Charles Townsend, the titular Charlie of Charlie’s Angels, has turned the Townsend Agency into heaven on earth. No, really: In director Elizabeth Banks’ upcoming take on the elite all-women crime-fighting team, the camera-shy millionaire doling out missions has become — by conservative estimate — a gazillionaire.
It’s only logical. As Banks puts it, her update isn’t a reboot or a remake of the beloved franchise, but rather a “continuation” that incorporates the events of the original 1970s TV series and the McG-directed 2000s films. And so, she imagines, in the more than 40 years since Charlie assembled his first trio of Angels, he must have given his operation a makeover. “If you were rich in 1976, you only got richer,” Banks, who co-wrote the script, says with a laugh. “Charles Townsend is richer than ever, so he’s grown the business into a global spy agency.”
His expanded roster includes the crew at the center of Banks’ story: Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart), the hard-partying, highly skilled wild card; Jane Kano (Ella Balinska), the ex-MI6 muscle of the group; and Elena Houghlin (Aladdin’s Naomi Scott), the MIT-trained scientist who, Banks says, serves as “the heart of the movie.”
Charlie’s call takes them around the world, with stops in Istanbul, Hamburg, and Berlin, but amid all the globe-trotting, Banks was most invested in showcasing the trio’s teamwork. “It was important to me to make a movie about women working together and supporting each other, and not make a movie about their romantic entanglements or their mother they don’t call enough,” she says. “When I’m at work, I don’t talk about those things. I get on with my job. It felt important to do that for the Angels, to treat them with the respect their skill set demands.” Judging by this first look? Mission accomplished.
Banks, Patrick Stewart, and Djimon Hounsou, that’s who. In Charlie’s history, multiple actors playing multiple characters named Bosley have aided the Angels. To Banks, it felt natural to upgrade the name into a title. “‘Bosley’ is now a rank in the organization, like lieutenants,” she says. “All of the Angels have been played by different women and have had different names, but the Bosley character was always named Bosley no matter who played him. We thought, ‘Well, that must mean it’s more than a name.’” Above, her Bosley helps Stewart’s Sabina gear up.
It wouldn’t be Charlie’s without Angels going undercover. Here, Sabina (Stewart) suits up at a Turkish derby, where the trio tail a target until “chaos ensues, as it always does,” Banks teases. That chaos, though, won’t look like the over-the-top sequences of the 2000s films; the director says she took a “grounded” approach to stunts: “I wanted to make them distinct from superheroes, aliens, and mythological creatures that are in a lot of action movies now.”
In fact, the Mission: Impossible franchise’s blend of grit and humor inspired her group’s dynamic. “We talked a lot about [those movies],” Banks says. “Those films work best when the team is together, when Ving Rhames is in it, and Simon [Pegg] is in it, and Rebecca Ferguson. That sensibility really matters to me.”
When asked what Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s breakout star) is doing in this scene with Balinska’s Jane, Banks gets tight-lipped. “I don’t want to give too much away about Noah,” she says of his character, Langston, “but he’s a friend mostly to Naomi’s character.” The Angels clearly have plenty of allies, but that doesn’t mean they can’t accomplish their goals on their own. “I mean, women can do anything,” Banks says. “That’s not just my personal belief. That’s the core belief of Charlie’s Angels.”
The last time Banks collaborated with Scott, in 2017’s Power Rangers, she played supervillainess Rita Repulsa to Scott’s Pink Ranger. This time, they’re on the same side: Banks costars as one of the Bosleys (see above) assisting Scott’s Elena, who plays a pivotal role in catalyzing the central mission. “I wanted somebody who I felt the audience wants to root for,” Banks says of casting Scott. “She’s getting to be this Everywoman who’s also very fun and very funny.”
Banks’ film marks the first Charlie’s entry on the big screen to be helmed by a female director. “It’s a really exciting moment for female-driven films,” she says, citing Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel as recent examples of box-office successes. “Audiences are really looking for those aspirational stories about real and relatable characters, and I think the women in my movie are definitely real and relatable, but most importantly, I think they’re really fun.”
They’re certainly having fun: Just look at Sabina’s array of wardrobe (and identity) changes across these photos. “I wanted Kristen to show off a side of herself you don’t often see in her movies,” Banks points out. “She’s really funny in this.”
John Forsythe, the voice of the Angels’ enigmatic boss in the ’70s series and the 2000s films, passed away in 2010. But don’t worry: Banks has a plan for her installment’s Charlie. “The voice will sound very familiar to you,” she teases. “We tried to emulate John Forsythe’s voice as best as we could. We want a real sense of continuity in the movie.” After all, as seen in the image above, the Angels answer the call.
Charlie’s Angels takes flight November 15.
For more on Charlie’s Angels, pick up the new Avengers: Endgame issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday. You can buy all six covers, or purchase your individual favorites: Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, and Ronin. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.