“The Idol” is the altar Sam Levinson is willing to stake his career on.
At the Cannes Film Festival, Levinson, who co-created the HBO series with Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye and Reza Fahim, addressed the Viral Rolling Stone report claiming that the series was a behind-the-scenes disaster that glorified “torture porn”. The six-part limited series starring Lily-Rose Depp and Tesfaye hosted its premiere in Cannes on May 22, where Levinson and the cast decried rumors of chaos on set.
“We know we are doing a show that is provocative. We didn’t miss it, but it’s strange,” Levinson said during the festival press conference. “Because when my wife read the article to me, I said, ‘I think we’re about to do the biggest show of the summer.’ In terms of the specifics of what was inside, it felt completely foreign to me. But I know who I am.
Levinson continued, “People can write whatever they want. If I have one small objection, it’s that they intentionally omitted everything that didn’t fit their narrative. But I think we’ve seen a lot of that lately.
Co-creator and star Tesfaye echoed that the collaborative process has resulted in a series that will “make some people laugh and piss some people off.”
‘The Idol’ went through a huge reshoot, a casting change and a director change before launching at Cannes. Levinson stepped in to direct all episodes after Amy Seimetz exited the series despite production nearing completion. After seeing the rough cut of the nearly completed ‘The Idol’, lead star and co-creator Tesfaye ‘decided to change course’, according to a recent report, and has enlisted Levinson as director after completing ‘Euphoria’ season 2. ” .
At the Cannes premiere, however, plot details involving vengeful porn, rape jokes, and other potentially problematic references set the internet ablaze. Levinson admitted that “The Idol” is a reaction to the fact that “we live in a very sexualized world” and said the show serves as a reflection of how pop culture has been pornofied.
“Especially in the United States, the influence of pornography is really strong in terms of the psyche of young people in the United States. And we see that in pop music and how it kind of reflects the weak underbelly of the internet,” Levinson said. “I think with this show and working with Lily, we’ve had a lot of discussions about who she is as a person, who (her character) Jocelyn is as a person (and) from that point, the sexuality comes out of that character.I think it’s very true to what almost all pop stars are doing these days.
Protagonist Depp added that she “never felt more involved in those kinds of conversations” than when it came to explicit scenes and nudity. “I felt I had the privilege of creating this character, from the inside out and the outside in,” Depp said.
He added of the rumors of a chaotic set, “It’s always a little sad and disheartening to see this petty, false stuff about someone you really care about and know you don’t.”
Co-star Hank Azaria joked that he was “always trying to put blankets” on Depp, jokingly asking if she was “cold” in her various states of undress on set. The “Simpsons” alum called reports of Levinson’s unconventional directing style a misunderstanding of his creative approach.
“It would be like going to the set of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ or a Judd Apatow movie, where people improvise brilliantly and say, ‘Oh, they don’t have to know their lines,’” Azaria said. “I’ve been on many dysfunctional sets, this was the complete opposite. I felt challenged for the first time in many many years.
Actress Jane Adams added, “I agree 100%. I feel very strongly about it. It was one of the best creative experiences I’ve ever had. Can’t we just create? Can’t we have freedom of thought? Can’t things be messy?
Eric Kohn contributed to the reporting. “The Idol” will premiere on HBO on June 4th.