The Idol creator (and Euphoria head) Sam Levinson has pushed back against a Rolling Stone report alleging the HBO show was akin to “sexual torture porn” under his direction.
Following The Idol’s premiere at Cannes Film Festival, Levinson stepped up to the plate at a press conference on Tuesday alongside series co-creator The Weeknd (born Abel Tesfaye) and star Lily-Rose Depp to refute the accusations.
“We know we are making a show that is provocative. It is not lost on us, but it’s an odd one,” Levinson said (via IndieWire). “When my wife read me the article, I told her, ‘I think we are about to have the biggest show of the summer.’ In terms of the specifics of what was in it, it just felt completely foreign to me. But I know who I am.”
He continued, “People can write whatever they want. If I have a slight objection, it’s that they intentionally omitted anything that didn’t fit their narrative. But I think we have seen a lot of that lately.” Depp added, “It’s always a little sad and disheartening to see mean, false things said about someone you care about. It wasn’t reflective at all of my experience.”
Earlier in the press conference, Tesfaye said he and Levinson’s goal was to create a series that will “make people laugh, piss some people off.” He elaborated, “I wanted to make a dark, twisted fantasy about the music industry. To take everything I know about it and heighten it.”
The Idol stars Depp as a rising pop star named Jocelyn who gets entangled with a shady nightclub owner named Tedros (Tesfaye), who may or may not also be a cult leader. According to Rolling Stone, the show was originally meant to center more around Depp’s character gaining independence, but original director Amy Seimetz’s departure from the series resulted in a complete overhaul when Levinson took over creative control.
The series was revamped to focus on Tesfaye’s love story with Jocelyn, and one crew member described the increase in degrading sex scenes as “torture porn.” At Cannes, Levinson and Depp defended the explicit scenes and nudity throughout The Idol.
“Especially in the States, the influence of pornography is strong in the psyche of young people,” Levinson said. “We see this in pop music and how it reflects the kind of underbelly of the internet in some ways. I think with this show and with working with Lily, we had a lot of discussions about who she is as a person, who Jocelyn is as a person [and] from that point, the sexuality comes out of that character.”
For her part, Depp said she “never felt more involved in those kinds of conversations” regarding the nature of her sex scenes, adding, “I felt I was given the privilege in the creation of this character, from the inside out and from the outside in.”
The Idol premieres June 4th on HBO and will be available to stream on Max. It also features Dan Levy, Troye Sivan, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Hank Azaria, Eli Roth, Hari Nef, Jane Adams, BLACKPINK’s Jennie Ruby Jane, and many more.