HBO programming chief Casey Bloys claimed the backstage controversy surrounding Big Little Lies Season 2 and its director, Andrea Arnold, being allegedly stripped of creative control after production concluded was "business as usual" for television programs.
"There's a lot of misinformation around that subject. So let me clarify a couple of things about that. What we said was absolutely true: There wouldn't be a second season of Big Little Lies without Andrea. We're indebted to her," Bloys said during his executive session at the Television Critics' Association summer press tour, singling out Arnold's work with the all-star cast, including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Meryl Streep.
But, Bloys added, "As anybody who works in television knows, a director typically does not have final creative control, so the idea that creative control was taken from a director is a false premise."
Back on July 12, Indiewire published a report claiming Arnold, who was noticeably absent from any press surrounding the HBO drama, did not have the final cut on her seven episodes. Instead, Season 1 director and executive producer Jean-Marc Vallée oversaw the final edit — much to Arnold's apparent disappointment. Said HBO in a statement: "There wouldn't be a Season 2 of Big Little Lies without Andrea Arnold. 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."
Speaking Wednesday, Bloys said it was industry standard for directors to turn in a "director's cut" which producers then "hone" into a final product. "That's what happened here," Bloys said. "The other thing I would clarify, I think there was some misinformation that Jean-Marc somehow unilaterally decided to come in and take over the process. Andrea did director's cuts of seven episodes and handed them in to the showrunner and producing team." Vallée, writer David E. Kelley, and Witherspoon are among the executive producers on Big Little Lies.
According to Bloys, Arnold was "never promised she would have free rein" on Big Little Lies Season 2. He also disputed the notion Vallée, who directed every episode in Season 1, was given a directorial carte blanche on the show. "They had an aligned vision for the show," Bloys said of Vallée and the other producers, one which sought to not change what was successful in Season 1.
As for Arnold's director's cuts, Bloys said the submitted edits were more like "raw material" for producers to build from. "I'd be hard-pressed to point to any show that airs a director's cut as its episodes. It's typically raw material producers work from," he said.
Big Little Lies Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger, with the show's five main characters walking into the police station, ready to seemingly confess that they lied about the death of Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), Celeste's (Kidman) abusive husband who was pushed down a flight of stairs by Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) in Season 1. Despite that unresolved conclusion, Bloys said a Season 3 might not happen. "There's no obvious place to go, no obvious story," he said.