Home / word wide / The Don’t Worry Darling press tour is a disaster but Fifty Shades of Grey’s was even worse

The Don’t Worry Darling press tour is a disaster but Fifty Shades of Grey’s was even worse

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson were mortified, author EL James was furious; and director Sam Taylor-Johnson refused to watch her own film


Film promotion: we all know the drill. Regardless of whether the closest we will ever come to Cannes is the tuna in the kitchen cupboard, we’re still fully appraised of red carpet etiquette. Male lead dresses up in a tux. Female lead dresses up in an expensive, flesh-revealing evening gown which may be panned by critics regardless how good her film might be. Both effect rictus grins and gush at every opportunity about how talented, inspiring and wonderful their co-star is, and how truly humbling, amazing and life-changing it was to work with them.

That’s the script, anyway. But as recent events have proven, actors don’t always stick to it. So problematic and unwieldy was the press tour for Olivia Wilde’s psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling (punctuation pedants will claim the lack of comma in its title was portentous) that the internet quipped that it should have its own IMDB review. Certainly, as many column inches have been devoted to whether Harry Styles spat at Chris Pine fell out with co-star Florence Pugh/dumped girlfriend Olivia Wilde as to the film itself.

Whether the promotional tour was as rancorous as headlines suggested, we will never truly know. While the internet claims to have “solved” the mystery behind #spitgate (apparently, Pine looked down at his lap not in surprise at seeing a globule of Style’s finest sputum, but because he’d unexpectedly found his misplaced sunglasses), it’s less easy to put any kind of positive spin on co-star Florence Pugh’s minimal participation in the publicity tour. She skipped the official press conference at the Venice Film Festival, was first to exit the screening and became an icon of “quiet quitting” after her stylist shared a video to Instagram of Pugh strolling down a Venetian street sipping an Aperol Spritz as the press conference rolled on.

While the promotional tour for DWD may not have been all hearts and flowers, by no means is it the most disastrous or embittered of all time. That prize would have to go to erotic drama 50 Shades of Grey. On paper, you can see why studio executives thought they were onto a surefire box office hit. At the height of their popularity, two copies of EL James’s trilogy were being sold per second, an incredible uptake that even the mighty #Booktok would struggle to achieve today. Fans were obsessed with Christian Grey and his sadomasochistic shenanigans, and desperate to see the fictional object of their lust brought to life in glorious Technicolor. What could possibly go wrong?

It would be less onerous to list what went right. Perhaps it was money that lay at the root of the jaw-dropping, cringe-making ickfest that saw Jamie Dornan (who played Christian Grey after Charlie Hunnan dropped out) and Dakota Johnson (Anastasia Steele) engage in months and months of mortifying press junkets for the $40 million budget film. Despite its eventual success at the box office Forbes reports that it made $550m worldwide – multiple reports state that both leads were paid $250,000 for their roles, a figure they were allegedly so unhappy with that they both negotiated seven figure salaries to star in the sequel.

Or perhaps, as many people suggested at the time, it was chemistry or rather, lack of that was the cause of the film’s disastrous press blitz. The more interviews Dornan and Johnson gave, the more damning the verdict on their compatibility. 15 Inanimate Objects With More Chemistry Than Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, was a headline on New York magazine’s The Cut, while Jezebel’s read Fifty Shades Stars Can’t F______ Stand Each Other”. They both seemed so awkward about the film that at one point Johnson even pleaded for nobody to watch it, even if she tried to pass it off as a joke. “I don’t want my family to see [the movie], because it’s inappropriate. Or my brothers’ friends, who I grew up with. I think they’d be like, ‘Blegh.’ Also there’s part of me that’s like, I don’t want anyone to see this movie Just kidding.

With hindsight it’s clear that the problem wasn’t so much with Dornan and Johnson’s chemistry, as with the nature of the questions they were being asked, day after day, month after month. This being a film about sex  and not just vanilla sex, but sadomasochistic sex  both actors would have been naive not to have expected to be quizzed about the subject in interview. But the relentlessness, charmlessness and dreariness of the questions would surely have even sent the Obamas hot-footing it to the divorce courts.

How many times can you explain that, for an actor, doing sex scenes is about as arousing as emptying the dishwasher? “Filming a sex scene is not a sensual or pleasurable environment,’ Johnson told Time magazine. It’s really hot not in a steamy, sexual way. It’s just sweaty and not very comfortable. Dornan was equally candid. Anyone who thinks actors get turned on doing sex scenes in films is mistaken, he told a British newspaper. There are dozens of hairy men standing around, moving cables and lighting equipment. That’s not sexy unless you’re into being watched, which I’m not. Way to kill the mood, Jamie.

As foreplay goes, there are few things less tantalising than listening to two actors passionately discussing how boring it was to film their sex scenes. This was not the lascivious vision of Christian and Anastasia that the public wanted to buy into. “I’m a dad!” Dornan exclaimed in another interview, in which he detailed having had to visit a sex dungeon in the name of research. No doubt it was particularly taxing to be questioned in depth about your sex life when you’d recently become a father for the first time, as Dornan had, but it’s hard to keep those erotic Christian Grey fantasies alive when the man who plays Christian is talking about nappies. Comments under YouTube interviews with the pair gleefully tucked into the actors’ apparent mortification. “You can tell neither of them want to be there. could Dakota BE more embarrassed? the awkwardness.

But then, was there ever a press tour where the topic of sex didn’t cause some sort of issue? While promoting Passengers in 2016, the usually affable Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt prematurely ended a radio interview after being asked about the most adventurous place they had ever had sex, in light of an adventurous sex scene from the film. During the promotion of Don’t Worry Darling, Florence Pugh was critical of the way director Olivia Wilde chose to focus on the film’s most salacious elements its sex scenes in the trailer.

“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,” Pugh told Harper’s Bazaar. “It’s not why I’m in this industry Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that. That’s just not what I’m going to be discussing because [this movie is] bigger and better than that. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that.”

Perhaps with the passage of time, Pugh will feel differently. Seven years after its release, Johnson finally spoke honestly about her experience of making the 50 Shades trilogy, in an interview with Vanity Fair, finally laying to rest long-held rumours that she and Jamie Dornan had bad blood. “There was never a time when we didn’t get along. He’s like a brother to me. And we were really there for each other. We had to really trust and protect each other.”

She also admitted that while she doesn’t regret making the films, she doubts that “anyone would’ve done it” if they had known how “psychotic” the process would be. She further revealed that she signed on to what was supposed to be a very different film than it turned out to be. “I’m a sexual person that’s why I did those big naked movies. I signed up to do a very different version of the film we ended up making. She [EL James] had a lot of creative control, all day, every day, and she just demanded that certain things happen. It was always a battle. Always.” She also added of her three-film contract: “I was young. I was 23. So it was scary. There were a lot of disagreements. I haven’t been able to talk about this truthfully ever, because you want to promote a movie the right way, but it was tricky.”

EL James’s level of creative control was also an issue for the film’s director, Sam Taylor-Johnson. “It was difficult, I’m not going to lie,” she told Porter in 2015. “We definitely fought… we would have proper on-set barneys, and I’m not confrontational.” In 2017, she was more candid still, telling IndieWire that the film almost derailed her career, and how she struggled to secure another directing role. “I literally was scrambling still, in exactly the same position I was prior to that.” She also revealed she was “not ever going to watch” the films: “I have literally no interest.”

Whether you’re an actress or a director, inequality still runs rife in the film industry. It’s hard not to argue that Olivia Wilde’s treatment has been misogynistic, and that a male director wouldn’t have had to suffer intrusive questions about their relationships as she has. Female filmmakers are still underrepresented, and struggle to get their films financed more than men.

Titillating as it might be to read about the on and off-screen spats involved in 50 Shades and DWD, as Taylor-Johnson has attested, they’re also damaging, and can perpetuate the idea that female directors are a risk, and can’t keep their cast in check. “Tabloid media is a tool to pit women against one another and to shame them,” Wilde recently told Variety. However disastrous the press tours, perhaps we should save our real judgement for the films.

About Zohaib Boorat

Check Also

Emma Stone Almost Came Back As Spider-Man’s Gwen Stacy…And Carnage?

One idea that Sony considered for an Amazing Spider-Man sequel was having Gwen Stacy return …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.