The nude truth: The scandals behind Lily Rose Depp’s show ‘The Idol’
The Idol seemed to have everything going for it. The upcoming HBO series had star power in Lily-Rose Depp and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, as well as a red hot showrunner in Sam Levinson. The latter is perhaps best known for creating Euphoria, which proved to be a cultural and ratings juggernaut for HBO, and The Idol looked as though it would explore similarly taboo topics with style.
That may not be the case anymore. The wheels have come off The Idol, and we’re not even close to a proper release date. Rolling Stone ran a harrowing feature on the production of the series, which details Levinson’s controlling behavior and decision to change the original pitch to resemble something closer to “torture porn.”
Here’s what you need to know about the showrunner’s alleged implosion.
Levinson had a lot of clout heading into The Idol, because of the aforementioned success of Euphoria. The original point of the series was to satirize Hollywood exploitation and the cult of celebrity that has taken root in the internet age, which was compounded by the casting of a “nepo-baby” like Depp and a pop star like Tesfaye. Amy Seimetz was brought on to direct, while Levinson would serve as producer and showrunner.
The production proved to be difficult from the start, however, with Seimetz being forced to make due with unfinished scripts, a tight filming schedule, and a sprawling cast of supporting players and extras. A production member told Rolling Stone that Seimetz never stood a chance against Levinson’s impractical demands. “Amy was doing her best in an impossible situation”, they conceded. “But she was going to lose this no matter what.”
The director eventually exited the project, despite it being 80% completed, and Levinson decided to start from scratch. This led to a revision of the show’s themes, and a scrapping of the “female perspective” that had informed the shoot during Seimetz’s tenure. Tesfaye was reportedly annoyed by the attention the women in the cast were getting over his character, and Levinson prioritized the pop star in his new iteration.
Descent into chaos
Things only got worse when Levinson took over. The production schedules and budgets for each episode ballooned, and actors were left in the dark when it came to what was being filmed on a given day. There was a sudden emphasis on “explicit content”, and because Levinson stopped submitting scripts to HBO for approval, he was able to incorporate increasingly disturbing scenarios involving Depp and Tesfaye’s characters.
The Rolling Stone article highlights a few, and they are truly disturbing. One involves Tesfaye’s character hitting Depp’s, only for her to ask for more. This causes Tesfaye’s character to get aroused, and the abuse continues. Another scenario involves Depp’s character placing an egg in her genitals, and then begging Tesfaye’s character to sexually assault her. Like we said, disturbing.
Neither scene was filmed, with the egg situation being scrapped because the crew could not figure out how to simulate what was being depicted without actually doing it. “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,” one source explains.
The Idol is in uncharted waters. It’s rare that a series gets so much negative press ahead of its release, and the dubious behavior of both Levinson and Tesfaye is going to turn off lots of fans who would’ve otherwise tuned it. There’s also the press tour to consider, and the sorts of questions that the cast is going to have to answer given what we now know.
There’s no set release date for The Idol, and representatives for HBO and Levinson have not yet responded to the Rolling Stone piece. One could propose that the network tweak the series to get it closer to its original pitch, but they’ve already sunk so much time and money into it already that filming it a third time would seem financially unwise. One thing’s for sure: Levinson’s reputation is not going to recover.
Are you going to watch The Idol when it comes out?