MTV fave McG tells about moving from music videos to film

By EW Staff
November 16, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST
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by Lori Reese

When ”Charlie’s Angels” had a $40.5 million opening weekend, the movie’s director, McG, became a hot property in Hollywood. Yet before taking on ”Angels,” McG (real name: Joseph McGinty Nichol) had never helmed a feature film. A onetime producer for bands like Sugar Ray, he went on to direct hit music videos (The Offspring’s ”Pretty Fly for a White Guy” and Smashmouth’s ”Walking on the Sun”) and award winning TV commercials (the Gap spot set to ”Crazy Little Thing Called Love”). Now the 30 year old Californian has signed on for another big budget Columbia Pictures project — not a rumored ”Angels” sequel — but a high seas adventure called ”DreadNaught.” He talked to about updating a TV classic, the danger of big stunts, and Charlie’s old speakerphone.

How did a Hollywood rookie like you land such a great gig?
[Drew Barrymore] and I got together after she canceled on me seven times. We discussed everything from ”Billy Jack” to bad heavy metal from the ’80s. Then we talked about all of these things that got us excited about the movie. We didn’t want to do, like, a retro sort of spoof piece. The take was, the ”Angels” got started in 1976 and just kept on trucking all the way to the year 2000.

Yet you didn’t have a finished script when you started shooting.
The script was a source of conversation throughout most of production. But that was because we had a very clear idea of who each character was. Because everybody’s head was so wrapped around what the characters were, we were very particular about the dialogue.

Drew, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu did most of their own stunts. Was that scary?
Yeah. The [crew] gives you the wire rigs and says, ‘This will hoist, you know, 4 tons,’ and it’s like this little fishing wire thing and you’re like, ‘What?’ The ladies are getting rigged up 30 feet in the air, just hanging by a thin little wire. There’s six guys from Hong Kong pulling the giant wire and there goes Drew Barrymore like a cannonball shot over a fence!

No one got injured?
We’re so lucky that they never got hurt. In retrospect, it’s like when you look back on your childhood and you’re like, ‘I can’t believe I did that.’ But conversely, they got hurt on every take. They just never got THAT hurt that they couldn’t continue.

What’s the biggest difference between making videos and making feature films?
[Filmmaking] requires much more discipline and patience. You need to realize that it’s not just three minutes of images that say, ‘Look at me, look at me!’ There’s a couple of scenes that we’re saving for the DVD because of pacing issues. That’s something that I had to learn as a first time director. You can’t just look at one scene or series of scenes, you always had to look at the entire body of the film. And make difficult decisions.

How did you avoid ending up with another ”Mod Squad” — a flop TV remake?
There have been A LOT of films that came from old television shows. There’s a lot of baggage that goes with it. If you tell somebody ‘film from old television show,’ it’s likely that their reaction is skeptical. It’s nice that there’s a brand and people know what it is, but because it came from an old television show, people also think it’s going to be a letdown.

You’ve updated the Angels — but there are some references to the old show, right?
We used Charlie’s exact speaker box from the show, THE exact one. Got it out of the crates, dusted it off, and threw it out there. There is a belly dancing scene that’s an homage to the original show. I wanted to give the fans that treat.

Now that the movie’s grossed $75 million, a Sony rep said that they might want to make a sequel.
Really? As far as I’m concerned, that’s a long conversation with Cameron, Lucy, Barrymore, and everybody involved. I know I would drop everything to work with them again.

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