Entertainment Weekly is not about pitting women against each other, but we do have to mention something: No one from the Charlie’s Angels cast can agree on who had the idea first to call Ariana Grande.
Kristen Stewart swears she suggested the pop star for the film’s theme song. Naomi Scott remembers that she was first. And, like the born director — and people wrangler — that she is, Elizabeth Banks insists that Stewart, Scott, and her husband, Max Handelman (who produced the film), all suggested Grande at the exact same time.
Regardless of who is right (we’ll let you, the audience, decide for yourselves), what EW can confirm is that Grande absolutely did record several songs for the new Charlie’s Angels soundtrack, including “Don’t Call Me Angel,” which debuted with the trailer this fall and also features Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey. Banks, who wrote, directed, and starred in the current installment of the franchise, had Grande in mind as a dream collaborator from the very beginning (we’ll come back to that later) and used Kendrick Lamar as an inspiration for what the movie’s music could look like.
“I was obsessed with the Black Panther soundtrack,” she explains to EW on the set of our November digital cover shoot. “And I loved the idea of a sort of singular artist, that spoke to our fans, to sort of oversee the soundtrack. I thought that [Black Panther] was a great model for what we could do.”
The team at Sony was in talks with several artists but Grande said yes, citing her love for the previous Charlie’s Angels installments. Banks believes (“You’d have to ask her!” she cautions) the singer saw an opportunity to be more experimental in her art, since it wasn’t all “her music.” For the Charlie’s soundtrack, Banks requested a mix of ’70s influences (that decade is reflected heavily in the movie’s dance number) and also drew up a dream list of women for Grande to collaborate with.
“I said, I would love for there to be a collaboration with the older generation of women,” explains Banks. “It’s thematically correct to me that we stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us. The Chaka Khan collaboration might be my favorite song on the whole thing.”
The soundtrack, of course, needed a lead single, and on “Don’t Call Me Angel,” Cyrus quickly agreed to join Grande on it (“They’re friends,” notes Banks). Savan Kotecha, who co-wrote and produced the song alongside pop powerhouse Max Martin, had Miley in mind when he wrote the singer’s verse.
“And then Lana [Del Rey] said yes and it all came together,” Banks gushes. “I did not think we’d beat ‘Independent Women’ — or Destiny’s Child — but I feel like we did today’s version of it.”
The actresses — today’s versions of the Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu trio — were able to visit the set of the “Don’t Call Me Angel” video and fangirl out properly. Even if Scott maintains that Stewart wanted the Cure to work on the soundtrack instead of Ariana Grande, and Stewart maintains that she did, in fact, suggest Ariana Grande.
“I didn’t think we were actually going to get the Cure to do our soundtrack,” Stewart insists. “I just thought it would be cool if every character had a different vibe — and it would be cool to get some Rock & Roll in the movie. There are punk and emo kids from the Valley who would literally be like YES! But I was literally the first person to say that Ariana should be the person to do the song. She might be the only pop artist that I know.”
After chiming in with a playful rebuttal — “I was, don’t you dare!” — Scott adds that she was blown away by Grande’s work ethic while on the set of the video, noting that in between takes, the singer was setting up collaborations and holding brainstorms. Ella Balinska, the third member of the Angels trifecta, describes the dynamic between Grande, Del Rey, and Cyrus as “two powerhouses and an incredible musician.”
“It was f—ing cool,” adds Banks, definitively.
Charlie’s Angels opens Nov. 15.