One of the most talked-about titles at this year’s Cannes Film Festival isn’t a movie, but a TV show. Think about the price of fame. “The Idol,” a scandalous, sexy and sure-to-be-polarizing series (“Euphoria” but set in the world of pop music), premiered the first two of its five episodes at the festival. did and quickly inspired thousands of hot takes about on-screen nudity, bodily fluids, and Hollywood sycophancy.
But before “The Idol” — the brainchild of “Euphoria” producers Sam Levinson and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye — even made its way to the Croisette, an explosive report from Rolling Stone in which a Contains allegations of toxic work. Environment, last minute script rewrites and the budget spiral out of control.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the day after the premiere, Levinson directly responded to the allegations and denied the behind-the-scenes drama. “When my wife read me the article,” he recalled, “I looked at her and I said, ‘I think we’re going to have the biggest show of the summer.'”
He continued, “We know we’re making a show that’s provocative. It’s not lost on us. But of the allegations in the article, he said, “It felt completely alien to me. My only minor point is that he intentionally left out anything that didn’t line up with his narrative. We’ve seen a lot of this lately.
Tesfaye said in an earlier press conference that he and Levinson aimed to “make something special, something funny, make people laugh, offend some people”.
The show’s star, Lily-Rose Depp, also pushed back against the allegations of impropriety and stood by Levinson, saying, “It’s always a little sad and disappointing to see false things being said about someone you care about.” It was not reflective of my experience at all.
“The Idol” puts the spotlight on Depp, who plays Jocelyn, a pop phenom coming out of a psychotic break following the death of her mother. As she tries to get a new album off the ground, she heads to a busy Hollywood club to blow off steam. It is here that she meets Tedros of the Weekend, a modern-day religious leader who reveals great ambitions for Jocelyn’s career.
“I wanted to create a dark, twisted fantasy about the music industry,” Tesfaye said. “To take everything I know about it and amplify it.”
Levinson, clearly no stranger to provocation, also defended the “revolutionary” use of nudity in the show. An awkward scene in the pilot also references the need for intimacy coordinators, which became more prevalent in the entertainment industry in the wake of #MeToo.
“We live in a very sexualized world. The influence of pornography on the psyche of youth, especially in the States, is tremendous. We see it in pop music,” Levinson said. “When you have a character that has a strong sense of self and a strong sexual self, you tend to underestimate that.”
Depp called Jocelyn a “born and bred artist”, implying that nudity is important to the character’s origins. “It extends to every aspect of his life, not just his professional life,” she said. “The way she dresses is trying to tell you something all the time. The character’s occasional bareness physically mirrors the bareness we get to see emotionally.
Hank Azaria, who played Jocelyn’s manager Chaim, joked that he became protective of Depp when she wore skimpy clothes on set. “I was trying to throw a blanket over him,” he said.
“The Idol” in the pilot episode refers to the media’s intense scrutiny of music icons such as Britney Spears. However, Levinson denied that Jocelyn was inspired by Spears, whom he calls “one of the greatest pop stars of all time”.
“We’re not trying to tell a story about any particular pop star,” he said. “We’re seeing more of how the world views pop stars and the pressure it puts on the individual.”
Depp believes that the greatest tragedy about the price of fame is that everyday people imagine they know much more about celebrities than they actually do. “There’s something that was interesting about exploring the character: What’s going on inside her head? Someone who is so seen but not seen… What does that look like when she opens up?
Depp may be playing someone who is still figuring it all out, but Tesfaye portrays a man with a mission. He described his character as “Dracula” who “lures” Jocelyn into his orbit. He laughed when a reporter asked him if he had met someone like Tedros in real life. “I don’t fucking think so.”
Levinson said, “If you had, I don’t think you’d be here.”