When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Hollywood has been slow to change, to say the least. But refreshingly, the directors behind some of today’s buzziest films are using their platform to shift industry paradigms and foster a more equitable workplace. For example, Olivia Wilde enforces a strict “no assholes policy” on her film sets — it’s actually the reason she fired Shia LaBeouf from her second feature, Don’t Worry Darling, last September and replaced him with Harry Styles.
In conversation with Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) for Variety’s “Directors on Directors” series, Wilde (Booksmart) explained the utility of her rule: “The no assholes policy puts everybody on the same level,” she said. “I think that it is an unfortunate part of the paradigm that has been created over the past 100 years, the idea that great art has to come from a place of discomfort and anxiety. That the pressure cooker has to get to a point where it can be something intense and valuable in that way.”
She continued. “I do think it may be a uniquely female instinct to say, ‘Look, we can be nurturing. And we can multitask.’ It doesn’t mean that anyone needs to be uncomfortable. And it doesn’t mean that I have to constantly remind you of my position, because I don’t think anyone on a set has ever forgotten who’s in charge. It’s in fact, an incredibly hierarchical system,” she said.
LeBeouf’s departure from Don’t Worry Darling was initially cited as a scheduling conflict. That was three months before FKA Twigs filed a bombshell lawsuit against the actor alleging he abused her. In late December, Variety reported that Wilde actually fired LaBeouf from her film in September for displaying bad behavior and clashing with the cast and crew. She found him "off-putting," according to a source close to the film, who added: “He is not an easy guy to work with.”
Screaming at crew members might work for Tom Cruise, but Wilde said she thinks aggression is counterproductive. “Someone, who’s a very established actor and director in this industry, gave me really terrible advice that was helpful, because I just knew I had to do the opposite. They said, ‘Listen, the way to get respect on a set, you have to have three arguments a day. Three big arguments that reinstate your power, remind everyone who’s in charge, be the predator.’ That is the opposite of my process. And I want none of that,” Wilde explained.
“This idea of having three arguments a day, where do you differentiate between something that is really important, and something that isn’t?” Fennell noted in response. “I agree completely [that] there’s a sort of idea that being a tormented artist is the route to genius. I really do think, as I’ve sort of gotten older, it is just a mask for a lot of fear and anxiety,” she observed.
Good thing lots more women are helming buzzy films these days. Perhaps artists like Fennell and Wilde will nudge Hollywood toward a kinder, more collaborative future. Movies would be better for it.