McG: The Inspiration Behind Charlie's Angels

To prepare for his big-screen debut, Charlie's Angels director McG locked himself into his chalet and pressed play.


Growing up in Newport Beach, California, Joseph McGinty Nichol stood 5'4", weighed 90 pounds and sported train-tracks and an orange 'fro. Fifteen years Later, Nichol had radically transformed his image--he condensed his moniker to the rapper-like "McG" and carved out a career shooting critically acclaimed commercials and music spots for artists like Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Korn. And this month, McG follows former video helmers David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) and Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) in the leap to feature films with Charlie's Angels, Columbia's much-anticipated big-screen version of the famed 70s jigglefest. "I wanted to capture the magic of the original, as opposed to making another bummer movie based on an old television show," he says. "Let's face it, we've been burned by that genre too often." Speaking of burned, what about all those explosive Angels rumors of endless script rewrites (30, according to some insiders) and heated squabbling among its cast, which includes Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Bill Murray? McG pooh-poohs the gossip: "We all got our blood up about what we thought was best, but I can't imagine making a film and not having to go through that."

McG also went through quite a bit of research in preparation for his debut--he holed up inside his Laurel Canyon cottage with his yellow lab, Mary, and golden retriever, Dani, and watched every bouncy, perky-nippled "Angels" TV episode in existence. Good thing, then, that McG's cozy chalet--which, in fact, was built by Drew Barrymore's grandfather in the '20s and was once home to the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards--is well-equipped for home entertainment In addition to his 53-inch Sony television, McG has stacked his living room with Mirage M790 speakers, a Denon AVR-3300 receiver, a Sony DVP-S3000 DVD player, a Sony SLV-798 VHS player, and an extensive collection of DVDs and videos. "Whenever I'm stuck in terms of tone, I come in here and watch The Graduate," he says. "The acting, the story, the humor and the economy of shots are all just amazing." But McG's biggest influences--surprisingly--are musicals like An American in Paris, The Sound of Music and Singin' in the Rain. "I especially love Singin' in the Rain," he adds, "because of its unbridled joy." During those times when he's feeling less joyful or, as he puts it, "a bit dark and introspective," McG opts for The Deer Hunter or The Conversation.

When playing host or just hanging with longtime buddy Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray, McG pops in Rushmore ("A masterpiece. The story is so unique"), Fight Club ("Tremendously unappreciated. David Fincher is the premier filmmaker today") or The Matrix ("Groundbreaking--it takes the idea of visual effects to a completely new place"). And what movies does he select for those romantic evenings at Chateau McG? "Anything from Last Tango in Paris to Splash and Foul Play. However," he laughs, "I've done some knuckleheaded stuff, like trying to scam on a girl by putting on Nine 1/2 Weeks and trying to be all sexy." Did it work? "Actually," he laughs, "it did."


Michael Moses