One of the big stories over the last couple of days is about The Weeknd’s HBO series, The Idol. The network describes it as the “sleaziest love story in all of Hollywood” and according to a new report in Rolling Stone, it sounds like the show is just as f-cked up behind the scenes.
This is the story of a pop star, played by Lily Rose Depp, who becomes entangled with a cult leader, played by The Weeknd; it’s a meditation on the downside of fame, the exploitative reality of the music industry with, told through a young woman’s lens as she tries to reclaim her agency.
According to Rolling Stone’s 13 sources, however, many of whom came from inside production, that’s no longer what the series will be, as Amy Seimetz, the director who worked on 80% of the episodes, left the project last year due to creative differences and after Sam Levinson took over. Sam Levinson, of course, is Euphoria. And under his creative influence, allegedly, The Idol has become “torture porn” with excessive amounts of nudity and even going so far as rape fantasy. At least that’s what the sources are claiming.
They’re also sharing with Rolling Stone that production has been chaotic, as scripts are unfinished, schedules are incomplete, and the whole thing is overbudget because they’ve essentially scrapped most of what they did when Amy Seimetz was involved and under the leadership of Sam Levinson, the situation has become even more chaotic. Sources say that one of the reasons they wanted to pretty much start over again was because Sam and Abel felt that the show had too much of a “feminist lens” which tracks with what Deadline reported way back in April of 2022.
HBO and Lily Rose Depp have since issued statements clarifying that while HBO was not happy with what was delivered during the first production run, it’s all been a collaborative and healthy process and that cast and crew have been protected and respected. Lily went so far as to say that Sam is “the best director I have ever worked with”.
But this isn’t the first time Sam’s competency has been called into question. Last year, around this time, when Euphoria season two was criticised for its oversexualisation of certain characters and the inconsistency of others, The Daily Beast published an exclusive in February of 2022 with similar accounts from people working on Euphoria that are similar to what Rolling Stone is saying about The Idol. As Cody wrote when he covered the story, “as an actor on the show, it sounds like your experience can be wildly different depending on whether or not you’re Sam’s favourite”. Lily Rose Depp may be the Zendaya in this situation.
There will, no doubt, be more people stepping forward to defend Sam, Abel, The Idol, and HBO. Perhaps all of Rolling Stones sources just have an ax to grind, disgruntled employees who are trying to build on the rumours that came out of Euphoria. Here’s The Weeknd’s response to Rolling Stone’s article:
.@RollingStone did we upset you? pic.twitter.com/Uyx06lyRgx— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) March 1, 2023
I’m not sure…umm….that scene is the best response to a story that suggests that your show isn’t any good?
Still, that’s TWO back-to-back shows with Sam Levinson that feature young performers, and a lot of sex and provocative storylines, and a reputation of being disorganised and unprepared. What would happen if this were a woman? Sam is HBO’s golden boy and Rolling Stone’s sources are implying that they need to keep him happy because Euphoria is one of their most prized titles. And they are likely banking on the possibility that even if the series, whenever it makes it to air, was an expensive pain in the ass to produce, the controversy and provocation will only help it, because it’s exactly the kind of thing that will become a cultural talking point.
If that really is the case though, it only perpetuates the cycle of toxicity that Hollywood claims to want to change, reinforcing the mantra that has sustained the business for far too long: that everything is permissible for the sake of art.
On that note, let me balance all this sh-t out with a much better example of how to achieve artistic greatness without compromising values. Sarah Polley’s film, Women Talking (or Women ARE Talking, if you ask Mark Wahlberg) has been nominated for two Oscars, including Best Picture. We interviewed cast member Michelle McLeod a few weeks ago on The Social and she told us about Sarah’s leadership, about how it was the most efficient and accommodating production she’d ever worked on. All you need to know is one detail: every day they wrapped on time, because Sarah knew that so many cast and crew members had families and young children, ensuring that they could all go home and be with their families – all while delivering on one of the most widely acclaimed films of the year.
Yours in gossip,