Don’t worry about the drama, darling

Is bad press still good press?

Cale Strickland, Staff Writer

“Don’t Worry Darling”, Olivia Wilde’s long-awaited sophomore film, was released on September 23. The movie’s cast includes Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine and other big-name actors, but the rumors of on-set struggles and feuds made larger headlines than the film itself.

Drama emerged after Shia LaBeouf, the project’s initial co-lead, exited the film’s production in September 2020. LaBeouf claims he left the project; Wilde, the film’s director, insists she fired LaBeouf due to his on-set aggression.

Following LaBeouf’s exit, Styles joined the film’s cast, as the pandemic prevented him from touring.

Soon thereafter, Wilde and her fiancé, actor Jason Sudeikis, split up. Rumors of Wilde and Styles dating began circling during the film’s production. Many believe Wilde and Styles’s rumored romance sparked division between Wilde and Pugh.

Although the film’s first trailer was released in April, Pugh did not post about “Don’t Worry Darling” until August. Further, Pugh did not acknowledge Wilde’s Instagram post praising her performance.

Pugh did not attend the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, but her co-stars set Twitter on fire. Styles appeared to spit on Pine, which launched an online phenomenon jokingly coined “SpitGate”.

On September 21, Wilde appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to restate her perspective on LaBeouf’s exit. She dismissed her rumored on-set feud with Pugh and laughed off Styles’s involvement in “SpitGate”.

Amanda Respess, mass communication professor at GC, indicated the controversies surrounding the film might benefit its performance at the box office.

“The old adage about no press is bad press is certainly true for some things,” Respess said. “For ‘Don’t Worry Darling’, the ostensibly negative publicity in recent weeks has raised overall awareness about the film. A lot of people now know about this movie, its lead actors and when the film is coming to theaters. I don’t think brand awareness for the film would be as high without all the press attention surrounding the supposed ‘scandals’.”

In spite of the film’s controversies and negative press, “Don’t Worry Darling” generated $30 million at the worldwide box office over its opening weekend. The film is expected to outgross its $35 million budget.

Dr. Joanna Schwartz, GC marketing professor, identified our culture’s obsession with celebrities as a large reason for audiences’ interest in the film.

“It resonates with audiences to find aspects of their favorite celebrities that make them more human and relatable,” Schwartz said.

Respess is conflicted with Wilde’s critics. Although Hollywood’s dismissal of male filmmakers’ misbehavior fosters sexism, she worries about giving female filmmakers a pass.

“I think the media’s particular focus on Olivia Wilde is, on the one hand, somewhat sexist, given that some of the things she is being criticized for are no different than what male directors have done for decades,” Respess said. “On the other hand, the ‘Me Too’ movement was about putting an end to abusive behavior, so if we are going to call out men for inappropriate behavior, we should not have a double standard that allows women in power to get away with bad behavior either.”

 Sydney Hendrix, senior mass communication major, believes gossip and rumors of on-set struggles increase films’ public relevance. However, in an effort to steer clear of potential spoilers, she has attempted to avoid the “Don’t Worry Darling” drama as the cast’s big-name talents are enough to pique her interest.

 “Hearing celebrity gossip around movie sets, if anything, makes me more aware of the movie, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I am more likely to watch it,” Hendrix said. “I want to see ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ because of Harry Styles and Florence Pugh.”