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The Idol condemned as ‘shameful’ and compared to pornography by critics after premiering at Cannes

Lily-Rose Depp and Abel Tesfaye’s highly anticipated and controversial new drama The Idol received a five-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday (22 May).

The show, directed by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, follows the story of troubled popstar Jocelyn (Depp) who falls prey to a cult leader named Tedros (Tesfaye).

Apart from Depp and Tesfaye, other cast members of the show include Suzanna Son, Troye Sivan, Dan Levy, and Rachel Sennott among others.

*This story contains spoilers*

According to Variety, there are several nude scenes in the first two episodes of the show, with one scene showing “revenge porn photos of bodily fluids on Depp’s face”.

Film critics have shared their first reviews of the show on social media.

New York Times’s Kyle Buchanan wrote: “The Idol, or 50 SHADES OF TESFAYE: A Pornhub-homepage odyssey starring Lily-Rose Depp’s areolas and The Weeknd’s greasy rat tail.

“Love that this will help launch the HBO Max rebrand, should slot nicely next to House Hunters!”

“Levinson’s worldview seems corrupt,” said Variety’s Peter Debruge. “It shouldn’t take degradation and suffering to make Jocelyn stronger. Euphoria audiences won’t be too surprised by the shameful way he treats Depp’s character, as both she and the show appear trapped under The Weeknd’s thumb.”

Abel Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp in ‘The Idol’ (HBO)
Abel Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp in ‘The Idol’ (HBO)

According to previous reports, The Idol underwent extensive reshoots in the past two years.

“The Idol’s creative team continues to build, refine, and evolve their vision for the show and they have aligned on a new creative direction,” HBO said in a statement last year. “The production will be adjusting its cast and crew accordingly to best serve this new approach to the series.”

In March this year, Rolling Stone published a report citing 13 anonymous sources who described The Idol’s set conditions as a “s*** show”.

The allegations also said Levinson had turned the show into “torture porn”. Depp stepped in to defend the director, saying: “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.”

The Weeknd also weighed in on the allegations on Instagram, writing: “Rolling Stone did we upset you?”

The Idol premieres on Sky Atlantic and NOW on 5 June in the UK, and lands on HBO and Max on 4 June in the US.