She implemented the policy after another director gave her "really terrible advice" that she should have arguments on set to "remind everyone who's in charge, be the predator."
Sometimes the worst advice can be the best advice -- just so long as you do the exact opposite of what was advised. That's how Olivia Wilde has framed a working film set that she can be comfortable on as a director, dubbed her "no a--holes policy."
The topic first gained attention a year ago after Shia LaBeouf was replaced by Harry Styles in her new movie "Don't Worry Darling" for reportedly violating it.
Speaking with fellow actress-turned-director Emerald Fennell for Variety, Wilde said it was inspired by some "really terrible advice" she received from a "very established actor and director in this industry."
"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.'"
Wilde quickly realized, "That is the opposite of my process. And I want none of that." And so she made it official, implementing the famous policy, among others intended to create a more harmonious, equal and inclusive working environment.
"It puts everybody on the same level," explained Wilde.
Another policy is to remove the "hierarchy of the set separated the actors from the crew in this very strange way that serves no one." It's been seen countless times in films about actors, where they're handled with kid gloves, ushered into and out of their trailers as needed and always the crew is told not to bother them or talk to them unless absolutely necessary.
"I think actors would actually like to know more about what's happening there when you're pulling my focus? What is that lens change? But the idea of, don't bother the actors and keep them separate, and don't look at them," Wilde said. "I think it makes everyone quite anxious."
She told Fennell she believes this dynamic may have been developed through decades of masculine dominance in the creation of this style of art. "The idea that great art has to come from a place of discomfort and anxiety," she said. "That the pressure cooker has to get to a point where it can be something intense and valuable in that way."
"I do think it may be a uniquely female instinct to say, 'Look, we can be nurturing. And we can multitask,'" Wilde continued. "It doesn’t mean that anyone needs to be uncomfortable. And it doesn’t mean that I have to constantly remind you of my my position, because I don’t think anyone on a set has ever forgotten who’s in charge."
LaBeouf was originally cast to star opposite Florence Pugh as her husband in "Don't Worry Darling," but was let go in September 2020 before shooting had even begun, citing scheduling conflicts. Per Variety, sources reported in December that it was because he violated Wilde's policy.
As they put it, the director found him "not an easy guy to work with" and said that he "displayed poor behavior and his style clashed with cast and crew." Wilde had previously expressed support for FKA Twigs after the latter had filed suit against LaBeouf alleging abuse.
In response, LaBeouf told the New York Times that while "many of these allegations are not true," he does not feel he is "in the position to defend any of my actions." Without addressing any specific allegations, he said he is in a twelve-step program and therapy for "my many failings" and apologized "to the people that I may have harmed along the way."
Now starring Styles and Pugh, as well as Dakota Johnson and Chris Pine, Wilde's "Don't Worry Darling" is back in production, following Covid delays late last year.