Lily-Rose uncovers the dark side of celebrity

New TV series gets the big screen treatment in Cannes

by Richard Mowe

Lily-Rose Depp and director Sam Levinson
Lily-Rose Depp and director Sam Levinson Photo: Richard Mowe
The parallels between the dark side of celebrity culture and the glitz and enforced glamour of the Cannes Film Festival would appear to be perfect bedfellows.

Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, who appears in the HBO Original series The Idol, was quick to make the connections. “I think it is just about the people you surround yourself with. That’s something that we see my character actively doing in the show, struggling with the people she is keeping around her and wondering if they are telling her the truth. It’s all about surrounding yourself with good people.”

She plays pop star Jocelyn, who is recovering from the death of her mother and trying to make a comeback, orchestrated frantically by her team. There are more than a few echoes of the trajectory of American singer Britney Spears - although director Sam Levinson insists they are not trying to tell the story of "any particular pop star".

Depp says: “Pop stars are just celebrities who are watched. We imagine we know way more about them than we do. But what is going on inside her head, someone who is watched. What happens when she unravels either privately or publicly. The series dives into the idea of what is underneath the surface of what we grow so attached to. There is so much that is lying underneath everyone.

“Jocelyn is a born and bred performer. The way she dresses for example is her trying to tell you something. Bareness of her style represents the bareness of her psyche. I was involved in the creation of the character from the inside out and the outside in. Although I admire her lifestyle. I have not lived or anything it.”

Two episodes of the show (which starts streaming in June) were revealed to a packed in audience in the Festival’s biggest screen, the Grand Théâtre Lumière last night.

Lily-Rose Depp and Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye as the appear in the HBO series The Idol
Lily-Rose Depp and Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye as the appear in the HBO series The Idol Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
Levinson who created Euphoria, worked with Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye to put the series together. Levinson defended the raunchy action including Depp in an extended masturbation scene amid full-on night club writhings, felt it was justified because of the “pornification” of American pop culture.

He suggested: “The influence of pornography is really strong in terms of the psyche of young people in the States. And we see this in pop music and how it reflects the kind of underbelly of the internet in some ways. I think with this show and with working with Lily, we had a lot of discussions about who she is as a person, who Joceyln is as a person [and] from that point the sexuality comes out of that character. I think it is very true to what almost every pop star is doing these days.”

Levinson was drawn to cinema after watching Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and hearing that it had won awards at the Cannes Film Festival. He was about 10 when he became aware of it but was only allowed to see it through a friend. “I had a dream to come here, and last night was one of the most moving and emotional experiences I could ever have had.”

The original director of the show Amy Seimetz decided to leave after several episodes had been shot. She cited “creative differences” after Rolling Stone magazine published an account of the row.

Depp who turns 24 on Saturday, rallied to Levinson’s support by issue a statement to say: “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.”

Abel Tesfaye (more commonly known as Blinding Lights hitmaker The Weeknd) plays the cult leader who decides to try to take control of her career. “He’s a dark villainous character, a bit like Dracula. I don’t think I have encountered anyone like him which is fortunate.”

Lily-Rose Depp: Never have I felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued
Lily-Rose Depp: Never have I felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued Photo: Richard Mowe
Levinson was a child of the 90s and Britney was one of his idols. “I was in middle school at the time but we are not trying to tell a story about any particular pop star but looking more at how the world perceives the pop star and the pressure that it puts on that individual. Fame corrupts and it is too easy to surround yourself with myth-makers.”

He was aware the show could prove provocative. Once he found out that Rolling Stone were writing about it he told his wife that “we are about to have the biggest show of the summer.”

He added: “The article felt foreign to me. They are, of course, free to write whatever they want. But I think they left out anything that did not fit their narrative. There is a lot of that about.

“We knew that we had about four or five weeks to write, prep and start shooting. It was not all on the page but we had to take this leap of faith. We are doing this together and I told the cast and crew that we won’t leave anyone behind. This spontaneity allowed a certain reality to make its way into the piece. Switching cameras created energy that you see in reality TV and often that is what we perceive reality as.”

The Idol will premiere on HBO in June.

Watch the trailer below:

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