Thunder Force director breaks down Melissa McCarthy's bonkers '80s dance scene
Thunder Force (2021 Movie)
Warning: This article contains light spoilers about the new Netflix movie Thunder Force.
In the world of Thunder Force, superheroes can — unsurprisingly — fly. The real shocker is they only soar through the air when pushed from the arms of a lover in the middle of a steamy, sax-kissed dance scene.
The spectacular sequence comes midway through writer-director Ben Falcone's affectionate pseudo-satire of the genre, and encapsulates everything the movie stands for: "We're in a genre where you can go for it, where magic happens, where amazing things happen," he tells EW. "People are doing superhuman things. That's literally part of the genre."
In Falcone's hands, the film celebrates the humanity of its leads — Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) and Emily (Octavia Spencer), two childhood friends endowed with unnatural powers that help them fight off a villainous politician's plot to destroy Chicago — as much as it marvels at their superhuman abilities, and the art of groove is equally as powerful as, say, throwing a bus clear across seven city blocks.
"That was a lot of choreography," Falcone explains of the scene performed impeccably as a courtship call between McCarthy and her character's forbidden love interest, The Crab (Jason Bateman), a big-time evildoer's small-fry henchman with crustacean limbs in place of human arms.
Falcone says his leading lady (and real-life wife) did all of the sequence's complex stunts, practical maneuvers, and high-flying wire work herself after prolific dancer Zachary Woodlee (Glee) mapped out her steps. She even devised the looks she and Bateman would wear in the scene, right down to her smoky eyes, teased bangs, and glitter-dusted velour jumpsuit.
"All the '80s stuff? Melissa McCarthy. None of that was scripted," Falcone remembers of preparing to shoot the scene in a single day on a stage the production constructed for the shot. "You get really busy with a million things going on, and I tend to put wardrobe and hair and makeup more to her direction because she's so good at all of that stuff.... I remember she goes, 'Oh yeah, no, we're '80s. It's going to be great.'"
But as much as McCarthy's tried to ground the scene in a familiar aesthetic, it's no less of a physical feat to see her twirling above Bateman's head, her body flipping and diving as if she's a caped crime-fighter in pursuit of a menacing target. And that, to Falcone, is a real act of Hollywood heroism.
"There were so many devices, rigs, and harnesses, and Melissa loves wire work, which is what superhero movies are known for!" Falcone finishes with a laugh. "We had no computer! It's all Melissa on wires! She had to learn that. It was really hard to get her off the wires because she loves them so much…. I was like, "'We totally have it,' and she's like, 'maybe one more!'"
Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films.