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page created: 3/16/01
we've interviewed a lot of directors here at the Bits,
Friedkin. And we've always taken it pretty seriously. So when
I got the chance to sit down with Charlie's
Angels director McG, I figured a different approach was
in order. As it turns out, McG (a.k.a. Joseph McGinty Nichol), was
all for it. We'd only been talking for a few minutes when I learned
that, like myself, McG is a Midwest-transplant to California. He's
from Michigan, I'm from North Dakota. 'M' precedes 'N' in the
alphabet. Coincidence? I don't think so. After he landed, McG grew
up in Newport Beach, and went to college at University of California
- Irvine, a scant few miles from the West Coast offices of The
Digital Bits. The guy was like my neighbor. And after
just a few minutes, I'd already gained a respect for him. So I
figured, let's have fun with this. Let's imagine we're just a pair
of Average Joes, shootin' the breeze over a couple of beers. This
isn't gonna be one of those sissy interviews where we ask the
serious questions, like "So how did you get your start
directing music videos?" or "What was your vision with
Charlie's Angels?" Wanna
find out how McG's traumatic childhood influenced his perspective as
a filmmaker? Go elsewhere. We're asking the important questions
Bill Hunt (The Digital Bits):
Okay, so how did you get your start directing music videos?
McG: Growing up Newport Beach,
I was sort of involved in the music business. And I'd always been a
still photographer. And, you know, I was involved with my childhood
friends - the guys at Sugar Ray - and primarily Mark Mcgrath. I
really didn't know what I was doing, but I thought, "You guys
should really make a video!" I had a buddy who was an assistant
in features. And he got the camera gear and we went out and shot a
bunch of stuff. To make a long story short, they ended up getting a
record deal, so I ended up doing all their videos. And then I went
on to work with Korn and Cypress Hill. One thing let to another. It
was a fantasy - I loved it.
Bill Hunt: Very cool. So then
that led to your grabbing the wheel on Charlie's
I knew Drew
Barrymore was attached. And over the years, I'd gotten an agent and
a manager who would start putting me in contact with important
people. And I figured that if I could just talk to Drew, I gotta
believe that she'd want to do something fun and interesting with a
film that comes from an old television show. So I hooked up with
Drew - and you know, she cancelled on me like 7 or 8 times - but she
finally agreed to meet with me and you know
lo and behold, we
banged our heads together. It turned out that we both liked a lot of
the same things - John Hughes movies, hot-rods, relationships. And
we just wanted to make a pop-a-wheelie kinda movie.
Bill Hunt: Coming into Charlie's
Angels, where did you want to take the project? What was
McG: Well, I knew it couldn't
be taken too seriously, you know? I wanted to have a lot of fun with
it. I think if you tried to take it too seriously, and tried to
create some sort of Shakespearean tragedy with Charlie's
Angels, you'd be in a tough spot. So we wanted to have
fun, and be respectful of the original show. And at the same time,
we wanted it to work for today's movie audiences - we wanted it to
have a lot of pace and a lot of color and a lot of fun. We wanted to
make a very sort of, you know... rock-n-roll, drive-in movie.
Bill Hunt: And I'm sure it was
something that Columbia TriStar had a lot of interest in as a
McG: I certainly hope so.
We're talking about a sequel. What do you think? Should we do one?
Bill Hunt: Why in the heck
not? It was fun, it made good money. I kinda describe it to people
as Austin Powers for chicks.
It's that same kind of campy fun, action thing
McG: Yeah, exactly. Austin
Powers, plus throw in a little James Bond and The
Matrix and Something About
Bill Hunt: Watching some of
the bonus stuff on this DVD, there's no mistaking
pretty high energy guy. [McG laughs]
So where does that come from?
McG: I don't know, you know?
In this particular instance, I think it's just that I was so damn
excited to be a part of this thing. I'm just this guy who, you know,
grew up longing to be better looking [now I'm
laughing] and all that. And one day, I find myself on the set
of Charlie's Angels and I'm
the director, and Drew's in it and Cameron and Lucy and Bill Murray.
It was just such an absolute dream come true, and realizing that
provided a ton of energy on a daily basis. And, you know, I was so
intent on getting that energy up on screen, so that the film would
just explode through the pleasure center of the audience's brain. It
was just easy for me, day in and day out, to be really fired up.
Bill Hunt: Did you ever have
one of those "Oh, my God" moments? Where you're sitting
there behind the camera, and you've got Cameron Diaz and Drew
Barrymore and Lucy Liu flying around on wires for you, and you just
think, "How the hell did I get here?"
McG: Every day. I'm just this
knucklehead from Kalamazoo, Michigan. When I graduated from high
school, I was like 5'2", I had an orange afro, neck gear,
dolphin shorts and shoe skates. [now we're
Bill Hunt: This was your first
Bill Hunt: You've got a ton of
wire-fu and stunt work on this flick. Given that you're a
first-timer, how much of an added challenge does that present? How
did you handle that?
I was smart
enough in one respect to bring in the heavy-weight champs of the
world for wire-fu - in Cheung-Yan Yuen and his brother Woo-ping -
who are masters of Hong Kong cinema and have been doing it since the
early 70's with Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung and all those guys. They
came over and really, really helped us out. We knew they were over
there, and we thought that the days of the John Wayne right cross
weren't as exciting as some of the fighting they could bring to the
table. So we brought them over from Hong Kong and they trained the
girls for many, many months and away we went.
Bill Hunt: They were pretty
excited to work on the project?
McG: Yeah. They were very
excited about the prospect of making a female action movie. It's no
secret - it's tough to make a female action movie and they were all
Bill Hunt: So how big a fan of
DVD are you? I mean, are you one of these guys who carries a
portable player everywhere?
McG: I love DVD. I love all
the little secret things you can hide on a DVD. We did a few of
those for our disc...
Bill Hunt: Very cool. You have
a favorite disc?
McG: I like the reissue of
Se7en. I like Being
John Malkovich. The Men in
Black boxed set. I'm all over the place. I've even been
watching my copy of Sound of Music
Bill Hunt: Right on.
McG: I'll tell you what, I
just got that Beastie Boys Criterion
Bill Hunt: Oh man
a great disc.
McG: No doubt.
Bill Hunt: Okay
different angle. If you could pick one person that you'd love to sit
down, have a beer with and pick their brains, who would it be?
Doesn't have to be a filmmaker
hesitation] Freddie Mercury.
Bill Hunt: No shit? What would
you want to know?
McG: I'd just want to
investigate his passion for living. I've just always been very
interested in theatrical performers and people who are capable of
that scope of emotion. And Freddie Mercury was just such a maniac -
such a great singer and a great performer. He's, without
reservation, my greatest influence.
Bill Hunt: Very interesting
answer, man. [we're both laughing]
That's a good one. So what's the next big McMovie? Whatcha planning,
whatcha got that you're working on
McG: I'm doing this movie
called Dreadnought right now.
It's sort of a high seas adventure. Kind of Top
Gun meets The Perfect Storm
by way of Hunt for Red October.
Bill Hunt: And you're in
'cause of this strike that's gonna push the pause button on
everything. But it's with this guy Doug Wick, who was the producer
of Gladiator. And it's looking
Hunt: So are there any projects that you're just dying to
do? I mean, if a studio came to you and said, "Here's an
unlimited amount of money, pick any actors you want
is your ultimate project?
I wanna make The Evil Knievel Story
in the style of Raging Bull.
How hot would that be?
[I am so laughing now] Sweeet
McG: Where it's sort of like
an American dream-slash-tragedy. You know, where the very thing that
makes this guy who he is - the greatness of who he is - is also
gonna bring him down.
Bill Hunt: Who would you cast
in the lead?
immediately] Tom Cruise! Or Sean Penn would be a good Evil
Knievel. Mark Wahlberg could even do it
Bill Hunt: Nice. I can see
that. All right
I've just gotta know. It's no secret that Tom
Green and Drew Barrymore made a love connection on the set of your
movie. So did you ever have one of those awkward moments, where
you're walking by her trailer and you hear 'em knocking it out or
You know what? No! Which is a bummer! And I'm such a dumb shit... I
was there the day they met and I'm there with them on the set the
whole time - as this whole thing is sort of blossoming and flowering
- and I didn't even know! [I'm laughing
again] I have like NO spider sense when it comes to stuff
like that. I'm just an idiot. I couldn't tell anything. They're
making eyes at each other, and I'm like, "Okay
this shot everybody!" I'm such a knucklehead.
Bill Hunt: Looking ahead now
as a filmmaker who's just starting out. A 100 years from now, when
people look back at your movies, what do you want them to remember
McG: I want them to say that
he was sort of the second coming of Stanley Donen, you know? He
brought joy and entertainment back to the cinema. 'Cause I'm just of
the opinion that there's a lot of people out there with tough jobs
at Wal Mart or whatever, you know? I've always been a big fan of
going to the movies and losing yourself - feeling the way you and I
felt the first time we saw Rocky
and came out of the theater shadow-boxing each other and racing off
to the gym. And I like that. Life is hard enough as it is, you know?
I mean, I love the artists who make serious, introspective films.
Truthfully, I hope to make a few of those myself. But, just right
now, I want to make explosive, drive-in movies.
Bill Hunt: Fair enough. All
right - three quick questions. You want special sauce on your
McG: I do, but I'll get
nervous if I see the cook smoking a cigarette.
Bill Hunt: Fries with that?
Bill Hunt: Regular or
McG: Super-sized. Definitely.
Bill Hunt: Very cool. That's
it, dude. We're done.
McG: Oh my God, what a fun
Hey McG - thanks for a great chat, man. The
Digital Bits would also like to thank Jeff Kaplan of
Columbia TriStar Home Video and Chris Reichert of mPRm Public
Relations. Look for our review of the Charlie's
Angels: Special Edition DVD soon. Hope you enjoyed the