The Angels Train
It quickly became apparent that McG's motto for this production was "bigger and faster."
"We tried to take everything and amplify it—bring it to a heightened place of reality," says the director. "I wanted a 90-minute ride of stimulus on every level conceivable."
"He prides himself on being able to deliver action like you've never seen before," Goldberg says. "There is hardcore action here that will appeal to everyone. Audiences will love it when the Angels kick some butt."
From the start, however, Charlie's Angels would differ from most action movies in one major respect—it would have little gun-to-gun action. Explains Andy Armstrong, who assisted stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong: "In this film, only the antagonists use the guns, not the Angels, so that's a challenge in itself. We had to make things seem life-threatening and action- packed with very little weaponry."
With no guns to rely on and some physically daunting adversaries, the three Angels had to have a method of defense that was independent of physical strength and size. Martial arts seemed like a plausible solution for the Angels and, inspired by the martial arts displayed in The
Matrix, the filmmakers sought and retained several members of that film's team to prepare the Angels.
Guided by Chinese martial arts expert Cheung-Yan Yuen (aptly and respectfully dubbed 'The Master'), a team came to the United States to meet with Barrymore, Diaz and the filmmakers. Yuen explained to Barrymore and Diaz via a translator that if he took the job, he would expect the Angels to train six to eight hours a day. In fact, he devised a list of conditions that would have to be met before he would sign on.
"'You can't go halfway,"' Diaz recalls the Master saying at their first introduction. "'If you want us to train you, we have to know that you are committed."' After that meeting,
Goldberg says that Barrymore and Diaz were hooked because they could see that Yuen was as dedicated to the film as they were.
"Drew and I just looked at each other," remembers Diaz. "We were like, 'I'm down for that. We'll do it!"'
Under the watchful eye of the Master, Barrymore and Diaz soon began their training regimen. "I couldn't touch my toes when I started training," recollects Diaz. "Our trainer was pushing down on my back saying, 'pain is your best friend. Get to know him. Just say the words—I love
pain.' I was literally crying tears," she says. "But, by the end of the first day, my forehead was on my knees. It was fantastic."
While Barrymore and Diaz continued to grow as friends, characters and martial artists, there was an empty space noticeable to everyone involved. There was no third Angel.
While several actresses expressed their desire to play the role, the filmmakers continued their search for an actress who would complement, and be complemented by, the talents of Barrymore and Diaz, yet also be characteristically unique. They found these distinctive talents in Lucy Liu.
It was important that the camaraderie between the characters—both personal and professional—be believable. "This is a relationship movie, and Cameron, Drew and Lucy just had that ease in their relationship," observes Goldberg of the actresses' first script reading together. "They just looked like they were friends."
"We were enamored with Lucy from the get-go," explains Nancy Juvonen. "But we knew that with her 'Ally McBeal' schedule, it would be nearly impossible for us to try and fit both in." Shortly thereafter, however, Juvonen says, "we were all sitting together one night, Cameron, Drew and I, and talking about how touched we all were by Lucy. We decided that if she was still willing to do it, we were willing to make the scheduling work."
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