Olivia Wilde Explains Why She Fired the “Combative” Shia LaBeouf from Don’t Worry Darling

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His confrontational energy would not make Florence Pugh feel “safe” and “supported,” so his part went to Harry Styles.

Shia LaBeouf in 2019

Shia LaBeouf in 2019Rich Fury/Getty Images

Olivia Wilde’s second feature film, the psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling, has one of the most impressive casts of 2022, including proven A-listers (Florence Pugh, Chris Pine), a music superstar in his first lead role (Harry Styles), and a supporting cast filled out by great comic performers (Nick Kroll, Kate Berlant) and acclaimed dramatic actors (Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne). But you won’t be seeing one of her original picks for the cast, Shia LaBeouf: Shortly after production began on the twisty, 1950s-set drama, she fired him and replaced him with Styles. And she’s finally explaining why.

LaBeouf and Pugh were set to play a married couple that unravels after he takes a new job with a mysterious, sinister employer, but his confrontational style proved too much. In a Variety profile, Wilde said, “I say this as someone who is such an admirer of his work. 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. That was my job.”

Only a few months after he left Don’t Worry Darling (which opens Sept. 23), LaBeouf was sued by ex-girlfriend and one-time co-star FKA Twigs, who told Elle about his disturbing pattern of abuse. Twigs, who dated LaBeouf for nine months from 2018 to 2019, said that he strangled her, intimidated her, and brought a gun into their bedroom against her wishes. The lawsuit also includes abuse claims by another one of his former girlfriends, stylist Karolyn Pho. In December of 2020, shortly after the lawsuit was filed, LaBoeuf provided the New York Times with a statement that said, “I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel. I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say.” He later added that “many of these allegations are not true,” but that he wanted the women to have “the opportunity to air their statements publicly and accept accountability for those things I have done.” The lawsuit against LaBeouf is going to trial in April 2023, per Rolling Stone.

“I find myself just really wishing him health and evolution because I believe in restorative justice. But for our film, what we really needed was an energy that was incredibly supportive,” Wilde told Variety, alluding to tense scenes between Pugh’s character and her male co-lead. “Particularly with a movie like this, I knew that I was going to be asking Florence to be in very vulnerable situations, and my priority was making her feel safe and making her feel supported.”

Since Twigs came forward, LaBeouf’s acting output has dropped off precipitously. He has not appeared in a film released in 2021 or 2022, though he does have a starring role in the upcoming Abel Ferrara feature Padre Pio, and is slated to act opposite Robert DeNiro in the crime drama After Exile. Though LaBeouf has earned praise for some of his vulnerable performances, he’s also consistently been in headlines (and legal trouble) for his violent and erratic behavior.

While early buzz for Don’t Worry Darling has been good, Wilde has had to spend a lot of her press time addressing gossip that swirled around the production. A Page Six story from late July suggested that Pugh was uncomfortable with Wilde and Styles getting together during shooting, before the former had ended her relationship with Jason Sudeikis. The piece also noted that Wilde and Styles were very public with their affections on set. In an August Rolling Stone interview, Styles addressed the portion of fans who have reacted negatively to his relationship. “It’s obviously a difficult feeling to feel like being close to me means you’re at the ransom of a corner of Twitter or something,” he said.

In her Variety interview, Wilde spoke about how she and Styles take pains not to comment on the relationship publicly. “I’m not going to say anything about it because I’ve never seen a relationship benefit from being dragged into the public arena,” she said. “We both go out of our way to protect our relationship; I think it’s out of experience, but also just out of deep love.”

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