Charlie's Angels director McG knows a thing or two about action. After bringing the three sassy sirens to the big screen, McG followed up with the sequel, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, We Are Marshall, and Terminator Salvation. In his latest film, the energetic director brings Academy Award-winner Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Water for Elephants), Tom Hardy (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises), and Chris Pine (Smokin' Aces, Star Trek) together for a romantic comedy action flick, This Means War. When two CIA agents fall for the same woman, all bets are off and anything goes. Hardy, Witherspoon, and McG met with Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier to discuss the movie's Bond vs. Bourne inspirations, working with such a stellar team, and whether or not they walk on the wild side.
Emmanuel Itier: What attracted you to this movie? Did you get inspired a little bit by “Spy vs. Spy” from the comic strip in Mad magazine? Was it a little bit the spirit of that?
Reese Witherspoon: Not so much a comic strip, but I think it was sort of an interesting thing, doing a comedy with action elements, and I’d never done that before. I’m always looking for something new, something different, and this felt like a really fun movie. I was excited to work with McG too.
EI: What’s different, working with McG? He seems full of energy.
RW: He is. He is just sunshine, happiness, and joy and enthusiasm, and he loves loud music and big explosions and fast cars and sexy women. [Laughs] This is not normally my energy, but I loved Charlie’s Angels. I just thought he created the very first female superheroes in film, and I was excited to be one of the women in his oeuvre.
EI: How was it to be among all these men? Chris, Tom, McG… Is it like a dream-come-true for a girl? Or is it too many guys?
RW: Sometimes it’s hard being the only girl around [laughs], but sometimes this is a fun thing too, because you get a lot of attention and everybody is treating you nicely. But sometimes they’re all off playing with guns, and the writers and I would be over there writing all the scripts and the words and stuff.
EI: Was there a particular challenge or scene that was trickier than another?
RW: The scene where I’m dancing in the living-room while the boys come in and go out while sneaking behind my back was all choreographed, so we had to be very specific and precise, and I had to sing at the same time. It was fun, though. It took us about three or four hours to shoot it. But it was great. It was all one take, so that’s cool.
EI: I have to ask you this because I’m French: As you know, The Artist is nominated. Have you seen it?
EI: What do you think of it?
RW: It’s wonderful, and I just met the director (Michel Hazanavicius) the other day, and his wife is wonderful… It’s just one of those films I showed my children and they just found it joyful. It’s so nice to have a movie that explains itself so easily and simply.
EI: Did you meet Jean Dujardin? Do you think he has a chance?
RW: No, I’ve never met him. I think he has a big chance, yes. This could be the French year. It could be a big French year.
EI: Did you know him before?
EI: What has been your most favorite scene from all the movies you’ve seen in your life? Is there a scene that, every time you see it, you’re moved or breathless?
RW: Probably the scene in Tootsie where Dustin Hoffman is dressed as a woman and he slowly takes off his wig. It’s one of those movies that, no matter, every time I see it, I have to sit there and watch it. It’s too good.
EI: Why is that?
RW: It’s funny, it’s challenging as an audience member. He’s very emotional, but it’s also so great to watch the people. Also anything from Bonnie and Clyde too. That last scene where they get shot at is just so beautifully choreographed. It’s like ballet.
EI: At the end, are you more wild, or peace and love?
RW: I’m probably more peace and love. I think I’m the peace and love element of this movie.
Emmanuel Itier: How did you approach this movie? Was it like “Spy vs. Spy” in the comic strip from Mad magazine? Did you get inspired a little bit by that?
Tom Hardy: Mad magazine? Oh! With the mice. Is that what you’re talking about?
EI: “Spy vs. Spy.”
TH: No, I didn’t, actually. It was much more, I think, McG called it James Bond versus Bourne. But no, it was just rivalry between the two of us as spies.
EI: How was it working with McG? Tell me about his energy as a director.
TH: McG is a brilliant director for creating an environment of enthusiasm and allowing a space for us to play within – a world and a vision that he has very specific, and he draws upon all kinds of references from films that he’s seen. He’s a huge cinephile, and he says, “This scene is like this from Gone with the Wind, and This scene is like On the Waterfront and this scene here is from “Grease Lightning.” And they all look at him, “Okay, right. Okay cool,” and then try to recreate the world that he wants to recreate, and also live within it. But he’s very supportive of our work.
EI: Was there a specific scene that was more challenging than another?
TH: Not really. Sometimes it was very cold. We shot Vancouver in the winter for an LA summer, so sometimes we were out and it was freezing cold. But apart from that, no, it was fun.
EI: How was working with Reese? Is she as charming as she appears?
TH: Yes, she is. And as talented and as brilliant, and a huge draw to want to work in an action-comedy like This Means War. Like anything, because I’ve watched her career for a long time and I thought, I’d really love to get involved and see how she works and how they work in that genre, so it was an honor to be able to work with her, because I think she’s really the top of her game. Although this is not a romantic comedy – this is an action-comedy, which is a completely different think altogether.
EI: Do you see yourself more the wild type or more the peace and love type?
TH: I’m more the peace and love type. But I can have a tear-up.
EI: What do you think the movie is about, and what would you want to get from This Means War?
TH: I think the movie is about just having fun, and it’s a very light action-comedy which is about a free-spirited, strong, independent woman who is trying to make a choice between two guys she has the choice of. And it puts a woman at the forefront of the story, and the two of us are sort of jumping around, trying to impress her. Not a lot of message [laughs], but a lot of fun.
EI: Have you ever have a time in your life where you had to fight another guy to get the girl?
TH: No, not that I’m aware of. If I want something, I go get it.
EI: This is the year of The Artist. Did you see The Artist?
TH: No. I really want to see it. I’ve actually got it on DVD at home, so I’m gonna go and watch that.
EI: Do you think that Jean Dujardin has a chance to win?
TH: I hope so, but isn’t he up against Gary Oldman? Because Nick Nolte was in Warrior, Gary Oldman was in Tinker Tailor, and I’m blind faithfully loyal to…I’ll send it to Gary Oldman. [Laughs] So even if he’s better, I’m sorry, f*ck him. It’s got to go to Gary. And this is an action-comedy.
Emmanuel Itier: What was the inspiration behind this movie? Was it inspired by the comic series “Spy vs. Spy” from Mad, magazine?
McG: Yes. One hundred percent. I love the idea of James Bond and Jason Bourne being best friends, and then all of a sudden meeting the same woman and turning on each other, and using all of that skill toward stopping the other one. And that’s basically a “Spy vs. Spy" construct, and that’s what I love about it. And I love the idea of balancing action and comedy. That’s, for me, very very fun. Those are my favorite films.
EI: You seem to be an adrenaline junkie director. Is it true that you love the visceral energy of doing action movies?
MG: I do because my life was very small, growing up, so I always had a very active dream life, and I’m a big fan of Michel Gondry and Jenee, and I like pictures that transport you into the world of cinema. Those are always my favorite films. So I like adrenaline and I like excitement, and I like living in a world of action; I like living in a world of comedy and beauty and talented actors, and it’s very different than where I grew up, in a planned community that was very pedestrian and not very exciting at all. So I had a big dream life.
EI: Tell me about the challenge of casting that movie. I read about many of the casting changes online. Why was it so tough to find the right actors?
MG: For me, I always wanted Chris (Pine) and Tom. Reese was attached to the movie when I came on board, and then I knew about Tom Hardy from actually a Guy Ritchie pictured called RocknRolla. And, of course, I’d seen Bronson and I knew that he had Warrior coming out, and he went on to get the Bane character in The Dark Knight, but I knew that he had a very active mind and he could be very funny as well, so I went and spoke to him in London, and I cast him right there on the spot, which was great. And Chris I saw in a Martin McDonagh play called The Lieutenant of Inishmore, and he was fantastic, and of course I knew all of his work from Star Trek and Smokin’ Aces. And those two just feel like the right choice, and I think their chemistry is what makes the film take off. And Reese is at the center of it, and it seemed to work out in the end.
EI: Tell me about your collaboration with Will Smith. He’s attached as a producer. What was his involvement? How did you come to work with him?
MG: Will and I have known each other for a long time because he got started in the music world, I got started in the music world, and his company had the project, and we spoke regularly just to make sure we were fulfilling the same vision of what the best version of the movie was. And he’s a guy that excels in action and comedy. If you look at Bad Boys or Men in Black, he knows how to live in many worlds. So he was a great partner to have on this picture.
EI: Were there any particular scenes that provided more of a challenge to shoot?
MG: Action scenes are always very difficult, and Reese is new to that world, so we had to do a lot of explaining that the car that’s tumbling toward you is not gonna ultimately hit you. And I like to also build in some technical challenges where you see a few shots in the film – one shot where she’s dancing and it’s one steady-cam shot with no cuts throughout the picture. And one shot where Chris Pine’s character takes her to a nightclub that is an homage to the Ray Liotta scene in Goodfellas where he enters the Copacabana and the tables come out, and there’s no cuts as well. So there’s the influence of the films I’ve been watching my whole life that come out in my own secret ways.
EI: Do you see yourself as more wild, or more like peace and love?
MG: I don’t know. I think it’s the conflict inside me that has me attracted to both, but ultimately I think peace will win out. I think it’s critical -- in this day and age, when things are very dangerous and there’s a lot of volatility in the world – for everybody to communicate and stay cool. And I get over to France with great regularity, you come over to the United States, and we benefited from that because we learn about different cultures and different people, and it builds tolerance, and I think, with education, people will grow more tolerant.
EI: When are we going to see a new Terminator or Charlie’s Angels? The audience is aching for that.
MG: I don’t know. It’s up to the audience. We’ll see if there’s an appetite from Christian (Bale) and Sam (Worthington) for a Terminator idea, and from the girls in regard to Charlie’s Angels. It’s just about scheduling, and it’s very difficult to put movies together, with people running off to make different films, and this, that, and the other, and the power is always in the audience. So if the audience wants more, there will be more.
EI: A little note on The Artist. Have you seen it? Do you think Jean Dujardin has the potential to win?
MG: I think indeed he will win. I think it’s the most extraordinary picture of the year, and I also like the Almodovar picture – The Skin I Live In. And I think The Artist is gonna win Best Picture; I think he’ll win as well, and the picture just blew my mind. And getting a film like that made today is really inspiring.
EI: Jean just signed with William-Morris, actually, so now he’s available for the American director. Is he somebody you’d like to work with?
MG: I hear that he got in a lot of trouble for his new picture with the leg sticking up…
MG: And I’m reading about it with great regularity, and I thought the French were very forward-thinking and permissive and forgiving, and it sounds like a little bit of American prudishness is creeping over the Atlantic.
EI: But would you hire him as an actor?
MG: In one second. In fact, I’m gonna lean on those guys at William-Morris to make sure that meeting takes place soon.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation's 'This Means War' is released in theaters on February 17, 2012.