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What happened on the set of "The Idol," the new series from the creator of "Euphoria"

According to some sources, director Sam Levinson has created a toxic environment and "torture porn" scenes

What happened on the set of The Idol, the new series from the creator of Euphoria According to some sources, director Sam Levinson has created a toxic environment and torture porn scenes

Since its announcement in June 2021, The Idol has become one of the most anticipated series of 2023. On paper, there were indeed all the right ingredients to fuel the hype: Lily-Rose Depp and The Weeknd as actors; a script by Sam Levinson, the creator of Euphoria; and a compelling plot described by HBO as "the dirtiest love story ever told in Hollywood" that follows the events and complex relationship between an aspiring pop star named Jocelyn (Depp) and Tedros (The Weeknd), a mysterious owner of a famous Los Angeles nightclub who is secretly the guru of a cult of sorts. After the first teasers, the planned release date for this winter season shifted to a date yet to be determined, fuelling rumours of layoffs, conflicting artistic visions and other problems of various kinds. Now an investigation published by Rolling Stone US reveals the background to the affair, based on the testimony of thirteen cast and crew members. The allegations are serious and specifically directed at Levinson. It seems that the author was desperate to repeat (if not surpass) the success of Euphoria and to do so he was willing to do anything to show sex, violence and perversion.

Although both those directly involved and HBO have already rushed to deny everything, the facts described point to a hellish climate of re-shoots in real time, constant script revisions, impossible schedules and constant delays. Apparently things began to fall apart after director Amy Seimetz, who had already completed 80 per cent of the reshoots, quit without offering any explanation other than a simple creative disagreement. At the time, it was said that The Weeknd was unhappy with the predominant "female perspective" in the series and the fact that Depp's character overshadowed his own. So the project passed into the hands of Levinson alone, who threw Seimetz's work overboard (thus ruining an already nearly finished product that had cost $54 million to $75 million) and rewrote the entire series, putting more emphasis on The Weeknd, the toxic history between the two leads, and the disturbing, extreme nudity and violence. Sources have told RS of some cut sequences in which the character played by The Weeknd takes total, physical and emotional control of the aspiring pop star, resulting in abuse. In one highly controversial example, Jocelyn "held an egg in her vagina and when she broke it, The Weeknd's character refused to rape her." One crew member commented, "It was supposed to be a critique of fame seekers in the post-Trump era, but we ended up making a show that has all these things we were making fun of," followed by another anonymous source who said, "It sounds like every junkie man's rape fantasy, while the main character is described as returning to him because she still wants violence because she's convinced her music will be better that way."

Following the revelations, HBO issued a statement explaining that the original approach to the series did not meet HBO's standards, so changes were made, but always creating "a safe, collaborative and respectful working environment" The Weeknd did not respond directly to the allegations, only sharing on social media a short clip from the series in which the two leads are asked to pose for Rolling Stone, asking, "Rolling Stone? Aren’t they a little irrelevant?". Depp, on the other hand, said Levinson was "the best director" she had ever worked with and "I have never felt more protected on the set of The Idol." Although the actress tried to play it down, it seems clear that Levinson has a penchant for stories about female trauma, sexualisation and a toxic climate on set. This is evident in her previous work Assassination Nation, Malcolm & Marie and Euphoria itself, which was criticised for frequently using gratuitous nudity in a series about teenagers, subjecting the crew to gruelling work schedules and pressuring the actresses.