Director Olivia Wilde has allegedly committed some questionable offenses over the course of making and promoting her new film, “Don’t Worry Darling.” Significant media attention on the press tour has stirred up controversy about the movie before most people have had a chance to see it.
For any other director, “Don’t Worry Darling” would be considered a stepping stone, a movie that transitions them towards developing their creative voice and cementing their place in the industry. Wilde might not be so lucky though; a barrage of negative publicity may lower audiences’ opinion of her capability. As a movie lover and a woman, I felt excited to see a new female-directed film, but now the shroud of gossip surrounding Wilde herself deters me from wanting to see this movie and possibly her next movies as well.
Wilde and actor Shia Lebouf, originally cast to play the character Jack Chambers, disagreed about the circumstances of his release from the role. Separately, in a video leaked by Lebouf, Wilde implies that Florence Pugh may be in over her head for her part, saying, “I think this might be a wake-up call for Miss Flo.” Wilde also defended the provocativeness of the sex scenes in the film around the same time Pugh said in an interview that she won’t focus on the sex scenes because the movie and the people who made it are “bigger and better than that.”
Despite the virality of the situation, Wilde is not the first director to be rude to their actors or to make questionable statements about casting choices. She’s not the first to cast her personal love interest (Harry Styles) as a main character, or to advocate for the importance of intense sex scenes. I’m compelled to ask why Wilde has faced more criticism than past controversial directors, mainly those who are male.
Male directors don’t face these same consequences in the court of public opinion — popular current directors have received accusations of poor workplace behavior and continued to churn out award-winning, financially successful movies. Their past offenses haven’t followed them, but this is because there wasn’t significant press coverage of these offenses to begin with. Wilde, on the other hand, and the antics surrounding “Don’t Worry Darling” have been the focus of articles by TIME, The Hollywood Reporter, Harper’s Bazaar, Vice, Variety and more.
The actions of powerful men in the movie industry are continuously ignored because people enjoy their movies. Meanwhile, articles are being written on Wilde’s body language around the “Don’t Worry Darling” cast members at the Venice Film Festival. Perhaps, as a society, we’re more accustomed to separating men from their work. We’re used to appreciating the genius of male artists without fully recognizing who they are as people, sometimes even commending men who are physically and mentally abusive.
James Cameron’s 1997 “Titanic” was a box-office smash, becoming the first film to make a billion dollars. Cameron, however, reportedly bullied the cast and crew, nicknaming Kate Winslet “Kate Weighs-A-Lot.” He allegedly kept the water in the ending scene so frigid that Winslet developed hypothermia after staying in for hours without a wetsuit. Did this hinder Cameron’s career or affect the success of his future movies? Evidently not — thirteen years after “Titanic,” Cameron released “Avatar,” which became the highest-grossing film of all time.
“The Shining,” directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1980, is considered one of the most influential horror films of all time. Kubrick allegedly tormented actress Shelley Duvall on set, making her repeat the traumatic baseball bat scene 127 times and causing her enough stress to make her hair fall out. Nevertheless, “The Shining” was given the honor of being selected for preservation in the Library of Congress in 2018.
Quentin Tarantino directed “Kill Bill Vol. 1” and “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” two cult classics that feature Uma Thurman in major action sequences. In 2018, Thurman revealed that Tarantino had “demonstrated” scenes with her before shooting which involved spitting on her and choking her. Tarantino also reportedly forced Thurman to drive an unsafe car instead of using a stunt double. Thurman crashed the car, incurring neck and knee injuries. And yet, Tarantino’s most recent film, “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood,” received 10 Academy Award nominations and won Best Motion Picture at the Golden Globes.
It’s easy to think that it’s useless to care about the working relationships between directors and actors. However, the misogynistic trends of Hollywood’s elite are a reflection of society’s habit of excusing poor behavior from men more often than women. If it suddenly has become important to examine the methods of a female director, then it might be time to revisit our opinions of male directors who continue to be revered and respected despite their obvious if lesser-known wrongdoings.