VENICE – The Venice Film Festival is buzzing with anticipation for Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” which is having its world premiere Monday night on the Lido.
There’s the eagerness for the film itself, a mid-century styled psychological thriller with a starry cast, including Florence Pugh, Harry Styles and Chris Pine. There’s also the arrival of Styles, whose otherworldly fame and following may make the Timothée Chalamet mania seen on Friday seem downright quaint.
But it seems the most breathlessly awaited event is the film’s press conference Monday afternoon. Behind-the-scenes drama rarely extends beyond internal industry gossip, but the question of exactly what happened in the making of “Don’t Worry Darling” has become a source of global intrigue. Rumors about everything from Shia LaBeouf’s departure from the film early on, to Pugh’s perceived lack of public support for the project on her social media accounts have been simmering on TikTok and twitter for some time.
Wilde herself also became a tabloid fixture after paparazzi caught on to her off screen relationship with Styles. And then there was the CinemaCon moment, in which Wilde was served custody papers by her ex, Jason Sudeikis, during a presentation about her movie on stage in front of thousands of industry professionals and theater owners.
Then in the past few weeks, all the little threads seemed to catch fire at once. Much of that was stoked by LaBeouf, who came out of the woodwork to contest a two-year-old narrative that he’d been fired from the project. Ultimately, his role went to Styles.
Wilde, in a Variety cover story, is not directly quoted saying she fired him. She did offer: “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.”
In response, LaBeouf sent private emails, texts and video messages to Variety to prove his case that he actually quit due to lack of rehearsal time. The video message, in which she tries to convince LaBeouf to stay on as Jack, was subsequently leaked online.
LaBeouf, who is heading to court next year on abuse allegations from his ex, FKA twigs, happens to also be in Venice this year with the film “Padre Pio.”
The leaked video also showed Wilde calling Pugh “Miss Flo,” which some perceived as confirmation that the two did not get along. Wilde, for her part, has been nothing but effusive about her lead actor. In an interview with The Associated Press she spoke at length an about Pugh’s extraordinary talent saying that what she did with the role was “singularly brilliant” and that the character of Alice is a “heroine for the ages.”
Still, questions have arisen about why Pugh has not been posting much about the film on her Instagram. She didn’t hype the trailer, or say anything about getting into Venice. Only adding fuel to the fire, The Wrap then reported that Pugh would be limiting her press appearances around the film to Venice only. And on Sunday night, Variety broke the news that Pugh would not be participating in the press conference either because of her tight travel schedule and turnaround.
Pugh is in the middle of production on “Dune 2,” a massive blockbuster (also a Warner Bros. joint) and is expected to go straight back after her Venice obligations. Chalamet, her “Dune 2” co-star, had a similarly brief stay in Venice for his film “Bones and All.” It’s likely to be the only appearance he’ll make on behalf of that film, but no one wrote any headlines about Chalamet “limiting” his press engagements.
The hope is that the press conference will answer or clarify lingering questions, turn attention back to the film itself and maybe even drum up more excitement for its theatrical release on Sept. 23.
“This film is my love letter to the movies that push the boundaries of our imagination. It’s ambitious, but I think we made something really special,” Wilde wrote in her director’s statement. “Imagine a life where you had everything you ever wanted, What would it take for you to give that up…Are you willing to dismantle the system that is designed to serve you?
Regardless, one thing is certain: Everyone is talking about “Don’t Worry Darling.”
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr
For more on the Venice Film Festival, visit: www.apnews.com/VeniceFilmFestival
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