“Don’t Worry Darling” has been in the spotlight since the beginning. And that was long before Harry Styles got involved.
It was a movie everyone wanted to make – some 18 studios and streaming services were courting Wilde for the chance to partner with her on her second feature as director: a mid-century psychological thriller about a housewife, Alice (Florence Pugh), who begins to question her perfect life and the mysterious company her husband Jack (Styles) works for.
But it hasn’t stopped making headlines in two years, from Shia LaBeouf’s abrupt departure (he was replaced by Styles) to the paparazzi-fueled intrigue surrounding Wilde and Styles’ off-camera relationship. Then there was the bizarre moment earlier this year when Wilde was served custody papers, from ex Jason Sudeikis who she shares two children with, in the middle of a presentation to thousands of exhibitors at Vegas.
Even last week, LaBeouf, who will be heading to court next year over allegations of abuse by his ex, FKA twigs, decided to challenge the two-year-old story that he had been fired. He gave the entertainment trade emails and text messages from Variety to prove he quit. It’s resulted in buzz you can’t buy, but also incessant tabloids and TikTok gossip — all for a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.
But soon, the conversation will return to the film itself: “Don’t Worry Darling” will make its glamorous debut at the Venice International Film Festival on September 5 before opening in domestic theaters on September 23. Pay attention to what brings people to the theater – as long as they go.
Wilde recently spoke to The Associated Press about her vision, her disagreement with the ratings committee, and why Alice is the hero we need right now. Notes have been edited for clarity and brevity.
AP: What were some of the big ideas you wanted to explore?
WILDE: I wanted to do what (screenwriter) Katie (Silberman) and I always describe as a Trojan horse movie: something that on the outside is beautiful and entertaining but once you crawl inside it’s is actually much more complex and potentially very interesting and challenging. I also really understood that this would be an opportunity for an actress to really flex. She was a heroine that I wanted to see on screen. I wanted to create a character with an actress who would represent the kind of woman that I feel our society needs.
AP: You originally planned to play the role of Alice. Were you happy with this decision to step back and play a supporting role?
WILDE: Oh yeah. There’s no part of me that would have it any other way. I think what Florence has done with this role is singularly brilliant. This character is a heroine for the ages. And she, as an actress, is that rare combination of dramatic talent, comedic brilliance, and an action hero who can run like Tom Cruise. Like what actress can do stunts and pull off these incredible emotional stunts and do it so easily with an accent that’s not even their own? Like, come on. It’s like juggling upside down on the wing of an airplane.
AP: You talked about some of your stylistic influences, from the photography of Slim Aarons to the erotic thrillers of Adrian Lyne. What were the other touchstones?
WILDE: I’m a big fan of 1950s iconography and a lot of art, architecture, cars, music. It was an opportunity to really play in this world. The architectural influence of (Richard) Neutra is everywhere in the film. (Director of Photography) Matty Libatique and I were really inspired by Alex Prager and his photography and the idea of creating anxiety through framing and this artificial world that would be incredibly alluring until you looked very close.
And I always make endless playlists and watchlists and playlists. It was a really funny assortment of material. People were like, what is this movie? You want me to watch “Requiem for a Dream” and “The Truman Show” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, and you want me to read “The Feminine Mystique”, but also Jordan Peterson?
AP: “Booksmart” dealt with female sexuality in a very candid way and “Don’t Worry Darling” is already sparking conversations around some of the sexual acts shown in the trailer. Was it a struggle to even include that?
WILDE: Oh, yeah. There are a lot of things to remove from the trailer. The MPA fell hard on me and the trailer at the last second and I had to cut a few shots, which upset me because I thought they had taken it up another notch. But of course, we still live in a truly puritanical society. I think the lack of eroticism in American cinema is rather new. Then when it comes to female pleasure, it’s something you don’t see very often, unless you’re talking about queer cinema. You know, it’s interesting because in a lot of queer movies, female characters have more fun. The public is not as puritanical as the corporations think. And yet, people get angry. I mean, people are already mad at me because of this. I think it’s a testament to the movie. We want to be provocative. The idea is not to make you feel safe.
AP: It’s also a film that has had a spotlight on it from the start, generating both buzz and gossip. What has that been like for you as a filmmaker?
WILDE: Every filmmaker wants people to see their film. That’s all you want is for people to see it. If people are excited about a movie, for whatever reason, what you hope is that it gets them in. Whether you’re a fan of 1950s cars and that’s what’s going to get you into this movie, or if you’re just going because you’re a fan of our amazing cast, all that matters to me is is that you have the chance to see it, and I hope that people will then have the instinct to share it. What I really hope is that people will see it again. I think it’s a real second film. There are many Easter eggs in it.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr
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