HBO Boss on 'Big Little Lies' Director Controversy: Andrea Arnold Knew She Wouldn't Have Final Cut

Big Little Lies S02E07 Still - Publicity - H 2019
Jennifer Clasen/HBO

HBO chief Casey Bloys on Wednesday tried to clear up what he called "misinformation" about how much control Big Little Lies director Andrea Arnold had over the show's second season.

Speaking to reporters at the Television Critics Association's press tour, Bloys stood behind both Arnold and the series' executive producers, including season one director Jean-Marc Vallée, in defending how the show came together.

In a statement after Arnold's lack of creative control was first reported by IndieWire, HBO said, "There wouldn't be a season two 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."

Bloys reiterated that statement and praised Arnold's work, but also said directors turning over their work to executive producers for final cut is "business as usual" in television, and that Arnold knew going in she would not have "free rein" on season two. (Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Arnold's deal did not include final cut.) 

Bloys noted that as an executive producer, Vallée was involved in the script stage and had dinner with Arnold prior to filming, so he did not just jump in during postproduction. Nor, Bloys added, did Vallée have "directorial carte blanche" in season one; his vision for the show and that of the other exec producers happened to align.

"I think there was some misinformation that [Vallée] unilaterally decided to come in and take over," Bloys said. "They were working in unison. We were clear, the producers clear. While we hired her for her eye and talent … she understood that we were not looking to reinvent the show or have someone come in to completely reinvent the show."

Showrunner David E. Kelley and the producing team, including stars-executive producers Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, "asked [Vallée] to come in and help hone the episodes. It's not unusual at all to ask an executive producer to come in and help," said Bloys.

"I'd be hard pressed to point to any show that airs a director's cut as its episodes," added the exec. "It's typically raw material producers work from."

Bloys also said that while he'd never say never to a possible third season of the series, there is "no obvious place to go" after the end of season two.

"That said, this group is an extraordinary group. … If they all came to me and said we have the greatest take, listen to this, I'd be open to it because I love working with them," he said. "But who knows? It just doesn't feel like it. But I'm certainly open."