Magazine article Newsweek

Hello, Angels: The Making of the New, High-Wattage 'Charlie's Angels' Showcased as Much Intrigue, Plotting and Mane-Tossing as an Average Episode of the Classic '70S TV Show. but Beauty Always Has a Price

Magazine article Newsweek

Hello, Angels: The Making of the New, High-Wattage 'Charlie's Angels' Showcased as Much Intrigue, Plotting and Mane-Tossing as an Average Episode of the Classic '70S TV Show. but Beauty Always Has a Price

Article excerpt

Last week's Hollywood premiere of "Charlie's Angels" at Mann's Chinese Theatre attracted everybody from George Clooney to original TV Angel Jaclyn Smith. Columbia Pictures was forced to book an additional theater for the overflow crowd. But as soon as the second cinema's lights dimmed, the movie projector's circuit breaker went haywire, stopping the movie at least four times. It was a symbolic debut, given the film's tortured path to the screen.

In Hollywood there is a fine line between wide-open collaboration and absolute anarchy, and "Charlie's Angels" tested that distinction repeatedly. "When you don't have something set, it becomes a free-for-all," says Leonard Goldberg, who produced both the TV show and the movie. Following an anxious search for the proper tone and the right casting, the update of TV's detective-cleavage drama was entrusted to a trio of novice filmmakers. Columbia, which has struggled recently, watched with increasing apprehension as a flotilla of screenwriters came aboard to overhaul the screenplay, actors rebelled against the shifting script and each other, new producers were summoned to take charge and the budget grew to a steep $92 million.

Columbia is now starting to breathe again. While the production won't attract Oscar-caliber reviews, it appears poised for popcorn success. Audience surveys show mounting interest in the adventures of Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore) and Alex (Lucy Liu) as they solve a computer programmer's kidnapping only to find their mysterious boss is in danger. With fight sequences borrowed from "The Matrix" and plenty of skin-tight costumes, the film's appeal may not be limited to young girls, either.

When the current movie was first contemplated in 1995, the toughest "Charlie's Angels" challenge was establishing the proper point of view: Are these women bimbos? Or are they really crackerjack private eyes with nice lashes? Goldberg and partner Aaron Spelling initially resisted a tongue-in-cheek spoof, pushing for a hard-core action tale, but Columbia wasn't interested. Ed Solomon and Ryan Rowe then wrote a female James Bond yarn with the Angels foiling a plot to clone supermodels and peddle them to billionaires. Columbia liked that 1998 script so much it started the movie along.

Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen, the actress's partner in her production company, then visited Columbia to present their own ideas for the movie. Columbia wanted Barrymore to star, but as part of her $8 million deal, she would also produce, even though she and Juvonen's first and only movie was the $22 million teen comedy "Never Been Kissed." Music-video director McG was hired as a first-time director. Suddenly, three young people were at the controls of a potential franchise, and they didn't even have a map. …

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