The Weeknd, lead actress Lily-Rose Depp and HBO have responded to new reported allegations that production of the upcoming series The Idol has been a “shitshow”, as one source put it.
In a new report from Rolling Stone, 13 anonymous sources from the show’s cast and crew spoke on the production of the anticipated series. They allege that The Idol, which is expected to premiere sometime this year, has been plagued by delays, rewrites and reshoots that took a turn for the worse with Euphoria showrunner Sam Levinson at the helm.
Tesfaye has since responded to Rolling Stone’s report by tagging the publication in a clip from the show on Twitter. In the clip, Tesfaye’s and Depp’s characters, Tedros and Jocelyn, are seen shutting down a cover story pitch from the magazine, arguing that it’s “irrelevant” and that the publication, which is dwindling in readership, has nothing to offer Jocelyn. The Weeknd tagged the publication in his tweet with a question: “did we upset you?”
.@RollingStone did we upset you? pic.twitter.com/Uyx06lyRgx
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) March 1, 2023
Rolling Stone’s report claims that the show, which was supposed to offer a satirical take on Hollywood’s dark model of fame and fortune, has turned into its own kind of monster. One production member is quoted saying it has become “like any rape fantasy that any toxic man would have in the show — and then the woman comes back for more because it makes her music better”.
Levinson, who is co-creator of The Idol, took over directorial duties after Amy Seimetz left The Idol with nearly 80 per cent of the project being completed, Rolling Stone reports. Levinson reportedly went on to rehaul the project with multiple rewrites and reshoots, allegedly adding more nudity and disturbing sexual content.
Several crew members claimed that through Levinson’s rewrites, the show’s overall message changed. One alleged: “It was a show about a woman who was finding herself sexually, turned into a show about a man who gets to abuse this woman and she loves it.”
Other sources speaking to Rolling Stone claimed that several scripts included graphic scenes between Tesfaye and Depp that were never filmed. They alleged that the scenes involved Tesfaye beating Depp’s face bloody, with Depp begging for more, resulting in Tesfaye developing an erection. Another alleged scene would have seen Depp beg for Tesfaye to sexually assault her.
Though Levinson declined to comment to Rolling Stone, Lily-Rose Depp has issued a statement to Variety calling him “the best director I have ever worked with”. Depp said: “Never have I felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued. Working with Sam is a true collaboration in every way – it matters to him, more than anything, not only what his actors think about the work, but how we feel performing it. He hires people whose work he esteems and has always created an environment in which I felt seen, heard, and appreciated.”
HBO has also denied the allegations in Rolling Stone’s report, saying in a statement to Variety: “The initial approach on the show and production of the early episodes, unfortunately, did not meet HBO standards so we chose to make a change. Throughout the process, the creative team has been committed to creating a safe, collaborative, and mutually respectful working environment, and last year, the team made creative changes they felt were in the best interest of both the production and the cast and crew.
The Idol has received three trailers since it was first announced in mid-2021, though a release date has yet to be determined. Besides Tesfaye and Depp, the series will also feature BLACKPINK’s Jennie Kim, Troye Sivan, Dan Levy, Moses Sumney, Eli Roth and more in supporting roles.
In April 2022, Deadline reported that the show was getting a rehaul as Tesfaye was unhappy with the show’s creative direction, which at the time reportedly focused too much on “the female perspective” of Depp’s character, rather than his own.