Hollywood has seen some strange stories over the years, but what happened last week was incredibly bizarre, even by movie industry standards. Nothing, it seems, can properly prepare people for the social media spectacle and fallout that followed after Olivia Wilde mysteriously got the custody papers onstage at CinemaCon.
Wilde — who shares two children with Jason Sudeikis, to whom she was formerly engaged — made comments to present a trailer for her upcoming film, the psychological thriller “Don’t Worry Darling,” to theater owners. The convention marked Wilde’s first major industrial introduction to the film she directed, starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles. Here’s another wrinkle: Styles also happens to be Wilde’s real beauty, which means almost everyone involved has a bold name.
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“This is for me?” asked a stunned Wilde when a manila envelope was suddenly handed to her onstage by an unidentified person who appears to be a process server. Wilde took care of the case on the spot but did not hesitate and continued with her presentation where the first images of the film were shown.
Sudeikis said he didn’t know his ex was going to get custody papers at CinemaCon.
“Documents have been prepared to establish jurisdiction over Ms. Wilde and Mr. Sudeikis’ children,” a source said in a statement. Variety† “Mr. Sudeikis had no prior knowledge of the time or place the envelope would have been delivered as that would be the sole responsibility of the involved process service company and he would never condone her being served in such an inappropriate manner.
How is it possible that an A-list star wouldn’t know that his kids’ A-list mom would be getting paperwork in the midst of a much-talked-about work event? Does that make any sense?
“This is highly unlikely. While a lawyer is not required to consult a client before deciding how and when to serve, this is routinely done in the field to avoid these types of apparent errors,” said family law specialist David Glass. Varietyadding that while it is “possible” that Sudeikis would not have known, it is not “probable”.
To further add to the mystery, CinemaCon doesn’t announce the lineup in advance, as does Warner Bros., the studio that distributes “Don’t Worry Darling.” That means audience members wouldn’t have known that Wilde would be attending the convention, so the process server would have been given advance information about Wilde’s whereabouts to show up at the exact time of her presentation. Tickets to CinemaCon, a trade event (not a fan) cost over $1,200. At that price, would a process server really have paid its own way into the event, without deleting it first?
“The family law attorney usually consults with his or her client about where and when the other party can be found and how it will be served,” Glass adds.
The legal expert, who also has a PhD in psychology, explains that it is usually the attorney — not the process server — who devises the method to serve, and then sends papers to the process server. “Usually the attorney will give different ideas of where and when to serve, a photo, maybe the description of the car, and instruct the process server how you’d like it to be,” Glass says. “It’s extremely rare for a process server to do research on its own and figure out how to serve.”
Since Sudeikis and Wilde are both public figures who have handlers on their payroll (who work to prevent these kinds of public mishaps), the expert says it’s even more unlikely that there would have been no consultation or awareness. “Celebrities have business executives, agents, and in this case, a lawyer,” Glass says. “They all have a job to protect their client.”
When contacted by Variety, a representative of Sudeikis declined to comment on this story. Wilde’s representative did not respond to comment.
Glass says issuing custody papers is usually done when the kids aren’t around, so maybe when the parent involved is at home, work or the gym. But the public occasion would not be necessary unless there is some particular reason for making such a statement, or it is the… nothing but place where you could find the person.
“It’s a relatively simple process and this type of service is generally not necessary unless the person has been avoiding the service for a while, and this was the only way you could help them,” Glass says.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with Wilde, who hasn’t exactly been in hiding lately. She is regularly picked on by the paparazzi and last month she was spotted at Coachella watching Styles perform.
Sudeikis says he had no foreknowledge of the situation. But regardless of his awareness, the story has now entered the public sphere. That means it will undoubtedly come to the attention of the judge. Variety’The legal expert says this could affect the court’s decision in the custody battle, although many other considerations will also be considered.
“One of those factors is the way in which the parties interact and whether each parent supports the other parent in his or her role. That was not done here by the Sudeikis team,” says Glass.
“Unfortunately, as both children are primary school age, they can hear about this from friends, who have heard about it from their parents or through the internet. It’s a bad start to a custody case where the kids need to be shielded as much as possible,” Glass added. “Hopefully the parties get into custody mediation, figure out how they will share their two children and keep the rest of this case out of the press.”
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