Following the highly anticipated premiere of The Idol at Cannes, a press conference was held the next morning with Sam Levinson, Lily-Rose Depp, Abel Tesfaye (known as the Weeknd), Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Jane Adams, and Hank Azaria. The HBO series has been generating buzz since a Rolling Stone article in March, which claimed that the show had evolved into “twisted torture porn” during production.
Critics who had the chance to watch The Idol found Levinson’s typically provocative filmmaking style turning the series into something simultaneously voyeuristic and unintentionally mundane. Variety suggested that Levinson’s perspective appeared corrupt, questioning the need for Jocelyn’s empowerment to come from degradation and suffering. The Hollywood Reporter noted that the show’s attempts at being transgressive ended up being regressive, while Vanity Fair described the show as striving to shock and titillate, yet ultimately feeling ordinary and awkward.
Despite the criticisms, the cast stood united during the press conference, defending Levinson’s artistic vision and expressing their strong bond developed during filming. Depp echoed Levinson’s earlier remarks about the group becoming like a family, and Tesfaye referred to them as “the people that I love.” Tesfaye reminisced about his previous visits to Cannes as a spectator, witnessing filmmakers and actors being moved to tears by the audience’s reactions. He admitted that he never thought he would publicly break down in the same way until he looked at Sam and Lily because he genuinely loves them. Tesfaye, who portrays Tedros in the series, added that their collective aim was to create something special and entertaining, capable of making people laugh and stir up some controversy.