Alexander Burchardt doesn’t look anything like Michael Hutchence. Yes, he’s handsome like the INXS singer, and has a similarly defined jawline, but the resemblance stops there. But through happenstance and Hollywood magic, the 29-year-old web developer from Copenhagen recently became an unlikely stand-in for Hutchence in the second season for HBO’s wildly popular show Euphoria.
Like many other teenagers and twentysomethings, Burchardt had been binging the viral teen drama. He was a few episodes into the recently concluded Season Two when he saw one of the show’s most tragically romantic scenes, in which viewers learn the backstory of controversial patriarch Cal Jacobs. Cal’s best friend and would-be lover goes to the jukebox at a bar to queue up INXS’s classic hit “Never Tear Us Apart,” from their 1987 album Kick. But upon closer inspection, Burchardt and his girlfriend noticed something was off: A quick shot at the album cover in the jukebox window didn’t reveal Hutchence’s face on the artwork, but Burchardt’s from a stock image photo shoot he’d shot nearly a decade earlier.
“It was me. In the split second we see the album cover, I saw it and I got so confused,” Burchardt says. “You’d be surprised how easily you could recognize yourself when you least expect it. I remember that photo shoot [and] the clothes I was wearing but I was shocked. We thought it was impossible so we rewound the scene, paused again and looked, and my girlfriend was screaming.”
He quickly started sharing the development with friends and family, and posted the Easter egg in Euphoria’s Reddit page. Burchardt wasn’t the only add-in; the entire album was spoofed as the latest in the wacky history of Hollywood dopplegänger visual works, presumably when a show or movie can’t get the licenses for the real thing. In this case, Euphoria made the album equivalent of a stunt double just convincing enough to get past a first glance, but making for a funny easter egg for the more focused viewer.
An unidentified, squatting, dark-haired man wearing a black T-shirt replaced drummer Jon Farriss, who was originally on the cover sporting a black-and-white striped shirt, while a slightly hunched blonde man donning dark sunglasses stood in for guitarist-saxophonist Kirk Pengilly. Meanwhile, the font for the band’s name and album title are slightly different, the stars between them have been switched out with X’s and the skateboard at the top of the album cover has a different design. Viewers who don’t know much about INXS or weren’t paying close enough attention wouldn’t notice the imitated cover, but others, like comedian Eliza Skinner, were quick to see the discrepancy.
Wtf is this album cover, Euphoria? I almost thought I had my first undeniable Mandela Effect! pic.twitter.com/AxD6oqgDO9
— Eliza Skinner (@elizaskinner) January 24, 2022
It makes for an unexpected cameo for Burchardt, who shot the photos the show used over 10 years ago when he embarked a short-lived modeling career. The modeling days have long since ended, but those photos ended up on iStock, where they could be licensed for for a wide range of personal and commercial uses including film and TV shots, according to iStock’s website. (It’s a similar reason Office star and producer B.J. Novak’s face is on so many products around the world.)
Euphoria isn’t even the first HBO show in the past year to remake an album cover. As eagle-eyed viewers of Sex and the City spinoff And Just Like That pointed out, the show used a slightly modified album artwork of Todd Rundgren’s 1971 album Something/Anything when Carrie pulled out a vinyl sleeve of the record in the first episode.
But Euphoria’s remake of Kick isn’t all that subtle compared to the initial artwork. And while it looks like the original stock picture Burchardt took was slightly edited to give his hair highlighted streaks like Hutchence, the resemblance stops there. Burchardt has a very noticeable beard in his picture, while Hutchence is clean-shaven in the real album cover.
Burchardt and his girlfriend quickly started poring over the iStock website looking for the picture after they saw the scene. (A Google Images reverse search helped Burchardt find the picture.) “We looked through around 50 pages on iStock searching ‘long and dark-haired man with beard’ and we couldn’t find me at the time,” Burchardt says. “We found a lot of other people who I thought looked a lot more like Michael Hutchence than I do, so I’m very happy they chose me.”
While Burchardt recalls being told at least once in his life he has a passing resemblance to Hutchence — the similarity was closer when he had the long, flowy hair seen in the stock image — he concedes it’s not a perfect match. “I asked my mother after all this if she thought I looked like him and she said the opposite,” that I look absolutely nothing like him,” he says with a chuckle.
Alexander Burchardt Discovers Himself on Euphoria
HBO declined to participate in this story or reveal any details about how the album art came to be, so it’s unclear what happened in that situation. What’s most likely is that the show couldn’t get a license to the album artwork and made the copy instead. There are many reasons a film studio or production company may not get a license to album artwork. As Christiane Kinney, a music industry attorney whose expertise is in copyright law, notes, the individual members of INXS (or the estate of Michael Hutchence, who died in 1997) may not have granted their approval to use their name and likeness in the show. That could be for purely financial reasons or more personal or artistic ones.
“There’s any number of scenarios that could lead to this,” Kinney says. “There are right of publicity laws, some of which extend to after death,” Kinney says. Even if the label granted permission, beyond that it’s usually common courtesy to reach out to third parties or their estates to get permission. Maybe the producers couldn’t reach these parties in time and decided to make the spoof instead.”
Kinney also notes that the album art is similar enough that it could also be a case of a derivative work — an instance in which someone makes new art from an original but would still require a license to create. (A famous derivative work is Marcel Duchamp’s famous L.H.O.O.Q.) It’s unclear if HBO had such a license.
Depending on if the record label — Atlantic Records, in this case — holds the rights to an album cover, the label could’ve denied the use as well. (Atlantic didn’t reply to a request for comment.) But given that the song itself was approved, Kinney said that was unlikely. Another scenario is that Euphoria simply didn’t want to go through the hassle and payment of securing a license for an album cover that would only be in a shot for half a second.
“The fact that they used the track itself — and that’s assuming they likely had the rights to use the song — coupled with them stripping the album cover so substantially [and] then changing the musicians out with stock images makes me think it was more because of a potential name and likeness or right of publicity concern,” Kinney says.
Regardless of the reason, the strange legal limbo gave Burchardt a wholly singular experience: Bragging rights. “Obviously, this is an incredible story to tell,” he says. “How often does something like this ever happen?”