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Charlie's Angels director McG

You know… we've interviewed a lot of directors here at the Bits, from David Fincher to William 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 Angels?

McG: Well… 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 your vision?

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 franchise…

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 Mary… that's Charlie's Angels.

Bill Hunt: Watching some of the bonus stuff on this DVD, there's no mistaking… you're a 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 both laughing]

Bill Hunt: This was your first film, right?

McG: Yeah.

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?

McG: Well… 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 for it.

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 recently…

Bill Hunt: Right on.

McG: I'll tell you what, I just got that Beastie Boys Criterion Collection...!

Bill Hunt: Oh man… that's a great disc.

McG: No doubt.

Bill Hunt: Okay… a 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…

McG: [no 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 pre-production?

McG: Pre-pre-production, '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 good.

Bill 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…" what is your ultimate project?

McG: [immediately] I wanna make The Evil Knievel Story in the style of Raging Bull. How hot would that be?

Bill Hunt: [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?

McG: [again, immediately] Tom Cruise! Or Sean Penn would be a good Evil Knievel. Mark Wahlberg could even do it…
McG and the Angels

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 something?

McG: [laughs] 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… let's get 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 about you?

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 burger?

McG: I do, but I'll get nervous if I see the cook smoking a cigarette.

Bill Hunt: Fries with that?

McG: Absolutely.

Bill Hunt: Regular or super-sized?

McG: Super-sized. Definitely.

Bill Hunt: Very cool. That's it, dude. We're done.

McG: Oh my God, what a fun interview! Thanks!

---end---

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 show!

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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