HBO’s ‘The Idol’ Will Premiere Out of Competition at Cannes Film Festival

16 March 2023

HBO’s The Weeknd-Sam Levinson production “The Idol” will premiere out of competition at the iconic Cannes Film Festival,  sources close to production have confirmed to IndieWire, before a broadcast premiere sometime this fall.

The show, which stars co-creator Abel Tesfaye (aka The Weeknd) and Lily-Rose Depp, will screen at the 76th edition of the prestigious festival, which runs from May 16 to May 27. Either the first two or three episodes in the six-part season are expected to screen at the fest, according to sources. Programmers are debating on the number of episodes to present, since the third ends on a major cliffhanger. Representatives for HBO told IndieWire that “The Idol’s” visit to Cannes remains unconfirmed.

Earlier this month, Variety reported that Tesfaye hoped to bring the show to Cannes, but it had not been screened for the festival’s programmers.

Selecting “The Idol” is an uncharacteristic move for the world’s most traditional film festival. The HBO series wouldn’t be the first TV show selected for an out of competition slot at Cannes, which hosted episodic premieres for two seasons of Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake” and David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: The Return.” However, both shows came from acknowledged auteurs and Cannes royalty: Campion won the Palme D’or in 1993 with her film “The Piano” and Lynch won the prize in 1990 for “Wild at Heart.”

In contrast, neither Tesfaye or Levinson have much history with Cannes. Tesfaye attended the festival in 2018 as a guest, but his only major credit on film is in a cameo as himself for the 2019 Telluride premiere “Uncut Gems.” Levinson, best known for HBO and A24’s “Euphoria,” has directed three features — “Assassination Nation,” “Another Happy Day,” and “Malcolm & Marie” — none of which screened at Cannes.

“The Idol” has been the subject of extensive scrutiny over the last month, after Rolling Stone published an extensive report detailing alleged issues on the set of the series after Levinson took over directorial duties in April 2022. Levinson took over after original director Amy Seimetz exited, reportedly due to complaints from Tesfaye’s that the series focused too much on “the female perspective.”

HBO denied the Rolling Stone report in a statement to IndieWire, saying that: “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.” Depp defended Levinson in a statement calling him the “best director I had ever worked with.”

A drama about an aspiring pop star (Depp) who falls for a self-help guru/cult leader (Tesfaye), “The Idol” also stars Suzanna Son, Troye Sivan, Moses Sumney, Jane Adams, Dan Levy, Jennie Ruby Jane, Eli Roth, Rachel Sennott, Hari Nef, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Mike Dean, and Hank Azaria. Tesfaye and Levinson created the series for television with Reza Fahim.

Other early titles expected for this year’s Cannes Festival include Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Pedro Almodóvar’s short “Strange Way of Life.”

Additional reporting by Eric Kohn and Tony Maglio

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