Is Olivia Wilde the Most Controversial Director in Hollywood?

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Director Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling debuted at No. 1 at the North America box office, with an impressive $19.2 million opening weekend. To date, the psychological thriller has grossed $55.7 million worldwide, despite mixed reviews and behind-the-scenes drama. Or is that because of the drama, which not only helped to fuel discussion of the film, but also briefly seemed to turn Olivia Wilde into Hollywood’s most controversial director.

What’s the Drama Behind ‘Don’t Worry Darling’?

Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh in Don’t Worry Darling

Don’t Worry Darling has been entangled in multiple controversies, from a rumored feud between director Olivia Wilde and star Florence Pugh, to Harry Styles appearing to spit on Chris Pine at the Venice International Film Festival premiere.

Even LaBeouf, who left the project in its early stages, became part of the drama.

He complained that Wilde falsely claimed she fired him from the project. In reality, LaBeouf insists, he quit. Wilde has asserted the film needed to in a different direction, for the sake of everyone involved (including Pugh). However, LaBeouf said he left because of a lack of rehearsal time with Pugh.

LaBeouf went so far as to release a video in which Wilde begs him to stay on Don’t Worry Darling, saying the possibility of his departure should serve as a wake-up call for “Miss Flo.” That is, Florence Pugh.

Why Did Warner Bros, Release a Statement About Olivia Wilde?

Olivia Wilde in Don’t Worry Darling

The feuds became so controversial that Warner Bros. released a statement in defense of Wilde.

The studio called the film “incredibly beautiful and entertaining,” and said it was looking forward to working with Wilde again in the future.

And sure, having so much negativity onset isn’t ideal. Calling the stars of your film condescending nicknames to their co-stars is not the best look. But these are certainly not the worst offenses a director has committed, even in recent memory.

Why Is Olivia Wilde So Controversial?

Florence Pugh on the set of 'Don't Worry, Darling,' sitting on a lawn chair and sipping at a drink.
Florence Pugh in Don’t Worry Darling

Wilde received backlash earlier this year, when she began dating Harry Styles soon after her divorce from Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis

Their divorce has been messy, with Sudeikis going so far as to serve Wilde custody papers onstage during a CinemaCon presentation. And while it takes two for a relationship to fall apart, Wilde has been taking on the majority of the blame in the public eye.

Her personal life has been used as a weapon against her professional life. Wilde was even accused of getting into a screaming match with Pugh on set.

Critiques of Olivia Wilde’s work are certainly valid. Don’t Worry Darling’s feminist lens is almost exclusively focused on the experiences of white women. Actress KiKi Layne, who played the pivotal character Margaret, also had many of her scenes cut (not to mention she was absent from the film’s Venice premiere).

However, the majority of the criticism directed at Wilde has come from another perspective entirely. People seem to be holding her to a higher standard than they do male directors.

Why Is Olivia Wilde So Heavily Criticized?

Olivia Wilde in Don’t Worry Darling

From Twitter threads to TikTok videos, Olivia Wilde’s every move has been under public scrutiny. And while it’s important to hold public figures accountable when they make mistakes, even Wilde’s smaller transgressions are being positioned as blows against her directing career.

Comparatively, we have people like David O. Russell, the director of the upcoming film Amsterdam. He has been accused of multiple allegations of abuse, without anyone questioning his ability as a filmmaker. Likewise, Woody Allen is positioned as one of the greatest directors of all time, despite accusations of sexual assault.

And while it’s problematic in itself to “separate the artist from the art,” we seem to be a lot more willing to do so when it comes to men. Why do women have to be perfect in order to be respected?

What ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Reminds Us About the Real World

Florence Pugh and Harry Styles in Don’t Worry Darling

Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling takes a dark turn that reminds us of society expects women to behave.

Women are required to manage their emotions, accomplish family-oriented goals, and happily contribute to a male-dominated society. If the women of Don’t Worry Darling aren’t willing to behave, then they will be controlled.

Both on-screen and off, Wilde offers us an opportunity to reflect on how we expect women to act, and the standards that we often hold them to.

While Olivia Wilde might not be the “perfect” female director, there’s no denying she’s talented. Despite the rumors that swirled around Don’t Worry Darling, Wilde made a great movie that performed respectably.


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