The Weeknd’s HBO Show The Idol Mired in Chaos, Future Uncertain: Report

The Idol, an HBO show that Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye co-created with his longtime collaborator Reza Fahim and the Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, is in limbo after abrupt changes in staff and creative direction, according to reports, which include a new Rolling Stone investigation. Neither Tesfaye, who is set to star in the show, nor Levinson have officially commented on the show’s alleged mishandling, although Tesfaye has since posted a clip from the series on his social media accounts with the caption “@RollingStone did we upset you?” In the scene, Tesfaye’s character is suggesting that Depp’s character turn down a Rolling Stone cover, calling the publication “irrelevant.”

HBO had billed the show as “the sleaziest love story in all of Hollywood”—Tesfaye cast as a cult leader in the entertainment business, and a pop star Lily-Rose Depp among his followers. Amy Seimetz had signed on to direct the series, but left last year with most of the show filmed. At that time, the production crew expected a new director to film the finale and wrap production. Instead, sources told Rolling Stone, Levinson scrapped the nearly complete “$54-75 million project to rewrite and reshoot the entire thing.” The drastic turnaround alienated some members of the production team, according to the report. The rewrites, one member told Rolling Stone, turned the show from a satire of 21st-century fame into “the thing it was satirizing.”

Some scenes amounted to “sexual torture porn,” one Rolling Stone source claimed. “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,” a source added. At least two sources have told Deadline and Rolling Stone that Tesfaye pushed for script rewrites that would limit its “feminist lens,” partly by reducing focus on Depp’s character.

In May 2022, after a break in production, most crew and some cast members did not return, five sources told Rolling Stone. Levinson replaced them with high-profile actors including Dan Levy and Rachel Sennott, as well as Moses Sumney and Jennie from Blackpink. But the prohibitively expensive overhaul failed to heal the rift between Levinson, the crew, and HBO bosses, the sources say. Deadlines came and went, while HBO trickled out teaser trailers with no indication of when the show the would air. For the second shooting period, in what the report cites as cost-cutting measures, Tesfaye turned his own Bel-Air mansion into a set, and, during a concert at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium last September, invited Depp onstage to shoot what appeared to be a scene for the show, leaving the crowd—repurposed as free extras—bewildered.

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