All the Controversy Surrounding HBO’s “The Idol,” Explained


Months following reports of reshoots and exits from “The Idol,” HBO released three teaser clips to get viewers excited. But that buzz was interrupted with disturbing allegations on March 1 when Rolling Stone published an investigation into the behind-the-scenes events of the show. Per interviews with 13 cast and crew members, the exposé detailed everything from scripts containing a number of physically and sexually violent scenes between Depp’s and Tesfaye’s characters to countless delays, reshoots, and rewrites that one member classified as “a sh*tshow.”

The article claimed that the first red flag for “The Idol” arose after Seimetz exited the show with roughly 80 percent of it finished. At the time of her departure, reports were unclear about what exactly signaled the major creative changes to the show, but Rolling Stone reported that Tesfaye felt the show was leaning too much into a “female perspective.” A source seconded that idea to the publication, saying, “It was like The Weeknd wanted one show that was all about him — Sam was on board with that.”

Rolling Stone also noted that delays for “The Idol” were caused by Levinson getting more involved in directing, as he reportedly scrapped the nearly-finished $54-75 million project to rewrite and reshoot the series in its entirety. Sources then claimed Levinson dampened “The Idol”‘s original message by increasing the amount of sexual content and nudity featured to match — and potentially surpass — his other raunchy HBO series, “Euphoria.”

“What I signed up for was a dark satire of fame and the fame model in the 21st century. The things that we subject our talent and stars to, the forces that put people in the spotlight and how that can be manipulated in the post-Trump world,” one crew member shared, adding, “It went from satire to the thing it was satirizing.”


Another crew member said of the show’s X-rated content, “It was 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.” Meanwhile, another member described the series as “sexual torture porn.”

On the other hand, Depp defended Levinson’s vision for the show and called him “the best director” she’s ever worked with in a statement to POPSUGAR. She also added that she’s never “felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input, and opinions more valued.”

An HBO rep shared a separate statement with POPSUGAR, writing, “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.”

Reps for Levinson and Tesfaye did not respond to POPSUGAR’s request for comment on the Rolling Stone report.

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