Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde and #spitgate

Actress and director Olivia Wilde | photo credit: Gage Skidmore

I hardly know where to start describing #spitgate. 

What about when filming began in 2020, before #spitgate ever happened—or didn’t happen? I suppose it’s as good a starting point as any. 

That particular controversy went something like this: Did Olvia Wilde fire her former lead actor, Shia LaBeouf, because of a clash of personalities, or was it merely a scheduling issue?  

I’m speaking of the film Don’t Worry Darling, directed by Olivia Wilde, who received a fair amount of critical praise for her debut film Booksmart. Shia LaBeouf was supposedly all set for the lead male role but was soon replaced by Harry Styles.

Sure, we could start there.

Actor Shia LaBeouf | photo credit: John Bauld

The Transformer actor has been on the gossip pages lately, ranging from an arrest for public intoxication in 2017 to being sued by his former partner for an allegedly abusive relationship.

Of course, Mr. LaBeouf’s association with the early part of this film doesn’t likely have any direct relation to the, er, the phantom loogie. Merely mentioning his name generates a lot of attention, which is most likely why he’s being associated with this story at all—

Ok, let’s fast forward to yesterday.

The scene is the Venice Film Festival. The stars, the red carpet, and the incomparable beauty of “The City of Bridges” are on display for everyone to see. 

Only the day before, it was Brendan Fraser’s bodily fluids being spilled on the cinema floor after receiving a six-minute standing ovation for his performance in The Whale. His tears were a welcome respite from the uglier side of celebrities, most of whom seem to follow the LaBeouf method. 

But by tonight, all that goodwill had evaporated from the festival carpet like so much salty water at the premiere of Ms. Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling starring Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Ms. Wilde herself and her boyfriend, Harry Styles.

Tensions are rumored to have been relatively high on the set, not least because of the mid-shoot breakup of the director’s relationship with her ex, Jason Sudeikis.

Wilde used to have a long-term romance with the Ted Lasso actor until 2020, when she was served custody papers on stage at a publicity stop for the film. They got engaged in 2012 and have two kids, a boy aged 8 and a girl aged 5.  

But, again, there’s no correlation between that spicy tidbit (sorry, alleged spicy tidbit) and the possible wad of saliva from last night. 

Or is there? Who knows.

An anonymous “insider” on the Darling set reportedly said that lead actress Florence Pugh was upset at Styles and Wilde being “all over each other on set” because she was still with Sudekis. Pugh has not promoted the film much and hasn’t been with the rest of the cast very often for publicity events either.

That pretty much brings us up to date for last night at the Festival, which was apparently Chris Pine’s turn to get dragged down into the mire. 

Some say this footage below clearly shows Styles hocking a wet one on Pine’s lap as he sits down for the film’s premiere. 

Others say there’s nothing but hot air here. 

Then there is the “Zapruder” angle to consider. 

Regardless of what anyone might see in these clips, the news media types have descended on this cultural zeitgeist moment like an appropriate simile. It’s almost as if you can’t spit without hitting an entertainment post about this controversy. 

Even Chirs Pine’s representative contacted the media to address this raging firestorm (or waterspout?) to say that it was a “ridiculous story—a complete fabrication…” adamantly declaring that Mr. Styles “did not spit on Chris Pine.”

The rep went further to say there was “nothing but respect” between the two men.

Is #spitgate, as they used to say, a nothing burger? An example of puerile celebrity behavior? Or perhaps it’s the teaser trailer to Oscar-slap II, the Loogie Heard Round the World?  

The world braces to find out the truth hidden in #spitgate. 

Don’t Worry Darling is about a housewife living in an experimental suburb in 1950s America who suspects her husband is up to something nefarious, and it opens on September 23. 

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