HBO’s programming president Casey Bloys is trying to clear up the drama surrounding Big Little Lies and season two director Andrea Arnold. Two weeks ago, IndieWire reported that the auteur, who was ushered in to oversee the drama’s second season, had her creative control forcibly wrested away by show-runner David E. Kelley and producer (and season one director) Jean-Marc Vallée. On Wednesday, Bloys spoke about the issue during a Television Critics Association panel, essentially brushing the report about Arnold’s treatment off as “misinformation.”
“Andrea was never promised she would have free reign,” he said. “We were clear, and she understood we were not looking to reinvent, to redo things.”
He added that there were “no surprises in terms of how this was going to work.” Arnold shot the show and turned in her director’s cut, he said; then Kelley and the Big Little Lies producing team, including co-stars/producers Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, asked Vallée to “hone” the episodes, a typical practice for television, according to Bloys. As the old adage goes, television is a writer’s medium—TV directors usually don’t end up with full control of a final product, so the idea that control was ultimately taken away from Arnold is a “false premise,” he said.
Bloys was asked follow-up questions by reporters in the room, including a question about how many editors worked on the season. In the original Indiewire report that broke the Arnold story, it is noted that eleven editors are credited on the show. Bloys responded that Vallée used his “particular” team of editors, because “deadlines were approaching.”
However, it’s still unclear why Arnold—an auteur with a distinct visual style—was hired in Vallée’s stead if Vallée’s vision was always going to be honored in season two. In addition, it is unclear why there was apparently no style bible outlining the rules of the show, as is typical with other TV series. Arnold, who did not do any media interviews ahead of the season two premiere, has still not spoken publicly about the controversy.
Additional reporting by Joanna Robinson.
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