia Wilde; Shia LaBeouf
"I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work," she told the publication. "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."
She continued, "I believe that creating a safe, trusting environment is the best way to get people to do their best work. Ultimately, my responsibility is to the production and to the cast to protect them. That was my job."
Wilde also spoke about the allegations of abuse against LaBeouf that arose months after her decision.
"A lot came to light after this happened that really troubled me, in terms of his behavior," she said. "I find myself just really wishing him health and evolution because I believe in restorative justice."
"But for our film," she went on, "what we really needed was an energy that was incredibly supportive. Particularly with a movie like this, I knew that I was going to be asking Florence to be in very vulnerable situations, and my priority was making her feel safe and making her feel supported."
Aug. 26, 2022: Shia LaBeouf denies Olivia Wilde's claim that he was fired
Days after Wilde's Variety cover story was released, LaBeouf denied the director's claim that she had fired him from the film.
In an email to Variety, the actor responded to Wilde's comment, claiming he actually "quit the film due to lack of rehearsal time." He also provided the magazine with an email he had sent Wilde in response to her interview, which Variety published in full.
"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," LaBeouf wrote to Wilde.
LaBeouf also reportedly sent the publication text messages and a video that Wilde allegedly sent him two days after he quit the project in August 2020.
"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," Wilde said in the video, according to Variety. "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 — but if you guys can do it, what do you think? Is there hope? Will you let me know?"
In his email to Wilde, LaBeouf pleaded with her to set the record straight about how he exited the film.
"I know that you are beginning your press run for DWD and that the news of my firing is attractive clickbait, as I am still persona-non-grata and may remain as such for the rest of my life," he wrote. "But, speaking of my daughter, I often think about the news articles she will read when she is literate. And though I owe, and will owe for the rest of my life, I only owe for my actions."
He concluded the email: "Firing me never took place, Olivia. And while I fully understand the attractiveness of pushing that story because of the current social landscape, the social currency that brings. It is not the truth. So I am humbly asking, as a person with an eye toward making things right, that you correct the narrative as best you can. I hope none of this negatively effects [sic] you, and that your film is successful in all the ways you want it to be."
Sept. 5, 2022: Florence Pugh skips Don't Worry Darling press at Venice Film Festival, where Olivia Wilde sidesteps question about the rumors
Ahead of the Venice Film Festival premiere of Don't Worry Darling, Pugh was conspicuously absent for the film's photocall and press, though she still planned to walk the red carpet, according to Variety. A source on the Dune: Part Two set told PEOPLE she is flying straight to Venice from filming Dune, landing after the press conference.
Reporters during the press conference noted Pugh's absence and asked Wilde if there was any truth to the rumors of a falling-out.
"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," Wilde responded.
"As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, I mean, the internet feeds itself," she continued. "I don't feel the need to contribute. It's sufficiently well-nourished."
When another reporter followed up on the "noise," specifically regarding LaBoeuf's exist from the film, the moderator shut down the question and moved on.
Sept. 5, 2022: Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde pose for a cast photo on the red carpet
Hours after Wilde sidestepped a question about the alleged "falling out" between her and Pugh, the two posed for a photo op alongside costars Styles, Pine, Kroll, Gemma Chan and Sydney Chandler. They did not stand next to each other on the red carpet, though Pugh playfully interacted with Kroll and Pine as she posed for photos.
Pugh's stylist, Rebecca Corbin Murray, appeared to wink at the drama by captioning photos of Pugh on the carpet "Miss Flo," the name Wilde had used in the leaked video from LaBoeuf.
Sept. 5, 2022: Fans dissect a viral clip of Harry Styles and Chris Pine at the premiere
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images Olivia Wilde, Chris Pine, Harry Styles and Gemma Chan
All eyes were on the cast as they headed to the film's premiere, with fans and critics dissecting videos and photos from the screening for potential signs of conflict. The internet was abuzz after a clip began circulating of Styles taking his seat next to Pine, with some users theorizing that the "Watermelon Sugar" singer spit on the actor as he sat down.
A rep for Pine told PEOPLE the claims were "ridiculous" and "a complete fabrication."
"Just to be clear, Harry Styles did not spit on Chris Pine," the rep said. "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."
Wilde and Pugh also shared a sweet moment at the screening. In a clip shared on the Don't Worry Darling official Instagram, Pugh was seen leaning over her costars to clap in the direction of Wilde, who reciprocated the gesture and seemingly locked eyes with Pugh as they both smiled.
Sept. 7, 2022: Florence Pugh congratulates "everyone standing on that carpet" after Venice premiere
Daniele Venturelli/WireImage Chris Pine and Florence Pugh
A few days after Don't Worry Darling debuted at the Venice Film Festival, Pugh posted a gallery of photos from the event along with a caption that said she was "still taking it all in" after the whirlwind experience.
"What a moment this was?" she added. "A massive congratulations to everyone standing on that carpet. We premiered in Venice! A huge wonderful win in itself."
Pugh went on to thank the film's cast and crew, writing, "We genuinely wouldn't have been there without your talent and we appreciate it hugely."
The actress also gave Pine a special shoutout and shared a few funny snaps of her costar snapping photos of her with a disposable camera. "I also just can't help but post how bloody cute and hilarious Chris Pine is for being the no.1 photographer, getting down on white pressed trousered knees for angles ... now that's dedication. Love you Chrissy," she wrote.
A day prior, a source told PEOPLE that the Venice premiere only added to the behind-the-scenes drama rumors surrounding the film.
"By trying to not make headlines they made way more," the insider said, adding that Pugh "came out looking flawless while the others invoked questions."
Sept. 8, 2022: Olivia Wilde doubles down on her claim that she fired Shia LaBeouf
"My responsibility was towards [Florence]," Wilde said. "I'm like a mother wolf. Making the call was tricky, but in a way he understood. I don't think it would've been a process he enjoyed. He comes at his work with an intensity that can be combative."
"It wasn't the ethos that I demand in my productions," she added. "I want him to get well and to evolve because I think it's a great loss to the film industry when someone that talented is unable to work."
The director concluded by saying LaBeouf's exit was "much more nuanced than can be explained in private texts released out of context."
"All I'll say is he was replaced, and there was no going forward with him. I wish him the best in his recovery," she added.
In the same interview, Wilde also shut down rumors that she left her ex-fiancé, Sudeikis, to date Styles after meeting him on set.
"The complete horses--- idea that I left Jason for Harry is completely inaccurate," she said. "Our relationship was over long before I met Harry."
Sept. 8, 2022: Olivia Wilde says she and Florence Pugh "worked very well together"
In her Vanity Fair cover story, Wilde addressed the "baseless" behind-the-scenes rumors surrounding her relationship with Pugh on the Don't Worry Darling set. The director praised Pugh's performance in the film and said she hopes the drama doesn't overshadow the actress' work.
"Florence's performance in this film is astounding. It's just baffling to me that the media would rather focus on baseless rumors and gossip, thereby overshadowing her profound talent," said Wilde. "She deserves more than that. As does the movie, and everyone who worked so hard on it."
She continued, "Florence is one of the most in-demand actresses in the universe. ... I gather that some people expect for her to be engaging more on social media. I didn't hire her to post. I hired her to act. She fulfilled every single expectation I had of her. That's all that matters to me."
Wilde also shut down any speculation that she was distracted on set by her relationship with Styles or that Pugh had to direct herself at times.
"The idea that I had five seconds in the day to be distracted by anything is laughable. I was there before everyone. I was there after everyone. And it was a dream. It's not like this work was not enjoyable. It was just all-encompassing," she explained.
Sept. 19, 2022: Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles attend a Don't Worry Darling screening in N.Y.C.
Ahead of the film's wide release, Wilde and Styles stepped out for a viewing of the movie in N.Y.C. on Sept. 19. The couple posed separately for photographers at AMC Lincoln Square 13. While cast members including Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll, Sydney Chandler, Kate Berlant, Asif Ali and Douglas Smith were also in attendance, co-leads Pine and Pugh were not present.
A source told PEOPLE that neither were ever able to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
Sept. 21, 2022: Olivia Wilde clears up "spitgate" rumors
During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Wilde attempted to put to bed the rumor that Styles spit on Pine at the Don't Worry Darling premiere in Venice.
"Spitgate, which you might have heard about, it's a perfect example of like ... people will look for drama anywhere they can," she told Colbert, laughing. "Harry did not spit on Chris, in fact."
Wilde also addressed the situation regarding LaBeouf's exit from the film during the interview.
"Early on in the process of making the film, as the director I tried to mediate a situation between people to try to see if they can work together happily. Once it became clear that it was not a tenable working relationship, I was given an ultimatum, I chose my actress, which I'm very happy I did," she said, before adding that LaBeouf was the one to give her the ultimatum.
When asked to clarify if LaBeouf was fired or if he quit the project, Wilde told Colbert, "It's a question of semantics ... It wasn't going to move forward in the way that he wanted it to, and so he had to leave."
Sept. 23, 2022: Olivia Wilde posts a photo with Harry Styles and Florence Pugh to celebrate the release of Don't Worry Darling
Don't Worry Darling finally hit theaters on Sept. 23, 2022, and Wilde celebrated by sharing a photo of her, Styles and Pugh on set.
"I'm so deeply grateful for this experience, and for the extraordinary effort of the group of artists who made it happen," she captioned the snap. "We got together to tell a story for you, and we hope you have fun with it."
Pugh also posted a collage of images to celebrate the day, which included a snapshot from a scene with Wilde.
"It's here.. and ready to be seen. @dontworrydarling is in cinemas," she wrote. "We met so many talented people, visited some insane locations, worked hard in the desert dust and looked good whilst doing so. This film was such an epic story on such a large scale to shoot, all while during peak Covid times. For that I will always be grateful. To all of you who helped make this, your dedication and love was seen daily - thank you."
During its opening weekend, the film earned an impressive $19.2 million at the U.S. Box office.
Sept. 24, 2022: Don't Worry Darling crew disputes rumors of on-set drama between Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh
After Vulture reported that Wilde and Pugh got into a "screaming match" on set, the crew of DWD provided PEOPLE with an exclusive statement.
"As a crew, we've avoided addressing the absurd gossip surrounding the movie we're so proud of, but feel the need to correct the anonymous 'sources' quoted in a recent article," the statement said. "Any allegations about unprofessional behavior on the set of Don't Worry Darling are completely false."
The crew went on to call Wilde "an incredible leader" and noted that "there was never a screaming match between our director and anyone, let alone a member of our cast."