As Big Little Lies was wrapping up its second season, a different kind of drama was unfolding outside of Monterey. Director Andrea Arnold was announced as the woman helming on the HBO show's second season, but IndieWire later revealed her tenure wasn't smooth. The outlet reports much of the creative control was reclaimed by season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallée, who recut her work to fit his vision.
The news frustrated audiences who saw it as another instance of a man in Hollywood taking power from a woman. But, HBO and stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are refuting the reports and standing by the way season 2 unfolded.
“There’s a lot of misinformation around that subject,” HBO head Casey Bloys told reporters at TCA last week. “First, what we said is absolutely true that there wouldn’t be a second season of Big Little Lies without Andrea. We’re indebted to her. I think she did a beautiful job. She got extraordinary performances out of this cast. But as anybody who works in television knows, the director typically does not have final creative control. So the idea that creative control was taken from the director, it’s just a false premise.”
His statement was echoed in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, where Witherspoon says the controversy doesn't exist.
"There was a lot of misinformation and no credited sources on any of the information," she said. "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."
Witherspoon also took the credit away from any one person, saying that "everything was discussed as a creative group and entity."
Kidman praised Arnold, telling the outlet, "I think she did beautiful work. There is the same vocabulary cinematically but the performances are mined differently and you really feel that. She did beautiful work. We obviously had Meryl playing this uniquely strange character. All the performances this season were mined by Andrea."
However, their responses have been met with skepticism, with some noting that Witherspoon is a founding member of Time's Up, an organisation whose sole purpose is fighting industry inequality like those described by IndieWire. It's unclear, though, where Arnold falls on the accusations since she has not spoken publicly.
A third season is still up in the air, according to the actresses, and details are sparse. However, you likely can be sure that Vallée would fully take back the reins.