I often find myself thinking about a viral TikTok that laid out the cultural milestones that rocked each generation: 9/11 for millennials; Watergate for Gen X; the moon landing for baby boomers. As for Gen Z, covid has been floated as this generation’s ~moment~, but I think we’re overlooking another contender: Spitgate, the flash-point in our culture when Harry Styles appeared to spit on Don’t Worry Darling co-star Chris Pine at the Cannes Film Festival premiere of their movie last September.
Somehow, roughly half a year later, many of us are still talking about this viral moment, which Pine (arguably the best famous white Chris) revived in an interview with Esquire published on Wednesday. Asked about the incident, Pine gave a very straightforward answer: “Harry did not spit on me.”
Pines graciously set the scene for everyone of the moment he learned that a single, brief interaction between him and Styles had taken the internet by storm. “I was on the plane, and we’re flying back from Venice, having a great time on the plane, and my publicist wakes me up and says, ‘We have to craft a statement on what happened in Venice.’ She showed me the thing and it did look, indeed, like Harry spit on me,” Pine said. “He didn’t spit on me.”
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Instead, Pine recalls that “Harry leaned down and said, ‘It’s just words isn’t it?’”—an inside joke between the two. “We had this little joke. We were all jet-lagged and trying to answer questions, and sometimes when you’re doing these press things, your brain goes befuddled and you start speaking gibberish, so we had a joke: ‘It’s just words.’” This revelation, of course, reminds me of another meme from the Darling press tour: ruthlessly mocking Styles’ inane comments on how the movie “is a movie that feels like a movie”—just words, indeed, gentlemen!
Pine continued by lavishing thorough praise on Styles (whose romantic relationship with Darling’s director, Olivia Wilde, was the object of extensive controversy and speculation throughout the movie’s press tour), calling him “a very kind guy.”
So there you have it: Spitgate, it turns out, involved no spit at all, and no Chris Pines were moistened by the making of that viral clip we all watched at least a dozen times each. Styles, too, has addressed the rumors with a tasteful joke at a Love On Tour concert last September, telling audiences that he’d “just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine.”
I have to believe that at least one part of why the controversy took off to the extent it did is due to ongoing, perpetually churning rumors about how much the cast of DWD supposedly hated each other. Wilde’s relationship with Styles was reportedly a point of tension among the cast and crew, particularly between Wilde and Florence Pugh. (Rumors flew about a former relationship between Pugh and Styles, and that Pug had complaints about Wilde’s direction.)
Pine addressed all of the film’s many scandals and rampant fan speculation to Esquire: “If there was drama, there was drama. I absolutely didn’t know about it, nor really would I have cared,” he said.
Pine continued, “If I feel badly, it’s because the vitriol that the movie got was absolutely out of proportion with what was onscreen. Venice was normal things getting swept up in a narrative that people wanted to make, compounded by the metastasizing that can happen in the Twitter-sphere. It was ridiculous.”
Pine does not seem like someone who is especially prone to drama, but unfortunately, Chris, the rest of us are! And for that reason, Darling, while an aggressively mid-tier movie, has been the gift that kept on giving in that regard.