While domestic drama disintegrates 1950s-era ideals on the big screen in next month’s psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling, a bit of real-life drama is unfolding behind the scenes between director Olivia Wilde and former star Shia LaBeouf (who won’t be in the movie).
LaBeouf parted ways with Don’t Worry Darling early in its production, replaced by Harry Styles in one of the film’s lead roles as a devoted corporate worker and husband. Set in a purpose-built, pristine and modern company town named “Victory” in the California desert, the movie centers on Alice Chambers (played by Florence Pugh), who begins to question the ambitious premise of the company’s “Victory Project” behind it — all while tearing away at a perfect and carefully controlled façade that veils the company’s horror-tinged plans.
LaBeouf was originally cast to play Alice’s husband and dutiful company man Jack (the role that later went to Styles). But in an Aug. 24 feature at Variety, Wilde said she essentially fired LaBeouf early in the film’s production because he brought a “combative energy” to the set.
“I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work. His process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions,” Wilde said. “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. 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.”
LaBeouf quickly responded once that report appeared, sharing with Variety a pair of emails he allegedly sent to Wilde after reading her account of how he departed the project. LaBeouf countered Wilde’s assertion that he was asked to leave the movie, saying instead that he walked away on his own terms because Wilde didn’t afford the actors enough time to rehearse. In one of LaBeouf’s messages, he states flatly that “[f]iring me never took place, Olivia.”
“I am a little confused about the narrative that I was fired,” LaBeouf reportedly wrote. “…You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors & I couldn’t find time to rehearse.” Referencing his earlier much-publicized breakup with ex-girlfriend and English entertainer FKA Twigs (who eventually sued him citing “physical, emotional, and mental abuse,” via Entertainment Weekly), LaBeouf also allegedly wrote that Wilde regarded him as a “persona-non-grata” [sic] and implied that the controversy would only help ramp up promotional buzz ahead of Don’t Worry Darling’s premiere.
“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,” LaBeouf reportedly wrote. “…[T]his situation with your film and my ‘firing’ will never have a court date with which to deal with the facts. If lies are repeated enough in the public they become truth. And so, it makes it that much harder for me to crawl out of the hole I have dug with my behaviors, to be able to provide for my family.”
Regardless of the manner in which LaBeouf parted ways with Wilde’s new movie, Don’t Worry Darling is finished, and its tension-packed takedown of sunny, Leave it to Beaver wholesomeness is only a month away from its date with audiences. Starring Pugh, Styles, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, and a big ensemble of supporting players, Don’t Worry Darling brings dark decadence to the desert when it arrives in theaters on Sept. 23.
Looking for more thrillers? Peacock has films like The Black Phone, The Mummy trilogy and more streaming now.