Harry Styles is in the midst of a Madison Square Garden residency of sorts, playing 15 shows (with interruptions for other events) at the venerated New York City venue. But he’s also at the dawn of a film career, with his two first significant cinematic roles – in My Policeman and Don’t Worry Darling – debuting this year following his small part in the 2017 war film Dunkirk.
And if you thought My Policeman – the flick where Styles plays a closeted gay policeman in the repressive 1950s – was going to steal the majority of the headlines, Twitter wags would like a word.
Don’t Worry Darling — the Olivia Wilde-directed drama starring Harry Styles, Florence Pugh and Chris Pine — might be justified in worrying about critical response, but it certainly can’t fret over publicity. While the psychological thriller currently holds a dismal 42% on Rotten Tomatoes despite a standing four-minute ovation at the Venice International Film Festival, there’s been no shortage of articles, social media posts and late-night jokes about Wilde’s second directorial effort, following her layered teen comedy Booksmart in 2019.
The chatter started with rumors of discord among the cast, but gossip was drooled by, err, fueled by, footage that many took to be a video of Styles projecting spit into Pine’s direction before sitting down next to him. Absurd? Certainly. The idea that an internationally renowned, carefully manicured pop star who currently tops the Billboard Hot 100 and is at the start of his acting career would publicly indulge in a childish power move doesn’t track. But sometimes, Twitter commentary can function like an inspired Mystery Science Theater 3000 joke – once you’ve heard it, you can’t interpret the situation any other way, even though you’re fully aware that’s not what any of the original players intended.
Following the spit-cident, Pine’s rep said the fluidity of the speculation didn’t reflect the fluidity of the situation: “Just to be clear, Harry Styles did NOT spit on Chris Pine … there is nothing but respect between these two men and any suggestion otherwise is a blatant attempt to create drama that simply does not exist.”
During his Wednesday (Sept. 7) show, the “As It Was” singer laughed off the internet-made drama. “I just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine,” he told the crowd, who shrieked in response. “Fear not, we’re back.”
Will Harry’s joke about the situation finally quell the endless social media jokes? Or will Don’t Worry Darling be defined by non-existent expectoration? One thing is for sure: Cast Harry Styles in your movie, and you have a built-in option for changing the narrative when those middling reviews come in.