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The Untold Truth Of Don't Worry Darling

"Don't Worry Darling" has become one of the most talked-about movies of the year and has managed to walk a fine line between being loved and hated by movie fans everywhere. While critics have not been kind to the film — since it is hovering around a 39% Rotten Tomatoes score — it also has maintained a loyal fanbase online of people who consistently praise the performances and characters. The film also has done relatively well financially for a movie of its size and scope. "Don't Worry Darling" has proven to be another in a long line of contentious films that cause moviegoers to draw a line in the sand.

The retro psychological thriller was written and directed by Olivia Wilde (of "Booksmart" fame) who brought in a star-studded cast of actors, musicians, and comedians into the strangely sinister world of small-town America. With Florence Pugh ("Midsommar," "Little Women," "Black Widow") and pop sensation Harry Styles in the leading roles, the production came out of the gate with fans ready to see their favorite celebrities on the big screen. However, behind-the-scenes drama and less-than-stellar word of mouth have created cracks in the film's wider reception that are hard to ignore. While you may already know a lot about the development of "Don't Worry Darling," there is so much more to learn that you probably haven't heard. So read on to discover the untold truth of "Don't Worry Darling."

Frank is based on Jordan Peterson

"Don't Worry Darling" takes place in a seemingly 1950s suburb of post-war America in a town called Victory, which is founded by the mysterious character of Frank (Chris Pine). Frank is a critical character in the unfolding story of the film and is a problematic man who does heinous things such as gaslighting, kidnapping, and attempted murder. As the main villain of the film, this awful behavior is a powerful man's attempt to control Alice and prevent her from discovering the truth of his town.

Director Olivia Wilde has gone on record to explain where the inspiration for the character of Frank came from. In a published conversation between Olivia Wilde and Maggie Gyllenhaal for Interview Magazine, the two discussed how Chris Pine embodied Frank by basing him on controversial Canadian media personality Jordan Peterson. She said, "We based that character on this insane man, Jordan Peterson, who is this pseudo-intellectual hero to the incel community. You know the incels?" She went on to discuss how the incel community feels entitled to sex with women and how Peterson gives credence to their ideology through his videos, books, and statements. On the other hand, Peterson himself has gone on record to denounce the comparisons of him to a villain. According to People, Peterson actually reacted emotionally to the news by breaking into tears at the comments, which is something he tends to do a lot.

Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles started dating on set

Even before "Don't Worry Darling" came into the public's attention, there was already discussion about the budding relationship between Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles. For those who have been living under a rock for the past decade, Styles is a massively popular music artist who got his start with the boy band One Direction. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a solo act, which launched him into superstardom, with his songs consistently topping charts with the release of each new album. A more recent development has been his foray into acting, which started with 2017's "Dunkirk" and a cameo in 2021's "Eternals."

Olivia Wilde cast Styles in a leading role as Jack for "Don't Worry Darling" after issues with the original actor, Shia LaBeouf, caused him to leave the production in 2021 (per Variety). Prior to this, Wilde had a highly publicized divorce from her longtime partner, Jason Sudeikis, during the first few months of 2020. It seems as though Wilde and Styles started dating while the movie was being developed after he was cast, and the first sign of them being openly romantic came after they held hands at a wedding not long after filming started as reported by Page Six. The status of their relationship became common knowledge leading up to the release of "Don't Worry Darling," as it made the gossip surrounding the film even more interesting to observers.

Dakota Johnson dropped out

Amidst an openly troubled production, "Don't Worry Darling" went through several casting changes. Not all of them were drama-filled, however, and instead were the result of unfortunate scheduling conflicts beyond anyone's control. One of the prime examples of this is what happened with actress Dakota Johnson, who was originally cast to play the role of Alice's close friend Margaret Watkins.

Dakota Johnson has been a prolific performer with several notable roles, but she's most known for her time as Anastasia Steele in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" film franchise. She also garnered critical acclaim for her leading performance in the 2018 remake of "Suspiria," for which she won an Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award for her work, alongside director Luca Guadagnino, the casting team, and the other actors. While she was slated to be an important part of "Don't Worry Darling," it turns out that she was forced to leave the production because of scheduling conflict (via The Hollywood Reporter). The role of Margaret was later replaced by KiKi KiKi Layne, an incredible actress mainly known for her roles in 2018's "If Beale Street Could Talk" and 2019's "Native Son."

Shia LaBeouf left the production

Speaking of cast members who got replaced, it's time to discuss the Shia LaBeouf fiasco. Most people know that Shia LaBeouf has gotten himself in hot water on numerous occasions for lots of different reasons (per Page Six), but he was originally supposed to star in "Don't Worry Darling" as Jack, the Harry Styles role. Director Olivia Wilde and LaBeouf have different stories of how it all went down.

Wilde claims she fired him from the film, and the studio seemingly backed her up, saying LaBeouf had scheduling conflicts. Wilde told Variety, "His process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions. He has a process that, in some ways, seems to require a combative energy, and I don't personally believe that is conducive to the best performances. I believe that creating a safe, trusting environment is the best way to get people to do their best work. Ultimately, my responsibility is to the production and to the cast to protect them." Stories of the actor's personal and professional life seem to validate Wilde — LaBeouf was accused of sexual battery by his ex-girlfriend, FKA Twigs (per Variety); and rumors swirled that he and Tom Hardy fought physically on the set of "Lawless," but LaBeouf says they were just wrestling around for kicks (per IndieWire).

To hear LaBeouf tell it, he quit the film of his own accord (via Page Six). He says that he couldn't find time to rehearse with the actors and seems to have parted on amicable terms, leaking video and messages of Wilde allegedly asking for him to consider remaining on the project. "You know, I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo [Florence Pugh], and I want to know if you're open to giving this a shot with me, with us," Wilde said in the video.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Olivia Wilde was originally going to be the lead

Olivia Wilde began her career as an actor, appearing in films and shows such as "House," "Tron: Legacy," and "Cowboys & Aliens" to name a few. It wasn't until recently that she started venturing into directing her own films — her debut feature, the 2019 teen comedy "Booksmart," received significant critical success and won Wilde an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. Now with her second feature film, "Don't Worry Darling," she even originally planned to star as the main character herself.

While the character of Alice has become deeply associated with its current star, Florence Pugh, it seems as though Wilde intended to have a more prominent role in her film. In an interview with Variety, Wilde talked all about her experiences making the movie and how things changed as the project developed as she realized that the leads should be in a younger cohort than she could provide. She said, "There was something about the youthfulness, the innocence, that really made sense for the story. If I was Alice, I was like, 'Well, I'm going to be with a Jack who's my age or older, and now we're in a different age bracket.'"

Most of it was filmed in Palm Springs

An important element of "Don't Worry Darling" is the setting. The story takes place in the gorgeous and seemingly perfect town of Victory, which fully embraces the midcentury architecture of the postwar era that has become associated with idyllic Americana. Although it's clear when watching the movie that something sinister bubbles beneath the surface of Victory, it still looks beautiful along the way. Something about this old-school kind of architecture creates a feeling of nostalgia in people, which the film intends to subvert for thrills.

This architecture is all rooted in the real-life town of Palm Springs, where the majority of the movie was filmed. Palm Springs is a famous resort city in southern California that has become iconic for its old-school style, its surplus of retirement homes and golf courses, and the high frequency of movies that were filmed there. Some of these movies include "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," "The Aviator," and the accurately named 2020 comedy "Palm Springs," which similarly deconstructs the city's absurdity. According to People, Wilde's second feature film was mostly shot within the boundaries of Palm Springs to take full advantage of the special midcentury houses that reside there. In fact, the famous Kaufmann house (which is designated a Class 1 Historic site) was used for the opening sequence of "Don't Worry Darling."

Nick Kroll asked the cast for proposal ideas

Other than Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, and Chris Pine, one of the bigger names on the "Don't Worry Darling" cast is comedian Nick Kroll. Kroll made a name for himself on shows such as "The League," "Kroll Show," and "Big Mouth." He also has been praised for his collaboration with fellow comedian John Mulaney on the Broadway production of "Oh, Hello," which also got a filmed version on Netflix. It's safe to say that Kroll is one of the biggest names in comedy right now.

What you may not know, however, is that Kroll relied heavily on his costars to help him propose to his real-life partner, Lily Kwong. According to his appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," Kroll went into detail about the role that Harry Styles played in his over-the-top proposal strategy for his soon-to-be fiancé. He said that he asked his costars at a table read for their thoughts on his proposal ideas, since preproduction happened during the initial waves of COVID-19 and he didn't often see other people outside of work. After he worked out a proposal scheme involving flowers and the ring in a box as they moved house, Styles texted him to see how it went. "Harry Styles was the first person to know we were getting married ... and he gave us his blessing, and it meant the world," Kroll said. Luckily for Kroll, all of this planning worked out, since he's been happily married to Kwong since 2020.

The script started on the Black List

In Hollywood, the Black List refers not to a James Spader TV series, but rather to a prestigious organization that publishes a yearly list of screenplays that producers read and loved but ultimately passed on. Often, hit films originate on the list of unproduced scripts, finally being picked up and rewritten and turned into some real winners. Some movies that have started through the Black List are "Juno," "The Wolf of Wall Street," "The Social Network," "The King's Speech," and "Argo" (per IndieWire).

On the Black List's 2019 list, "Don't Worry Darling" was written by Cary and Shane Van Dyke and garnered 19 votes from the group. This put it on Olivia Wilde's radar; after she became attached, at first to direct and star, the film went through an intense bidding war. Wilde had become a hot name in Hollywood following the success of "Booksmart," and the bidding ended with New Line Cinema securing the rights to "Don't Worry Darling" (per Deadline). Although the script was taken in by Wilde, she ended up also hiring Katie Silberman to do various rewrites to shape the movie into what it became today.

Don't Worry Darling was inspired by The Truman Show

When watching "Don't Worry Darling," the similarities between it and another famous movie about a character being trapped in a seemingly perfect town definitely come to mind for many viewers. It should come as no surprise that Olivia Wilde was actually directly inspired by the 1998's "The Truman Show," starring Jim Carrey as a man named Truman who is stuck inside a reality television show dedicated to his life without his knowledge. "The Truman Show" is a fantastic movie in its own right with so many hidden moments that are enhanced upon rematch after learning what's going on in Truman's world, so there's lots more to discover that you might not know.

According to Variety, Wilde acknowledged some of the mind-bending films that came before that inspired her in the development of "Don't Worry Darling." At CinemaCon she cited "The Matrix," "Inception," and "The Truman Show" as examples of films that pushed boundaries and questioned reality in a way she wanted to emulate. She went on to say her film would be "a love letter to movies that push the boundaries of our imagination." That may be why both "The Truman Show" and "Don't Worry Darling" have similar settings and themes — and to say much more would be a huge spoiler, so we'll stop there.

KiKi Layne had scenes cut

Although much of the "Don't Worry Darling" drama seems to have been exaggerated, there are other examples of behind-the-scenes tension that is completely justified. The biggest example of this is what happened with actress KiKi Layne who, according to her Instagram, had many of her scenes completely cut from the film without her knowledge. This isn't unusual for Hollywood, since movies always change in post-production, but it also can be very disappointing for the people who suffer from it. For example, the recent fiasco with "The Batgirl," which was canceled by Warner Bros. after the film was basically completed.

However, Layne doesn't seem to mind her reduced role thanks to the fact that she met her partner, costar Ari'el Stachel, while filming. In her post, she said, "The best thing about #DontWorryDarling is that I was lucky enough to meet @arielstachel. They cut us from most of the movie, but we thriving in real life." Despite her not being in the film as much as we all hoped, her performance as Margaret is still a highlight of the story.

The drama with Florence Pugh

When it comes to the on-set drama surrounding the production of "Don't Worry Darling," none has been more talked about than the situation with leading actress Florence Pugh. While lots of the gossip is probably just conjecture, there are also people who worked on the film claiming she didn't seem to get along with Olivia Wilde throughout the filming process. Insiders have suggested that Pugh may have been uncomfortable with the budding relationship between Wilde and her co-star Harry Styles on-set (per WMagazine).

In response to buzz around the movie focusing on sex scenes between her and Styles — in part fuelled by Wilde's own interviews about the film — Pugh said, "When it's reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it's not why we do it," adding that the film and the people who made it are above those discussions. She also did not attend the film's photocall and press at its premiere in Venice, fuelling speculation that there had been a falling-out between her and Wilde.

However, members of the cast and crew have since gone on record to dismiss the rumors of hostilities between Wilde and Pugh after speaking with People. They said, "As a crew, we've avoided addressing the absurd gossip surrounding the movie we're so proud of, but feel the need to correct the anonymous 'sources' quoted in a recent article." They also added, "Any allegations about unprofessional behavior on the set of 'Don't Worry Darling' are completely false." It seems as though any rumors of drama have been categorically denied by many individuals involved with the movie.