The maker of Euphoria (aka the “Zendaya Show”) Sam Levinson is back with another raunchy, sex-filled show with an even more heightened sense of tension. The long-awaited fourth trailer (seriously– the first trailer was released nearly a year ago) for The Idol has dropped ahead of its official premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next month; the show will then be released on HBO and HBO Max on June 4.
The dynamic between up-and-coming popstar Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp) and Tedros, (The Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye) at the heart of this show is controversial, and frankly, toxic. Tesfaye plays a nightclub owner with dubious motives. The Idol has led to critiques from the actual creators of the show– with one unnamed crew member calling it “torture porn.”
In March, Rolling Stone published an investigative story about the production of The Idol. Thirteen unnamed members of the cast and crew shared insight on just how out of control the story had become. The original director, Amy Seimetz, was let go and Levinson took her place. With that change came a darker, more problematic approach to the subject matter.
Tesfaye apparently took that opportunity to encourage a shift in the script because it was “leaning too much into a female perspective.” (Hmmm…) With Levinson behind the helm and Tesfaye by his side, the script took a more sexually explicit turn, living up to their tagline of being “the sleaziest love story in all of Hollywood.” The rewrites were categorically not from the female perspective. “It was like any rape fantasy that any toxic man would have in the show — and then the woman comes back for more because it makes her music better,” one crew member described in the report.
The trailer, which is set to Brittany Spears’ Gimme More, opens with Troye Sivan asking Depp’s character, “when was the last truly fucking nasty, nasty bad pop girl?” The trailer then follows Joceyln as she meets Tedros and the two start the journey of making her a sex icon-slash-famous pop star. Based on the incredibly sexually-charged trailer, the show is sure to promise the most promiscuous of plot lines, outlining the slow unraveling of The Idol herself.
Toxic or not, Depp seems to be excited about the material. “I’m not interested in making anything puritanical,” she revealed in an interview with ELLE. “I’m not interested in making anything that doesn’t challenge me, or challenge other people, honestly.”
She later told People, “working with Sam is a true collaboration in every way – it matters to him, more than anything, not only what his actors think about the work, but how we feel performing it,” Depp said. “He hires people whose work he esteems and has always created an environment in which I felt seen, heard, and appreciated.”
Despite its precarious start, HBO reps are confident that the show is going to be well received. “The creators and producers of ‘The Idol’ have been working hard to create one of HBO’s most exciting and provocative original programs,” HBO told IndieWire. “The initial approach on the show and production of the early episodes, unfortunately, did not meet HBO standards so we chose to make a change. We look forward to sharing The Idol with audiences soon.”
Save the date: the premiere of The Idol is on June 4. We’ll see how well it can walk the line between “inspired smash hit” and downright exploitative storytelling.
Top photo: screen grab from the “The Idol” Official Teaser #4 from HBO