On Monday night, Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde both attended the world premiere of the drama “Don’t Worry Daring” at the Venice Film Festival, but they kept their distance — almost as if they weren’t even in the same film together.
Pugh had skipped the press conference for the film earlier in the day. When the audience at Venice erupted into a 4-minute standing ovation for the film, a teary-eyed Pugh — who was sitting several seats away from Wilde — turned away completely from her director, as she instead faced (and danced with) her co-star Nick Kroll.
The film seemed to be well received at Venice. The audience clapped during one of the more climatic scenes and the ovation would probably have gone on longer if Pugh hadn’t made her way for the exit about three minutes into the clapping, prompting the rest of the cast — with Wilde at the end — to follow her. During the ovation, Harry Styles and Kroll quickly kissed on the lips.
“Don’t Worry Darling” marks Wilde’s second feature directorial effort and her follow-up to breakthrough “Booksmart.” Pugh and Styles play a newlywed couple living in the quaint, experimental utopia called Victory. Pugh’s character becomes increasingly suspicious that her husband’s lush company — which is working on a top-secret project that promises to change the world — may be hiding disturbing secrets. Then all hell breaks loose. “Booksmart” writer Katie Silberman penned the screenplay.
Drama followed “Don’t Worry Darling” to Venice thanks to social media rumors that claim Wilde and Pugh had a falling out on set. Pugh missed the film’s press conference because of filming requirements on the “Dune” sequel, but she arrived in Venice in time to walk the red carpet for the world premiere. Any chance of awkwardness on the carpet was meticulously accounted for by the festival and Warner Bros. Discovery staff, who gave the film’s main ensemble a healthy window between each of their red carpet appearances, thus avoiding any drama.
Wilde was first down the red carpet, followed by Styles and finally Pugh. Styles, whose powder-blue suit was surprisingly toned down for the singer-actor, was extremely attentive to screaming fans — many of whom had been lined up outside the Sala Grande, in the punishing heat, since the early hours of the morning.
As the “As It Was” singer was busy signing autographs up and down the red carpet, Pugh made her spectacular entrance in an off-the-shoulder, sparkly bodysuit, grinning for the cameras and lapping up attention from enthusiastic fans. Like Styles, Pugh also took her time greeting and hugging fans, and posing for selfies. She at one point warmly embraced festival director Alberto Barbera, gushing that it was her very first time at the festival. She also gave “Don’t Worry Darling” producer Miri Yoon a long hug.
In between, the stars joined the wider Warner Bros. Discovery team and their co-stars Gemma Chan, Chris Pine and Nick Kroll. But aside from one cast photo with Wilde, the trio of Pugh, Wilde and Styles were kept separated on the red carpet, surrounded at all times by their reps or other actors (Marisa Tomei gave Styles a particularly warm reception).
“Florence is a force,” Wilde said earlier in the day at the Venice press conference when asked to “clear the air” about the rumors. “We are so grateful she’s able to make it tonight [for the red carpet] despite being in production on ‘Dune.’ I know, as a director, how disruptive it is to lose an actor even for a day, so I’m very grateful to her, and to [‘Dune’ director Denis Villeneuve] for helping us. And we’ll get to celebrate her work tonight. I can’t say how honored I am to have her as our lead. She’s amazing.”
Wilde added, “As for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, the Internet feeds itself. I don’t feel the need to contribute; I think it’s sufficiently well-nourished.”
Reviews for “Don’t Worry Darling” out of Venice were mixed, with Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman calling it “more showy than convincing” with an “overly telegraphed and top-heavy conspiracy plot.” Gleiberman had more praise for Pugh and Styles, writing the former “holds down the center of the movie with a spark of eagerness that melts into a wary detective’s gaze.” Styles, meanwhile, has “a wholesome cunning that marks him as a natural screen actor.”
“Don’t Worry Darling” premiered out of competition. Warner Bros. has often brought one of its big Oscar season titles to Venice, including Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s “A Star Is Born” (an out of competition premiere that ended up with eight Oscar nominations, including best picture, and a win for original song) and Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” (a competition title that won the Golden Lion, earned 11 Oscar nominations and won two prizes for actor and original score). Whether or not “Don’t Worry Darling” can continue Warner Bros.’ festival-to-Oscars success remains to be seen.
Wilde said at CinemaCon earlier this year that “Don’t Worry Darling” was inspired by psychosexual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” and “Indecent Proposal.” The director also cited “Inception,” “The Matrix” and “The Truman Show” as sources of inspiration, saying the film is “a love letter to movies that push the boundaries of our imagination.”
Warner Bros. will open “Don’t Worry Darling” in theaters Sept. 23.
Manori Ravindran contributed to this story.