The Weeknd Fires Back at Rolling Stone Report Claiming ‘The Idol’ Is in Turmoil: ‘Did We Upset You?’
The Weeknd has responded to a report from Rolling Stone claiming that his upcoming HBO series “The Idol,” created with “Euphoria’s” Sam Levinson, has “gone wildly, disgustingly off the rails.”
Posting a clip from the series to Instagram, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye tagged Rolling Stone and wrote, “Did we upset you?” In the scene, a character played by Dan Levy pitches Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp’s pop star character Jocelyn to do a photo shoot for the cover of Rolling Stone. Tesfaye, who plays a modern-day cult leader named Tedros, says, “Rolling Stone? Aren’t they a little irrelevant? … Rolling Stone has 6 million followers on Instagram, half of them probably bots. And Jocelyn has 78 million followers, all real I’d assume. So she does a photo shoot, she tags them, they get her followers. More money for Rolling Stone, nothing for Jocelyn.”
More from Variety
The Weeknd Sets First Lead Role in Film He Co-Wrote and Produced, Opposite Jenna Ortega and Barry Keoghan
The Weeknd Becomes First Artist to Reach 100 Million Monthly Listeners on Spotify
“There’s a lot for Jocelyn,” Levy’s character says, to which Tesfaye’s character responds, “Not in Rolling Stone.”
When asked for comment, Rolling Stone editor-in-chief Noah Shachtman pointed to his Twitter reply to Tesfaye, saying “Not at all!” when asked “Did we upset you?”
HBO is also disputing Rolling Stone’s story, titled “‘The Idol’: How HBO’s Next ‘Euphoria’ Became Twisted ‘Torture Porn,'” which claims that the show is in turmoil due to a poor working environment, last-minute script rewrites and budgetary issues.
“The Idol” first showed signs of trouble when director Amy Seimetz suddenly exited the show in April 2022 with several of the six episodes already completed. Variety reported last year that the series would be overhauled “with changes to its cast and crew… due to a change in creative directions.” Reports at the time claimed that Tesfaye felt the series was leaning too much into a “female perspective.” As Rolling Stone reports, Levinson then took over as director, “scrapping the nearly-finished $54-75 million project to rewrite and reshoot the entire thing.”
A source close to the production tells Variety that only the pilot was scrapped and reshot, not multiple episodes, and so the budgetary claim is overblown.
In a statement sent to Variety, HBO asserts, “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. Throughout the process, the creative team has been committed to creating a safe, collaborative, and mutually respectful working environment, and last year, the team made creative changes they felt were in the best interest of both the production and the cast and crew.”
Sources told Rolling Stone that in one “disturbing” scrapped scene from “The Idol,” “Tesfaye bashes in Depp’s face, and her character smiles and asks to be beaten more, giving Tesfaye an erection.” Per 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 indicate to Variety that none of Rolling Stone’s sources had seen the finished product, which apparently still very much represents a “female perspective.”
Rolling Stone’s report paints the set of “The Idol” as draining and chaotic, with “divisions among Levinson’s inner circle” and production staff unaware of constant changes.
Defending Levinson, Depp said in a statement to Variety, “Sam is, for so many reasons, the best director I have ever worked with. Never have I felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued. 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. He hires people whose work he esteems and has always created an environment in which I felt seen, heard, and appreciated.”
While HBO has released three teaser 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.)
Best of Variety
Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.