The Weeknd has responded to a Rolling Stone report claiming his upcoming HBO series “The Idol,” premiering with “Euphoria’s” Sam Levinson, has “gone off the rails wildly, disgustingly.”
Posting a clip from the show on Instagram, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye tagged Rolling Stone and wrote, “We pissed you off?” In the scene, a character played by Dan Levy offers Jocelyn, the pop star of Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp, to do a photo shoot for the cover of Rolling Stone. Tesfaye, who plays a modern cult leader named Tedros, says, “Rolling Stone? Aren’t they a bit off topic? … Rolling Stone has 6 million followers on Instagram, half of which are probably bots. And Jocelyn has 78 million followers, all real I guess. So she does a photoshoot, she tags them, they get her followers. No more money for Rolling Stone, nothing for Jocelyn.
“There’s a lot for Jocelyn,” Levy’s character says, to which Tesfaye’s character responds, “Not in Rolling Stone.”
Rolling Stone did not immediately respond to Varietyrequest for comment.
HBO is also taking issue with Rolling Stone’s story, titled “‘The Idol’: How HBO’s Next ‘Euphoria’ Became Twisted ‘Torture Porn'”, which claims the show is in turmoil due to a poor work environment, last minute script rewrites and budget issues.
“The Idol” first showed signs of trouble when director Amy Seimetz suddenly left the show in April 2022 with several of the six episodes already wrapped. Variety reported last year that the series would be revamped “with changes to its cast and crew…due to a change in creative directions.” Reports at the time claimed that Tesfaye felt the series leaned too much towards a “female perspective”. As Rolling Stone reports, Levinson then took over as director, “dropping the nearly completed $54-$75 million project to rewrite and redo the whole thing.”
A source close to the production tells Variety that only the pilot was scrapped and remade, not multiple episodes, and therefore the budget request is overstated.
In a statement sent to Variety, HBO says, “The initial approach to the show and the production of the early episodes, unfortunately, did not meet HBO standards, so we chose to make a change. Throughout the process, the creative team was committed to creating a safe, collaborative, and mutually respectful work environment, and in the past year the team made some creative changes that they felt were in the best interest. both from the production, cast and crew.
Sources told Rolling Stone that in a “disturbing” scene dropped from “The Idol,” “Tesfaye punches Depp in the face, and his character smiles and asks to be beaten more, giving Tesfaye an erection.” According to Rolling Stone, “Tesfaye’s character would refuse to ‘rape’ her – which sent Depp’s character into a spiral, begging him to ‘rape’ her because she believed he was the key to her success.”
Sources tell Variety that none of Rolling Stone’s sources had seen the finished product, which apparently still depicts a “female perspective.”
Rolling Stone’s report paints the set of “The Idol” as exhausting and chaotic, with “divisions among Levinson’s inner circle” and production staff unaware of the constant changes.
Defending Levinson, Depp said in a statement to Variety“Sam is, for many reasons, the best director I have ever worked with. I have never felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued. Working with Sam is a real collaboration in every way – what matters to him, more than anything, not just what his actors think of the work, but how we feel while playing it.He hires people whose work he values and has always created a environment in which I felt seen, heard and appreciated.
While HBO has released three trailers for “The Idol,” slated for 2023, the cabler has yet to announce a specific release date for the series.
(Variety and Rolling Stone share the same parent company, PMC.)