Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon deny creative control was taken away from Andrea Arnold during the making of “Big Little Lies” Season 2. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the co-stars pointed to comments made by HBO programming president Casey Bloys when asked about the alleged behind-the-scenes controversy. IndieWire reported earlier this month that creative control on “Big Little Lies” Season 2 was taken away from Arnold during post-production. Arnold was replaced in the editing room and on reshoots by the first season’s director Jean-Marc Vallée. Bloys told press at the TCAs that the idea that creative control was taken away from Arnold is “a false premise.”
“He said it beautifully,” Kidman told EW about Bloys. “That’s why we had Casey handle it. Obviously, he’s the head of HBO. He really said it beautifully.”
“In our minds, there is no controversy,” Witherspoon added. “We just love the show. We had such a great time doing it. There was a lot of misinformation and no credited sources on any of the information. This was an incredibly collaborative process for all of us and the idea that anyone was mistreated and not communicated with is completely not true. I was glad that Casey spoke so clearly about that and we are thrilled with the collaboration that yielded this season. It could have never been this show had it not been with these particular artists collaborating on this particular material.”
Bloys said at the TCAs that it is not unusual in television for an executive producer like Vallée to come on board and “hone” episodes. The HBO executive added that director’s cuts of television episodes are rarely what end up being released.
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“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. Kelley 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.”
IndieWire reported that Arnold was promised creative control from the beginning and was not aware that Vallée 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.
Witherspoon and Kidman spent a majority of the EW interview showering Arnold with praise. Kidman credited Arnold with “mining the performances” viewers saw throughout Season 2 and called her work “beautiful.” Witherspoon added that the show was more collaborative than just one person assuming creative control of the entire endeavor.
“Andrea’s wonderful. I feel like she was incredible,” Witherspoon said. “The thing that is perplexing to me, as Nicole and I experienced on season 1, is how TV is a completely different medium. It’s a collaborative medium; it is very much different, driven by writers…It’s also this great opportunity for Nicole and myself to have a large creative voice in a process. Not only was it just one person, say [creator/executive producer/writer] David E. Kelley or a Jean-Marc or an Andrea, it was actually all of us collaborating every single week, every time we got a script in, every time we saw a cut. It was one of the most creatively collaborative experiences in my whole career.”
Witherspoon and Kidman also spoke to EW about the possibility of “Big Little Lies” continuing with a third season. The show’s second season ended on a cliffhanger as the Monterey Five were seen walking into the police station to seemingly confess to the murder of Perry White. When asked if they knew from the start of Season 2 how the story would end, both actresses refused to answer because the door is not closed on Season 3.
“It’s so important not to discuss all of the intricacies of this, because if we do a Season 3, there’s going to be things that will be explained,” Kidman said. “It’s probably better to allow just a little mystery. I know the voracious appetite for knowledge and to leave no stone unturned. But I’m always going to fight for just a little bit…there can be a few mysteries and secrets held intact.
Witherspoon added, “I totally agree! If there are conversations still to be had, I think that’s really what determines if we can tell a Season 3. Is it as good as Season 1 and 2? Does the audience still have questions? Do we have answers?”
“It’s a collaboration,” Kidman said. “We work as a group. We are incredibly tight; we talk to each other, and we are on each other’s side. So, we will decide as a group.”