As far as celebrity altercations go, 2022 already had a defining one: It hasn’t even been six months since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on live television during this year’s Academy Awards. But now I’m afraid we’ve got another bizarre, hostile (?) interaction between two celebrities to overanalyze: The slap, meet the spit.
This time the Oscars stage has been swapped out for the Venice Film Festival’s Sala Grande, and in the role of alleged aggressor we have pop star Harry Styles versus the alleged aggrieved: film star and notorious member of the cabal of Hollywood Chrises Chris Pine. On Monday, a clip of the two sitting down to watch the premiere of their film Don’t Worry Darling began circulating and sparked feverish speculation online because it looked to some—though, importantly, not to all—like Styles had surreptitiously hocked a loogie onto Pine’s lap. Basically, it’s a spat over whether somebody spat.
Leading up to Venice, the Don’t Worry Darling press tour had already been something of a debacle, as I explained in sad detail here, but most of the chatter was focused on the film’s director, Olivia Wilde, its lead actress, Florence Pugh, and the alleged rift between them. Styles, who is Wilde’s partner, and Pine, who has a supporting role in the film, were peripheral players at best. The possible spitting incident capped off a day of micro-developments in the saga: Pugh had skipped the press conference at the festival (at which Pine had been photographed looking bored out of his mind as Styles spouted nonsense answers), only to appear in a video strutting around with an Aperol spritz in a sleek purple ensemble. Maybe she was just wearing clothes, maybe it was a “revenge outfit”: Depends how you interpret it. Pugh then walked the red carpet, but supposedly never spoke to, acknowledged, or was photographed next to Wilde, and the two sat with several people in between them at the screening itself. Pugh’s stylist even joined the fray, weighing in via caption. There was further drama with Pugh leaving the auditorium before the standing ovation had ended, and so on. Meanwhile, the film itself got some decidedly mediocre reviews.
Then, this happened:
That we are now debating the existence of a wad of saliva is fitting, because this whole press cycle has been defined by fans and internet sleuths reading between the lines and seeing things that may or may not be there. It’s possible to read everything about Don’t Worry Darling and draw the conclusion that Pugh never said a single negative word about Wilde or the film, just as it’s possible to watch the clip of Harry allegedly aiming some drool at Pine and see nothing. People online have called it our generation’s Zapruder film.
What actually happened? You can judge the footage for yourself, from several angles and in slow motion if you like. I am of the opinion that Styles’ face and mouth look a whole lot like they are spitting. Perhaps more damning, to me, it seems like Pine looks down at exactly where the spit would have landed in his lap, stops clapping, and makes a face like he is insulted and can’t believe someone would do such a rude thing in public—a “Really? Really?” kind of face—before quickly recovering and deciding to be a good sport because he knows so many eyes are on him. There was a reason I called Pine the Chris Rock of this situation—he takes it like a pro. As for why Styles would spit, that’s a completely different question, one I certainly don’t have the answer to.
So that’s the “the spit occurred” side: the Spexit-ers. The best evidence I can see for the other side, the “no spit”/remainers side, is that I never actually saw any spit. Not a drop, not a globule, nowhere. (Styles, it’s worth noting, denied the whole thing, as has Pine.) However, the faces so clearly telegraph something that I find it rather amazing that not everyone believes in Spexit. For this reason, perhaps a better comparison than The Slap is The Dress: Wasn’t that the last time so many people looked at the same image and saw wildly different things? Unless some really compelling evidence emerges that proves otherwise—possibly in the form of whatever is on the camera of the woman sitting a few rows behind the two visibly filming—I’ll be sticking with my take: The dress is black and blue, and Harry totally spit.