Brow Beat

Report: HBO Gave Control of Big Little Lies Season 2 to Andrea Arnold’s Male Predecessor

Meryl Streep, with arms crossed, looks out a window.
Meryl Streep in Big Little Lies Season 2.
Jennifer Clasen/HBO

A new report from IndieWire says that HBO and Big Little Lies creator David E. Kelley undermined Andrea Arnold as the director of the show’s second season by letting Jean-Marc Vallée—who directed the first season—recut her episodes to match his own style.

According to anonymous sources, Arnold (whose previous work includes Red Road, Fish Tank, and American Honey) was promised the opportunity to make the second season of the HBO series her own “from prep, through production, and into post-production.” But Kelley reportedly planned all along that Vallée, who was unable to direct in the first place because of a commitment to Sharp Objects, would eventually take over. Arnold, apparently never made aware of that plan, shot instead in her own style and convinced HBO to hire European editors so that she could return to London to work on it there after filming was finished.

At that point, Vallée took over editing in Montreal instead, resulting in the production scheduling 17 additional days of photography during which Arnold was present, as required by the Director’s Guild of America, but not in control. (Recent episodes credit as many as 11 different editors, almost always a sign of behind-the-scenes turmoil.) “Vallée was now an extremely hands-on [executive producer] dictating not only what would be shot, but how it would be shot, oversight that Arnold never had during the initial shoot,” IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt reports. “The optics were not lost on many associated with Big Little Lies: A show dominated by some of the most powerful actresses in Hollywood hired a fiercely independent woman director—who was now being forced to watch from the director’s chair as scenes were shot in the style of her male predecessor.”

The changes included more flashbacks to Season 1 and alterations to the story as well as “removing Arnold’s signature contributions,” leaving her “heartbroken.” HBO issued a statement that praises Arnold but doesn’t really dispute the account:

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.

You can read the full report over at IndieWire.