A report in IndieWire alleges the second season of “Big Little Lies” was beset with behind-the-scenes turmoil that left director Andrea Arnold “heartbroken” when Jean-Marc Vallee, who directed the first season, was brought in after filming was completed to remove all traces of her directorial style.
According to IndieWire, after shooting wrapped, series creator David E. Kelley reportedly brought Vallee back so he could “re-edit” the episodes Arnold directed so they would more closely hew to his style, with Vallee moving the editing from London — where Arnold is based — to Montreal so he and his team could take over. Vallee also ordered 17 days of additional photography to re-shoot some of Arnold’s scenes.
While Arnold was present for the re-shoots (a rule dictated by the Directors Guild of America), IndieWire reports that “Vallee was now an extremely hands-on EP dictating not only what would be shot, but how it would be shot, oversight that Arnold never had during the initial shoot.”
“Sources close to the production” tell IndieWire that Arnold — director of such films as “American Honey” and “Fish Tank” — was initially encouraged to bring her distinctive visual style to the second season until a “dramatic shift” in late 2018 saw the show “yanked away” from her and given to Vallee.
Strangely enough, those sources say that this had always been the plan, although nobody had bothered to tell Arnold; even stranger is that Arnold and Vallee reportedly never spoke, “nor was there ever a clear showrunner or creative producer who Arnold was answerable to on set” (although Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who are also exec producers as well as stars, “were said to have loved working with Arnold and trusted her intrinsically, while as showrunner Kelley made only a handful of set visits, each lasting approximately an hour”).
Meanwhile, sources close to Arnold (who declined IndieWire‘s request for comment) say she is “heartbroken” by the experience, and that having “been allowed to shoot and start to edit her version of the show and then have it taken from her, without explanation or warning, was devastating.”
In a statement to IndieWire, HBO neither confirms nor denies the report.
“There wouldn’t be a Season 2 of ‘Big Little Lies’ without Andrea Arnold,” reads the HBO statement. “We at HBO and the producers are extremely proud of her work. As with any television project, the executive producers work collaboratively on the series and we think the final product speaks for itself.”
On Wednesday, HBO programming president Casey Bloys addressed the allegations during the network’s executive session at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles.
“There’s a lot of misinformation around that subject. To clarify a couple of things, there would not be a second season without Andrea. We’re indebted to her. She got an extraordinary performance out of the cast. As anyone who works in TV knows, the director doesn’t have final creative control. That creative control was taken from a director is a false premise,” said Bloys, as reported by Deadline.
“Typically a director turns in a director’s cut to the showrunner and producing team who hone the episode. That’s what happened here. The other thing I would clarify is that Jean-Marc Vallee didn’t unilaterally decide to take over the process. Andrea did director’s cuts for all seven episodes, and handed them into the showrunner and producing team,” Bloys continued.
“Jean-Marc didn’t have director’s carte blanche. Jean-Marc was involved in the scripts and he had a dinner with her beforehand,” Bloys added, stating that Arnold’s cuts of the episodes were “turned over to the producing team. When they went to Jean-Marc, he is an editor and has a team of editors he works with. He’s particular as to who he works with.”