At the Television Critics Association’s 2019 summer press tour Wednesday, HBO’s president of programming Casey Bloys addressed IndieWire’s report from earlier this month that creative control on “Big Little Lies” Season 2 was taken away from hired director Andrea Arnold during post-production. Arnold, the esteemed indie filmmaker behind “Fish Tank” and “American Honey,” was replaced in the editing room and on reshoots by the first season’s director Jean-Marc Vallée. Bloys told press the idea that creative control was taken away from Arnold is “a false premise.”
“There’s a lot of misinformation,” Bloys said about the Arnold controversy. “We’re indebted to Andrea. But as anybody who works in TV knows, a director does not have final creative control.”
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Bloys added that it is not unusual in television for an executive producer like Vallée to come on board and “hone” episodes, saying director’s cuts of television episodes are rarely what end up being released. According to Bloys, for anyone who understands television and how it works, this is business as usual.
“There were no surprises about how this was going to work,” Bloys said, denying that Arnold was blindsided when creative control was given to Vallée. “Jean-Marc was not given carte blanche [on Season 1]. He and [writer] David E. Kelly and the producers happened to have an aligned vision. He did not have directorial carte blanche. Andrea was never promised she would have free rein.”
Bloys said that when they were looking for a director to helm “Big Little Lies” Season 2 director they “were not looking for someone to come in and completely redo things.”
Asked whether or not Arnold knew from the beginning that Vallée would be editing her work, Bloys said, “I believe he had a meeting and dinner with her beforehand. Yes, absolutely. Yes.”
IndieWire reported that Arnold was promised creative control from the beginning and was not aware that Vallée, who could not direct Season 2 because he was busy editing “Sharp Objects” at the time, would come in during the editing phase and take over. Arnold set up an editing room in London, but before her team could finish putting together the first episode post-production moved to Vallée’s home city of Montreal, where his own editorial team started cutting what eventually aired on HBO.
Bloys also discussed the potential for a “Big Little Lies” Season 3. The programming president said at this point he doesn’t see the story continuing, but he should never say never.
“To me on the face of it, there’s no obvious place to go,” he said. “There’s no obvious story. If they came to me and said, ‘We have the greatest take. Listen to this.’ I would certainly be open to it because I love working with them.”
Andrea Arnold declined to comment for IndieWire’s initial report and has yet to talk about the behind-the-scenes drama.
Additional reporting by Ben Travers.