Per a Friday report from Vulture, in January 2021, about three-quarters of the way through filming, director Olivia Wilde and lead actor Florence Pugh got into a “screaming match” over Wilde’s directing. Pugh had allegedly been frustrated with Wilde’s on-set habits for some time, specifically because “Olivia and Harry [Styles] would just disappear,” a source told the outlet. It’s long been rumored that Wilde and Pugh butted heads on set, and Pugh has noticeably refused to do virtually any press for the movie. At the movie’s Venice premiere, Pugh appeared to avoid any eye contact with Wilde.
Some of the juiciest tidbits about their alleged conflict apparently had to be excluded from the article for legal reasons but were tweeted out nonetheless by the writer. Of the aforementioned “screaming match,” Vulture’s Chris Lee tweeted that his source said, “Florence would give input on how she thought the next scene should be shot when Olivia wasn’t there. She was like, ‘I’m directing this movie more than you are!’ That was yelled at one point and people heard it. That spread all around very quickly.”
Rumors that Pugh allegedly had to direct large chunks of the movie because Wilde was too “distracted” by Styles have been swirling for some time now, too. But in a Vanity Fair interview published earlier this month, Wilde and cinematographer Matthew Libatique contested this: “The idea that I had five seconds in the day to be distracted by anything is laughable,” Wilde said. “I was there before everyone. I was there after everyone.” Libatique also denied rumors that he or anyone else had to direct on Wilde’s behalf.
Another sore spot was apparently Wilde’s perceived hypocrisy. Around the same time as Pugh and Wilde’s alleged, explosive fight in January 2021, Wilde and Styles were photographed hard-launching their relationship by attending a wedding together. “The DwD crew was extremely pissed when Olivia was photographed with Harry at that wedding in Jan 2021 because she frequently gave them ‘lectures’: ‘Don’t be stupid. You’re fucking up our movie. Don’t go to parties. Don’t congregate,’” Lee said, referring to covid protocols. He continued in a follow-up tweet: “There were so many complaints from the crew saying, ‘How dare she tell us to shelter in place while we’re doing this movie? And yet she goes to a public wedding with a group of people? This is fucking crazy!’”
Pugh and Wilde’s conflict allegedly became so acrimonious that the highest-ranking Warner Bros. executive at the time, Toby Emmerich, had to intervene and play referee in a “long negotiation process,” just to get Pugh to participate in the film’s life cycle “in any way.” Lee reported that his source said Pugh’s complaints were “just that she was unhappy with Olivia. She doesn’t want to support the movie. And she just felt that she wasn’t taken care of by the director. That she doesn’t like her, basically.”
The source’s claim that Pugh felt she wasn’t taken care of by Wilde comes amid ongoing drama around Shia LaBeouf originally being cast as Jack before being replaced by Styles. After Wilde said she’d fired LaBeouf, he shared a video of her asking him to stay on, referring to Pugh as “Miss Flo.” Wilde said the video message was recorded and sent before LaBeouf gave her an ultimatum to keep him or Pugh, and that she chose Pugh. “My responsibility was towards [Pugh]. I’m like a mother wolf,” she told Vanity Fair.
An anonymous executive with knowledge of the situation told Vulture that top Warner Bros. brass were “ultimately unhappy” with how Wilde handled Darling’s promotion and specifically, how she’s publicly talked about LaBeouf’s departure.
For months now, Wilde has denied rumors of tension and acrimony between her and Pugh, while Pugh has remained pointedly very quiet about everything. Some have alleged Pugh’s friendship with Wilde’s ex, Jason Sudeikis, contributed to her rumored hostility toward Wilde and Styles’ relationship. Some critics—and Wilde herself—suggested the media circus surrounding the movie, over missteps that male directors make all the time, extends from sexist double standards.
We’ll never know what truly happened on set, but this latest account from Vulture certainly lends credence to rumors that have been going around for months. In any case, as someone who’s watched the movie, I didn’t hate it, but I can tell you it’s nowhere near as riveting as all of the drama that’s engulfed it.