Amid the steady outpouring of juicy tidbits about Olivia Wilde’s upcoming 1950s thriller Don’t Worry Darling, starring Florence Pugh and Wilde’s boyfriend Harry Styles, every new detail is more intriguing than the last. In a Thursday interview between Wilde and fellow actor-director Maggie Gyllenhaal in Interview magazine, Wilde redirected the attention from her alleged feud with Pugh and romance with Styles to another star in Don’t Worry Darling: Chris Pine.
Based on the trailers, Pine plays a charismatic cult leader named Frank who is apparently the leader of the Victory Project. The project seems to be a stylish commune of happily married couples in the Valley that—I can only presume—is actually hiding some very dark secrets. According to Wilde, her inspiration for Pine as Frank was none other than Jordan Peterson, the red meat-guzzling king of the incels, who more recently waged and lost a war with model Yumi Nu over her Sports Illustrated cover.
“We based that character on this insane man, Jordan Peterson, who is this pseudo-intellectual hero to the incel community,” Wilde told Gyllenhaal of Frank. “You know the incels?” When Gyllenhaal, bless her soul, responds that she is not familiar with “the incels,” Wilde fills her in: “They’re basically disenfranchised, mostly white men, who believe they are entitled to sex from women. And they believe that society has now robbed them—that the idea of feminism is working against nature, and that we must be put back into the correct place.”
As for Peterson’s role in all of this, and how his dreadful ideologies apparently inspired a villain in Don’t Worry Darling, Wilde continues, “Jordan Peterson is someone that legitimizes certain aspects of [incels’] movement because he’s a former professor, he’s an author, he wears a suit, so they feel like this is a real philosophy that should be taken seriously.”
This is hardly Peterson’s first time closely inspiring a fictional villain: Last April, when he learned he was the muse for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ portrayal of the Nazi super-villain Red Skull in his Captain America comic book, Peterson tweeted out a simple, dazed and confused, “What the hell?”
The image of Pine playing a vocal men’s rights activist legitimized by suit-wearing, academia, and basic grooming is pretty tantalizing. Considering that Pine is one of the more thoughtful, relatively progressive movie stars—going so far as to argue some Democrats and Republicans are interchangeable on issues like, say, the Patriot Act—I hope he didn’t bury himself too deep in method-acting and actually become radicalized by Peterson’s preachings about carnivorous eating and objectifying women.
Speaking of objectifying women, Wilde divulged some other interesting insights about bringing to life a very specific time period in which trad-wifery thrived, and a husband could check his wife into a mental hospital based on a single word of protest. “I wanted it to be a hot movie that’s a good time and that if later it leads to some conversations, that’s great. But I was trying to create that world of Slim Aarons’s version of 1950s, ’60s Palm Springs,” Wilde said, referring to the famous, sensual photographer of wealthy socialites in the ‘50s and ‘60s. “And so, as a female director, it was quite funny for me to be the one saying, ‘I need more bikinis, more tans. I want everybody sexy, sexy, sexy.’”
While it’s not clear what the plot of Don’t Worry Darling entails or what twists it will hold, some have already criticized Wilde for her emphasis in previous interviews on the movie’s portrayals of sex, sexuality, and female pleasure. Some have alleged the movie’s big twist will be that the women in the Victory Project were being deceived about something pretty major, rendering all of the sexual relationships in the movie innately predatory. Others have also juxtaposed Wilde’s previous quotes with Pugh’s pleading with people to not watch the movie solely for its sex scenes. In fairness, it seems like all of this can coexist: Sex scenes can be steamy, plot twists can emerge, and, alluring as Styles may be, we should probably watch Don’t Worry Darling for the plot, too.
Overall, Wilde had nothing but resoundingly positive things to say about the cast and even detailed how acting in as well as directing the movie—namely because they’d run out of money to hire someone for the role that she winds up playing herself—helped her build solidarity with the cast, as they shot in the desert heat.
Yet, I doubt any of these positive notes will assuage the prevailing narratives that have already taken off about the movie, which include allegations that Wilde and Styles began an extramarital affair while she was still with ex Jason Sudeikis, supposedly sparking bad blood between Wilde and Pugh, who’s since backed out of nearly all press for the movie. (In an interview with Variety last week, referring to the notorious incident in which Sudeikis served her court papers while she was on stage at CinemaCon, Wilde said, “There’s a reason I left that relationship.”) As of Thursday, a “source” has told Us Weekly, “Florence and Olivia have had several disagreements personally and professionally, that’s why Florence isn’t doing any press for the movie.”
Before that, a he-said-she-said had emerged in which Wilde claimed she fired Shia LaBeouf, originally set to assume Styles’ role, over his struggles to work with Pugh. LaBeouf, meanwhile, claims—with some interesting receipts—that he quit, and Wilde begged him to return.
It seems entirely possible Pugh and Wilde didn’t have the best working relationship—not all actors and directors do! Simultaneously, it feels like pretty run-of-the-mill media sexism to reduce the whole movie to Team Florence vs. Team Olivia, or push the rumor that Wilde was too dickmatized by Styles (which I would... understand!) to do her job. If nothing else, the steady cycle of unbearably dramatic scuttlebutt about this movie will inevitably drive people to theaters, where we can all collectively enjoy Chris Pine’s best incel impression!