OPINION: Olivia Wilde stirs controversy throughout ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ premiere

Annamarie Geosits, Photography Editor

As Olivia Wilde prepares for her sophomore feature film directorial debut with “Don’t Worry Darling,” she aspires to match, or even surpass, the extremely positive audience reaction from her first feature, “Booksmart.” However, despite Wilde’s artistic credibility, the discourse following the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, both public and critical, primarily concerns the drama between the main cast and director rather than the content of the film. Although there is no specific person to blame for the complete mess that was this film’s premiere, the different scandals all lead back to one common factor: Olivia Wilde herself. Although she could be to blame for the spectacle, one can’t help but wonder if it would all be as big of a deal if the director was a man.

“Don’t Worry Darling” was announced in July of 2019, only 3 months after “Booksmart” premiered with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%. Both critics and audiences were eager to see what Olivia Wilde would do next and how she could top her first hit. With the script for “Don’t Worry Darling” being adapted from a previously released script, audiences had a strong idea of what the film would entail and were mainly anticipating Wilde’s directorial interpretation.

The discourse first started in January of 2021 when the news leaked that Wilde was in a romantic relationship with her male lead Harry Styles. Pictures of the two holding hands at a wedding together were posted to social media and quickly circulated to fans of both Wilde and Styles. This relationship allegedly began while the film was still in production and immediately followed Wilde’s breakup with her long-term fiancé, Jason Sudeikis.

While it is unprofessional to pursue a relationship with an actor as a director during the film’s production, it was then also speculated that Wilde cheated on her fiancé. This information, along with the fact that there is a 10-year age gap between Wilde and Styles, did not sit well with the public, resulting in a negative attitude towards the film before the first posters were even released. Although neither of them ever confirmed the relationship, they were seen in public together numerous times from January 2019 to now. While Wilde’s first mistake was pursuing a romantic relationship with her male lead, many more mistakes that were much more impactful on the reception of her film follow.

One of Wilde’s biggest promotional tactics for “Don’t Worry Darling” is her feministic approach. She discusses that her female lead takes a stand against authority and takes pride in her unconventional exploration of representing female pleasure. However, her efforts to be seen as a feminist icon were undone when a video of her asking Shia LeBeouf, a known abuser, to come back to the film, as well as emails that corresponded between the two, were released. It was initially believed by the public that LeBeouf was fired from the film and replaced with Styles after his domestic violence allegations surfaced. In Wilde’s video to LeBeouf, we see her begging him to come back, degrading Pugh by calling her “Miss Flo” and both acknowledging and disregarding her discomfort. However, LeBeouf released emails showing his resignation from the film. This fact might also have contributed to lead actress Florence Pugh expressing her discomfort working alongside LeBeouf, as they were meant to play love interests. The stardom of abusers happens all the time, so how come the public only hears about it when it defames a woman? The public being more upset with Wilde reasoning with LeBeouf than being upset with LeBeouf’s actions is a prime example of this bias.

The Venice Film Festival premiere combined all the mishaps made in regard to the publicity of her film. The drama began with Pugh’s absence from the press panel. At this point, Pugh has not promoted the film at all and had no legitimate reason to miss the panel. This was viewed as a power move on Pugh’s side and became the subject of talk surrounding the film, rather than the film itself and the other stars present at the panel.

On the red carpet the next day, barely any of the cast, including Pugh and Styles, greeted or associated with Wilde. Once again, instead of discussing the film, the more important topic was the tension displayed between the cast. Several articles popped up on websites such as Variety, Buzzfeed, The Cut and other popular culture news outlets regarding rumors that stemmed from the red carpet and movie premiere. These rumors include whether Styles and Wilde broke up, why Pugh wouldn’t talk to either of them, whether Styles spit on fellow castmate Chris Pine and how ugly Wilde’s dress was in comparison to Pugh’s.

Due to the excess of scandals that occurred in relation to this film, there is the question of if it was intentional for the purpose of advertising. While this could very possibly be the case, no one could predict how severely fans would take this drama. It may have started with Wilde and Styles’ relationship as publicity, but was likely blown out of proportion, more so than expected by the marketing department.

The highly anticipated release was Friday, September 23, and has yet to clarify if the film lives up to the popularity of the drama. So far, the drama behind the scenes had a major impact on the reaction to the film and has been a setback for female directors. With a current score of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, a vote that came out before the film was released, the situation doesn’t appear too positive for Olivia Wilde. Look out for The Seahawk’s own review of the film this weekend.