When it was reported that the buzzy upcoming HBO show The Idol was undergoing massive production changes last April, all anyone could do was speculate on the supposed “new creative direction” it would take. Interest in the show was high, given its all-star cast consisting of co-creator Abel Tesfaye (better known as The Weeknd) and Lily-Rose Depp and the involvement of high-profile producer Sam Levinson of Euphoria fame.
However, a new report from Rolling Stone suggests that the changes have mostly been for the worst, with the show going from “a dark satire of fame and the fame model in the 21st century,” according to one production member, “to the thing it was satirizing.”
The show, which was to follow Depp’s character as she became involved in a cult led by Tesfaye’s character, was overhauled as The Weeknd apparently felt it was focusing too much on the “female perspective” and wanted to highlight his character more. This reportedly led to director Amy Seimetz (She Dies Tomorrow, The Girlfriend Experience) dropping out and Levinson replacing her as director, then promptly throwing out everything she’d already shot — 80 percent of the six-episode series.
The new material has been described as “any rape fantasy that any toxic man would have in the show,” with lurid depictions of sexual encounters between Tesfaye and Depp’s characters in scripts, ramped-up explicit nudity, and even a violent scene in which Tesfaye’s character beats Depp. While some of these scenes were never shot, one source described the scripts as “sexual torture porn.”
Many of the sources say they don’t even know what will make it into the final show because so many scenes were reshot, scripts were changed daily, and the shoot went wildly over budget and time. High-profile castings such as Blackpink’s Jennie amounted to inconsequential storylines, with a crew member saying, “Her job was to sit there [and] look pretty, basically.” Meanwhile, other actors were “wiped from the show” entirely after thinking they’d gotten their big breaks.
With so many issues, there’s no telling how the show itself will actually turn out, but HBO continues to promote it with multiple trailers, even though a release date has yet to be determined (it’s still aiming for sometime in 2023).
We’ll see if Levinson, The Weeknd, or any of the cast have anything to say, but for now, things aren’t looking great. Still the show is already shaping up to be another hit for HBO — the real question is, will it be worth it?