This Means War - McG interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
A raucous blend of sexy romantic comedy and action firepower, This Means War is a high-octane blast thanks to sizzling appeal of its central trio: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy.
As two CIA agents-slash-best friends, Pine and Hardy play delightfully against type as romantic heroes trying to score the affection of one feisty woman, Witherspoon, even if it means wrecking their friendship in the process. Director McG talks about some of the challenges involved in making the film, which is released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, July 2, 2012.
Q: Despite all the blockbuster imagery in your films, you always ensure your casts manage to remain front and center. What made Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy the right mix for This Means War?
McG: I’ve always like strong personalities. Chris has a very strong Americana point of view; Tom has a very strong British point and Reese Witherspoon’s won the Academy Award. They have an opinion on the material and my style is a collaborative-style, just to communicate with the actors. To make them feel very comfortable and say: “Let’s get what’s on the page.” And then: “Let’s talk about doing something off book!” Or: “This is a moment where you simply tell your friend, ‘Hey, I’m taking Reese to Grandma’s house and you’re not invited.’ So, what does that sound like because you’re heartbroken that you have to share this, but you’ve gotten to a place where she means a lot to you and you’re going to make that happen?” When the actors understand the story point and the purpose of any given scene, they become very collaborative as well.
Q. You’re covering some new ground with This Means War, which is a fun genre mash-up…
McG: I’m hoping that’s the achievement of the movie that it’s an action movie, but it’s a comedy, but it’s romantic, but it’s a buddy film with guys, a buddy film with girls. I hope you can’t just put it in a box. I like complete movies, movies that really honour the audience. You feel very satiated and very satisfied and I get that from the fun Bad Boys movies, the Rush Hour pictures and Ocean’s Eleven. We aspire to deliver that with this film, as well. There’s big action along the way and big laughs.
Q: The romantic comedy was in dire need of some, well, balls…
McG: I’m raised on great action movies like Die Hard. I’m raised on big comedies. Look at the great comedies of today… Bridesmaids, The Hangover. I want to respond to those voices. The gauntlet’s been thrown down and if you’re going to be funny, you’ve got to be really funny. If you’re going to be action, you’ve got to be action-packed. Everybody believes in Hardy because he’s going to be in the new Batman picture sand everybody believes in Pine because he successfully filled the boots of Captain Kirk. They were the right guys to bring the action credibility and nobody knows how funny these guys are. I only knew from sitting with them how funny they were capable of being, so I tried to bring out all their strengths in a dimensionalized performance where they’re not always free to go there.
Q: Watching the machinations of Pine and Hardy throw down their secret agent best to win the girl is something to behold. Yet, it is cool to see women of This Means War not just come across as window dressing, either…
McG: The film is also very empowering to women. Everybody knows that Reese Witherspoon is a very accomplished, capable human being. Capable actor, capable mother, capable person who gives a lot back to society. I think seeing these two guys run around the world and run around with supermodels makes sense and then to see them throw it all away at the prospect of winning Reese’s hand makes sense as well. It’s very organic, two guys fighting over the same girl. Naturally, it’s a paradigm that worked very well for Twilight. It’s a paradigm that’s been around a lot longer than I have. And hopefully, it’s the contemporary voicing that makes it all worthwhile.
Q: What was it like to do an action film with Reese? Amazing she hasn’t made the leap into this genre before, and in such a sexy manner, too…
McG: She was new to the genre, but she was a good sport and she was willing to commit completely. I mean, the two big challenges for Reese was the action and the sensuality. It’s an overtly sexual, sensual role for her than you’re familiar with in her previous material. She’s in her underwear; she’s kissing the two boys at different moments in the picture, but effectively in the same window of time. That’s a racy space for Reese Witherspoon to occupy and I think that’s what makes it exciting. And, she’s got Chelsea Handler’s hand in the small of her back pushing her along, telling her to go for it. And that’s where the entertainment comes from. Reese is very accessible. She’s very honest and people sense her fundamental goodness. She’s striking on film, but I think it’s what she possesses in an internal capacity that speaks to all of us, both men and women, about why she’s so extraordinary and she’s been able to ascend to the place where she is today.
Q: Given the rock star status of your action films, tell us the truth. What is the best thing for you about blowing stuff up?
McG: It’s cathartic! I think it’s fun to work with the special effects people because special effects means there is a tactile capacity. Visual effects are done with a computer. I like mechanical effects, where you go out there with the gas and you really blow it up. You just feel the concussion of the explosion and the tumbling of the car. It’s exciting to make movies and live in a world where you can do that and you don’t get to do that very often in the real world. It’s part of the fantasy and part of what draws everybody to the magic of Hollywood.
Q: Now that This Means War is heading to DVD and Blu-ray, what will audiences experience that couldn’t see in movie theaters? Will they get full frontal Chelsea Handler this time?
McG: You’re going to see the world according to Chelsea Handler and it’s a filthy, filthy world. I had to struggle with her potty mouth trying to get a rating in this picture because I would get the script and then I would let her go off book. She would go off and off and off. There’s a bachelorette party, there’s extended scenes and there’s Chelsea Handler on men, on dating, and certainly on sex. It’s a scene in the picture. She’s riding the poor man’s Zach Galifianakis with Cheetos in her mouth. You know what you should ask her? What does it mean to clean tartar sauce off your husband’s undescended testicle? [Laughs] That scene makes you squirm, doesn’t it? You kind of look at it, you go: “Why do I feel gross? I’m going to hug myself and I might start crying right now, Chelsea.” She’s a good sport and she’ll do anything and that’s why we love her.
Q: We all want to swoon and be desired like it happens in the movies. Since you’re the architect of some pretty darn genius dates in This Means War, what would you really do in real life?
McG: I have no luck with women! It’s funny because somebody asked: “Have you ever been in one of these love triangles?” I said: “I’ve been in these love triangles many times, but I’ve only been the loser because all my friends are so good looking.” I grew up in a world of all these good-looking, strapping guys and I was this little orange Afroed kid with braces. I got nothing, but I always think that it’s important to do a lot of listening. I mean, materialism is fine with the roses and the diamonds and that’s exciting.
But if you could on Valentine’s Day recall something that your significant other mentioned four months ago, six months ago, even better. I love the foggy beach at dawn and coordinate a foggy beach at dawn experience. That sort of hustle is very romantic and that’s going to lead to a successful Valentine’s Day and hopefully wild, vigorous, Chelsea Handler-level sex afterward.
Q: If people like Reese, Chris and Tom have to work this hard for a date in movies, are you saying dating today is that tough?
McG: I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been on a date in a long time, so I’m available! I like puppies and fuzzy things!
This Means War is available on Blu-ray and DVD from July 2 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
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- McG interview
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- This Means War UK Premiere Photo Gallery