11 Secrets We Learned While Going Behind the Scenes of the New Charlie's Angels Movie
The beauty of a classic franchise like Charlie's Angels is that every iteration can be completely different from one another yet still enjoyable because they're all focused on the same thing: three women kicking a hell of a lot of ass. From the original 1976 TV series that kicked off the adventures of the Townsend Agency during the prime of "Jiggle TV" to the first installments in the film series led by Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz, the story of three powerful women working for a private detective agency hasn't lost its sheen. Now, more than 15 years after the release of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, we're meeting a new squad of Angels, who are ushering the franchise into the 21st century in a big way.
When I got the chance to visit the film's set in Berlin late last year, I was introduced to a whole new Townsend Agency. The crew was abuzz, creating sets that would transform into a multilayered agency headquarters that fans see in the film's trailer and a dazzling dance floor where a frenzied battle takes place. Excitement was heavy in the air, and there was the sense that something amazingly new was being created — a feeling that was reinforced by the film's stars, including Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, and Jonathan Tucker, as well as director/writer/producer Elizabeth Banks.
The Story Centers on an "Undeniably Human Emotional Experience"
It's fair to say that the previous Charlie's Angels films made us fall in love with a trio of women brought together to save the world a few times while looking amazing doing so. That's exactly what the 2019 version strives to convey — just with an emphasis on how very human these characters are and how well they work together as a team.
"We have this whole network of women working together and supporting each other in the name of quote-unquote 'good,' rather than having three superhuman women that are sexy and perfect at everything," Kristen Stewart told the group of reporters between takes. "Rather, it's like, 'No. It's hard to do what we're doing, and we're only able to do it together.'"
"[The Angels] have a lot of scenes that are not together, and I think the whole movie, you're really craving for these people to find each other again, because it's fun to watch friends like each other," she continued. "And it's really a moving, sort of undeniably human emotional experience, to watch three people struggling separately, but then all of a sudden, we come together with like minds and we can change the world."
Bosley Gets a Makeover
Townsend Agency isn't the only thing getting a major upgrade: it's a whole new world of opportunities for a Bosley. While previous squads of Angels have been cared for by John Bosley (or his family), the surname has become a position at the agency, and anyone can be a Bosley — including Angels themselves.
"There are multiple Bosleys who oversee different territories or headquarters," producer Max Handelman explained. "So you're having Bosleys kind of also moving around the world with their own teams. And Elizabeth's character is the first Angel that became a Bosley. So, without being super on the nose and not being heavy handed about it, that's a way to talk about women's equality through the workplace. Once you're done being an Angel, you're not just done." (This could have prevented a lot of issues in 2003's Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, where Demi Moore played a fallen Angel gone really rogue. Sorry, girl!)
Banks isn't the only Bosley around, of course. She's one of three, with the rest of the trio played by Patrick Stewart and Djimon Hounsou. According to Handelman, Stewart's Bosley is "kind of the patriarch of the organization," who worked alongside Charlie to build the agency. He didn't elaborate on Stewart's role, but we can't help but wonder if that means we'll be meeting the original Bosley.
This Isn't a Reboot — It's a Continuation of the Franchise
In the days of reboots and remakes, it's pretty easy to label the film as one or the other. However, everyone on set was very adamant that the film wasn't trying to retcon any of the previous works in the franchise at all. In fact, the desire to modernize the agency came from Elizabeth Banks's personal enjoyment of the franchise.
"I've always loved Charlie's Angels — I loved the TV show and I loved the films," she said. "I wanted to tell a female-fronted story, and I felt like it's a brand name that is meaningful to women and girls, but also highly entertaining to all audiences. I really felt like I could make a global movie about women working together that could be really entertaining and cool. I wanted to cast a movie with really fresh faces, and I wanted a global audience to feel like they could see themselves in the film."
Obviously, the film stands a bit apart from its predecessors in that it's more advanced in terms of technology and organization. But Max Handelman emphasized that the cast and crew strove to "honor the original legacy of Charles Townsend Agency and what that all means" with the project, while still taking into account how things would have to change with time.
We'll Be Seeing the Birth of an Angel in Action
This time around, audiences will be able to watch as an Angel gets her wings. (Sorry, I had to.) Aladdin star Naomi Scott plays Elena, the young engineer who finds herself entangled with the Angels and has a whole new world opened to her. (I'm not sorry about that one.)
"The idea that anyone can be an Angel is kind of cool," Scott shared when asked about her character's journey during the film. "I'm someone that hasn't really come into my own yet, but I'm just all about justice. I'm kind of a whistle-blower in my company and just constantly being shut down. [When I get] pulled into this whirlwind that is the Angels, I just grow in confidence. I see them and I'm like, 'They're amazing. I could never do that.' But actually, I can. I have it within me."
If You Thought Creepy Thin Man Was Wild, Wait Until You Meet Hoda
We've only gotten a glimpse of Jonathan Tucker's character in the trailer, but from what I learned on set, he's definitely going to wig you out. The Westworld actor had a lot of fun with the character, sharing that he and Elizabeth Banks collaborated heavily on his appearance and action on set. If fact, Tucker made the call to have Hoda's dialogue entirely cut.
"I'm very interested in leaning back as far as I can, so that the audience will kind of lean in, because I want him to be a mystery," the actor shared. "Banks and I cut all of the dialogue for the character because we both thought that would be a lot of fun. So I don't say anything until the very end."
A character who is completely silent for the majority of the film, covered in tattoos from head to (we assume) toe, while also being impeccably dressed? Sign us up for this mystery!
Tucker went on to explain that he felt that the mystery of it all would be fun for the audience and leave them guessing throughout the film. "My dream as an actor for this is that when the credits roll, people are like, 'Who was that, what was that story?'"
Working With Elizabeth Banks Is a Highlight For, Well, Everyone
If there is one thing everyone on the set could agree on, it was how much they enjoyed working with Elizabeth Banks, who continued to wear multiple hats during production. Naomi Scott noted that Banks's work as an actress helped with her directing because "there's a certain shorthand that we have, and she knows exactly what she wants and how to get it out of us."
Kristen Stewart added that Banks's work on the script "made it live" and that each Angel "become so individualized" after she began working on it. "She's really allowed each person to stand up within it. And it makes you not just like the girls and have it be entertaining, but it found its purpose once Liz actually came onto the project," she said.
Sam Claflin, who worked with Banks on The Hunger Games, shared the same sentiment. "When the part was initially offered, she got on the phone with me and was just talking me through the fun we could have, and so I had a few ideas. It was, 'Oh, we can go this way with him, and go that way,' and she's such a collaborator, which I think comes from the acting experience that she has, I think she knows how to work with actors."
He went on to add that seeing "an actor's director" at work was really fun, regardless of how short his time on set was. "She's just maintained a very calm, cool, collected kind of atmosphere and made it very, very easy to work."
Jonathan Tucker wholeheartedly agreed, calling Banks "such a boss," citing her ability to control the set and gain people's respect. "It's a whole other part of the business; how well you control a set, how you deal with momentum and flow of scenes, keeping a day on time and budget and making sure that people's expert opinions — which are great — are sometimes overruled, and it's just cool to watch [her]," he noted.
These Definitely Aren't Your Grandmother's Angels
It stands to reason that a notable part of the Charlie's Angels franchise is its reputation as "Jiggle TV" and its objectification of women for the male gaze. No one on set was denying that aspect of previous iterations, but they definitely weren't interested in applying that element to the new film.
Banks recalled someone telling her that the film "is really sexy, but it's not sexual," which is a sentiment she's content with. "The women are very comfortable with themselves, with their bodies, and they're comfortable in their clothes," she explained. "My main conversation about costuming was that I want the women to feel really comfortable and confident when they come to set. But they also had to move, so you're going to see a lot of [limbs], but it's all out of necessity, not because it's sexual."
"The women have to be able to use their bodies because they're kicking butt, and that's the way we approached costuming," she added. "We didn't approach it wondering what is going to make people look at them."
You're Probably Going to Fall in Love With Langston
You didn't think Netflix's rom-com lead of choice, Noah Centineo, could play someone who isn't automatically the dork of our dreams, did you? According to the actor, Langston is a "cool" goof who works with Elena and ends up getting tangled with the Angels when she goes to them for help.
"He's got a goofy element to him, but he's pretty well-rounded, though," he explained. "He's not goofy when you should be serious. He won't just crack a joke when it shouldn't be there. But he's also not afraid to make fun of certain normal structures. If they're in a business meeting, and Elena messes up, he'll crack jokes at her under the table. But he would never do it to his boss. So he's the right amount of serious, the right amount of goofy. He's the right amount dedicated to his craft."
Sounds like a regular dreamboat, doesn't he? But Centineo swore that Langston's relationship with Elena definitely isn't romantic.
"He works in software development with Elena, and he looks up to her, but she's also very much so his sister in this dynamic," he said. "They share a sense of humor and spend a lot of their nights off together, but it's a platonic relationship."
That doesn't mean there isn't any romance on the horizon for Langston. He seems to get quite close to a certain gun-wielding Angel in the trailer . . .
You Won't Know What to Do With Sam Claflin's Character
Though he doesn't make an appearance in the trailer, Sam Claflin's character plays a key role in the film as the boss of Naomi Scott's Elena. According to the actor, there was a bit of waffling on how he would take on Alexander Brock.
"Well, I have a very small knowledge of the people within the industry that my character is sort of based in," Claflin admitted. "It's so far beyond my reach. There was quite a bit of resets that me and Elizabeth jokingly were like, 'Oh, maybe he's a bit more like Elon Musk. Or no, maybe he's a bit more like this.'" Eventually, they figured out that Alexander is "kind of a child that never grew up."
Claflin shared that his character is quite intelligent and knowledgeable, but he also revealed that "he's very, very stupid." Sounds like a fun time! While Elena is striving to keep their tech from those who would use it for the wrong purpose, Alexander is a little too used to getting his way to be much help. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's a bad guy in the film.
"I don't think he's a villain," the actor said. "Well, I've played villainous people before, and I always say I don't believe they're a villain, I just feel like they're misunderstood. But no, I think he's a man with a plan, and in his mind, 'in order to bake a cake, you have to break a few eggs.' So I think he's a businessman, first and foremost, and I think that there's a reason that he's a billionaire. I think he sort of uses people, but I wouldn't say he's a villain. But it's up to you to make your own minds up, really."
Kristen Stewart Is Like You've Never Seen Her Before
One of the most exciting things for fans is the chance to see Kristen Stewart in a new element. Lighthearted roles are a rarity with the actress, but Sabina Wilson is definitely showing a new side to Stewart that even delighted her costars.
"The word I like to use for Kristen is 'game.' She was just game for anything. She came to set every day so up for it, so excited, and it really pays off in the movie," Elizabeth Banks revealed. "She lands as many jokes in the movie as any comedic actor working today. Anyone who has seen the movie walked away very impressed by how delightfully fun Kristen is in the film. And frankly, it's why I cast her. I knew I could surprise audiences with Kristen, and I feel confident that we will."
Noah Centineo added that seeing the actress at work inspired him, saying: "She just has so much depth and quite a spectrum that she can play. She takes it so seriously, and she really gives a sh*t, not just about this craft, but about the world and about the people in it."
Elizabeth Banks Didn't Want the Angels to "Apologize For Being Good in Action"
One thing Elizabeth Banks was firm about was the desire to present the Angels in all of their badassery without a need to explain themselves. "I feel like there's always been a sense that women have to apologize for being good in action movies or justify why they can run and carry a gun," the director revealed. "But in this movie, we don't apologize for anything and we don't explain why or how we're capable — we just are capable. We just get on with the job."
Max Handelman elaborated on the notion by explaining that there was no desire to feature the "obligatory training montage" in which the women would prove how badass they are to the audience.
"[The Angels] just are, in the same way you never see Ethan Hunt train to become Ethan Hunt. He just is," he said. "We meet him climbing a rock or skyscraper. So when you meet Kristen Stewart in this movie and when you meet Ella Balinska as Jane, they are just trained, badass women who don't have to prove to you why they are the way they are. They just are talented women."