The annual Venice Film Festival has long been a glitzy showcase of the most-anticipated movies of the year, as well as a glamorous display of Hollywood’s brightest stars hitting the red carpet, and its 2022 edition is no exception. Its ongoing event, which started August 31 and ends September 10, however, has become overshadowed by the juicy gossip and celebrity drama surrounding the much-talked-about Don’t Worry Darling. Just a few days ago, a video clip of its lead actor Harry Styles appearing to spit on co-star Chris Pine at the film premiere, quickly made its rounds on social media and was dubbed #spitgate.
But what really happened? The video is just the latest addition to the growing list of controversies that has plagued Don’t Worry Darling. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
A guide to the Don’t Worry Darling drama and its premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival
What is Don’t Worry Darling about?
Directed by Olivia Wilde, Don’t Worry Darling features a star-studded cast of Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine and Gemma Chan. Set in the 1950s, it’s centred on Alice (Pugh) and Jack (Styles), a blissfully wedded couple whose idyllic world falls apart when Alice starts digging into her husband’s mysterious job. The film is Wilde’s sophomore directorial effort and releases in cinemas worldwide on September 23.
It officially premiered yesterday, September 6, at the Venice Film Festival and has received mixed reviews. Critics have praised Pugh’s performance and the beautiful cinematography, but are unimpressed by its plot and twist ending.
Much of the buzz surrounding Don’t Worry Darling has been about its behind-the-scenes scandals, which according to tabloids, started as early as during its filming in 2020.
Why is everyone talking about Don’t Worry Darling?
From feuding actors to a steamy affair and the firing of a cast member — along with a bizarre alleged spitting incident — the offscreen aspects of Don’t Worry Darling have all the makings of a blockbuster. There are three main players in this story: Harry Styles, Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde.
For brevity, we’ve outlined its main events:
1. Olivia Wilde’s divorce, and subsequent relationship with Harry Styles
Director Olivia Wilde, who has a supporting role in Don’t Worry Darling, was formerly married to actor Jason Sudeikis, with whom she shares two children. In November 2020, they announced their separation on amicable terms.
Months later, she and Harry Styles were photographed together on multiple occasions by paparazzi and appeared to be romantically involved. Rumours started swirling in gossip rags, suggesting that Wilde and Styles had actually begun an affair on set, which eventually led to the breakdown of Wilde’s marriage.
Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde out in London recently! pic.twitter.com/FaDVkxCOOL
— Harry and Niall News! (@HarryNiallNews) March 20, 2022
Things came to a head in April 2022, when Wilde was speaking onstage about Don’t Worry Darling at CinemaCon and was suddenly served custody papers in front of the audience.
2. Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde’s conflict
Amidst all the ongoing drama, eagle-eyed fans have noticed that the film’s leading lady Florence Pugh hasn’t commented much on or even actively promoted Don’t Worry Darling. When she did address it in a few social media posts, she never named or thanked Wilde — even after the latter openly complimented her performance in an Instagram post.
Pugh also expressed displeasure about people focusing on her sex scenes in Don’t Worry Darling — a contrast from Wilde’s interviews which positioned the movie as a symbol of women empowerment due to its depictions of female orgasms.
Fuelling the salacious gossip were rumours of Styles getting paid over three times more than Pugh for his role in the movie — which Wilde quickly refuted. There was also talk about Pugh being uncomfortable because of Wilde and Styles’ affair, and being annoyed at their frequent absences on set.
If all of that juicy tabloid fodder hasn’t done enough to convince anyone of a falling out between the two women, here’s another thing to consider: Pugh opted to skip the Don’t Worry Darling press conference at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, citing schedule conflicts as she’s currently filming Dune: Part Two in Budapest. Interestingly, Timothée Chalamet, who’s a headlining character in Dune, managed to make time to show up in Venice on September 3 to promote his movie Bones And All.
In response to a question about Pugh’s absence and any potential bad blood between any of the cast members at the press conference, Wilde described Pugh as a “force” and said she was “so grateful [Pugh] was able to make it…despite being in production on Dune.” Wilde didn’t dwell on the second part of the question, and simply dismissed the rift rumours as “endless tabloid gossip”. Adding to the awkwardness, the press moderator later denied a query about Shia LaBeouf’s involvement in the whole debacle (more on that later).
Pugh only appeared yesterday, September 6, to walk the red carpet in a showstopping, sparkling Valentino gown and attend the film premiere, though observers noted she seemed to avoid eye contact with Wilde throughout the event and during the standing ovation after the movie.
The cast’s seating arrangement at the screening also drew attention — Chris Pine and Gemma Chan were strategically placed like human dividers in between Wilde, Styles and Pugh.
— Ramin Setoodeh (@RaminSetoodeh) September 5, 2022
On a side note, there has been speculation that Styles and Wilde are no longer together, as they didn’t interact much either. A video making its rounds on Twitter shows a woman feebly attempting to herd them into standing together for the red carpet photocall, only to be ignored by Styles.
bless the person dressed in black trying to get harry next to olivia they were trying their best but that man was not having it pic.twitter.com/s6Dq988Kqg
— bigger than petal | 317 days (@immaspellmyname) September 6, 2022
3. What’s #spitgate and what does Chris Pine have to do with anything?
Perhaps the strangest development in the whole Don’t Worry Darling drama is a viral video of Styles taking his seat next to seated Pine before the movie screening. As he approaches and briefly hunches over Pine, the latter suddenly looks down and smirks in a mixture of shock and amusement — almost as if Styles had just spit on him. Watch the moment here.
Chris pine just wondered where his sunglasses were after the applause. And he zoned out (likes he’s been doing all day) and realised it’s in his lap. So I am sorry to say harry styles did not spit on him. pic.twitter.com/7b4GoCvnHJ
— priscilla (@cinemazietgeist) September 6, 2022
The video has spread like wildfire all over social media, with netizens dubbing it #spitgate, posting slowed down versions of the clip, and speculating about what really happened. The two co-stars don’t seem to be feuding though, so we doubt any deliberate expectorating was involved — especially in this Covid era. Pine’s press representative has swiftly rubbished these claims and issued a statement to People magazine branding it “a ridiculous story — a complete fabrication and the result of an odd online illusion that is clearly deceiving and allows for foolish speculation.”
“Just to be clear, Harry Styles did not spit on Chris Pine,” said the representative. “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.”
Despite not actually being embroiled in the rumoured Wilde-Pugh-Styles clash, Pine has been attracting his share of attention during the Don’t Worry Darling press tour. Another viral video shows him zoning out while Styles is being interviewed, and sparked creative captions and memes about him “astral projecting” and “dissociating”.
Styles seems amused by the whole #spitgate topic and even joked about it on stage yesterday (September 7) at New York’s Madison Square Garden, which is one of the stops of his ongoing US tour. “I just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine,” he chuckled as he told the audience, eliciting laughter and shrieks.
4. You mentioned Shia LaBeouf?
For the uninitiated, Shia LaBeouf was initially chosen to play Jack (Styles’ character) in Don’t Worry Darling. But Wilde reportedly fired him at the start of production and described him as “combative” during an interview with Variety.
“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. 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,” she said.
Back then, her narrative seemed logical as LaBeouf became Hollywood persona non grata mere months later — his ex-girlfriend FKA Twigs exposed disturbing details about being physically, emotionally and sexually abused by him throughout the course of their relationship.
Late last month, however, LaBeouf came out with his side of the story and revealed that he had voluntarily quit the production as he “couldn’t find time to rehearse”. He released several messages between him and Wilde, along with a 2020 video of her asking him to reconsider his decision to leave the film. “I feel like I’m not ready to give up on this yet,” she said.
she wanted florence to make peace with an abuser you cannot make this up pic.twitter.com/T51dAYcElD
— kay (@harrymotif) August 26, 2022
The video also hints at a conflict between LaBeouf and Florence Pugh, with Wilde calling his resignation as “a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo”. She added, “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?”
For now, it looks like Wilde is laying low amidst all the Don’t Worry Darling drama and waiting for it to pass. Neither she nor Styles have posted anything on social media about the movie premiere in Venice. Pugh, who has remained mostly silent throughout the whole saga, seems unfazed and recently uploaded multiple images from the event — the most promo she’s done for the film so far.
So there you have it — a complete summary of the buzz surrounding Don’t Worry Darling at the 2022 Venice Film Festival. If there’s anyone that isn’t worried at all, though, it’s Chris Pine. After all, he’s probably astral projecting to a tropical island somewhere.
Worry? I’m not even here, darling.
Caption: Chris Pine astral projecting at Venice Film Festival. September 5, 2022. pic.twitter.com/qSU1XbTWDp
— Richard Newby (@RICHARDLNEWBY) September 5, 2022
Don’t Worry Darling screens in cinemas worldwide on September 23.
(Main and featured image: Don’t Worry Darling/ Facebook/ Getty Images)