Every movie has its own share of behind-the-scenes stories, but when you're working on a blockbuster action flick, those stories tend to get proportionally bigger. In 2000, one of the biggest blockbusters around was Charlie's Angels, a reboot of the classic 1970s television series starring Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett, and Kate Jackson. The reboot was spearheaded by Drew Barrymore, who produced and starred alongside Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu.
With McG directing, the road to getting Charlie's Angels to the silver screen was a convoluted one that involved endless rewrites, intensive training, and possibly even some physical altercations on set. This list compiles the craziest behind-the-scenes details from Charlie's Angels, ranging from the ins and outs of the casting process to the surprisingly feuds Bill Murray may have had with multiple members of the creative team.
The movie follows a team of three female super-spies working for a mysterious unseen millionaire named Charlie, aided by their handler Bosley (Murray). The Angels are sent to save a captured software genius, infiltrating high-class parties and communications companies along the way. There are some twists and turns and kung fu fights with a hair surprisingly slender man, but the girls always triumph in the end, just like the original television show (not to mention the sequel, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle).
The movie was a box office hit, which is even more impressive given that the team behind it was relatively new to Hollywood. No wonder they had so many behind-the-scenes tales.
Welcome to 20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of Charlie's Angels.
20 A young Melissa McCarthy has a small role
The 2000 reboot of Charlie's Angels went out of its way to have a star-studded cast (more on that in a moment), but there's one bit role that they likely didn't think they were giving to a future big name: Doris, the overly friendly office manager who greets Lucy Liu and the Angels when they infiltrate Redstar, the communications company.
Doris is actually played by Melissa McCarthy, in one of her earliest film roles.
The role came just when McCarthy was starting to break into larger gigs, as she would play Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls beginning in that same year. Still, even with this under her belt, nobody could have anticipated the huge star she would become.
19 Drew Barrymore met her future husband on set
Nowadays, it might be strange to imagine that Drew Barrymore was married to Tom Green, given that she continues to find work in film and television and he has largely disappeared from public life. But in the early 2000s, Barrymore and Green were a kind of celebrity power couple, and they met on the set of Charlie's Angels.
Director McG says he was actually there when the two met, although he somehow didn't notice the chemistry then, especially since he says they both later described it as falling love at first sight. By the time filming was wrapping up, Barrymore was visiting Tom Green in the hospital on a daily basis, and they got married soon after. Their love didn't last long, though: the couple divorced in 2002.
18 Angelina Jolie turned it down
The casting search for the Angels was notoriously lengthy, with quite literally dozens of actresses in the running for the three roles. Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz were the first to be cast, but the role of Alex Munday was considerably harder, since Angelina Jolie (Barrymore's first choice) turned it down.
The role eventually went to Lucy Liu, of course, but imagine how different the movie would have been with Jolie in the part.
Reportedly, Barrymore and Diaz both personally tried to recruit Jolie, but she turned it down because she had already played a "tough girl," and didn't want to be pigeonholed into that kind of role forever. She also didn't want the exposure of being in a really high-profile film.
17 Tom Green's illness
The Boy Who Cried Wolf takes on a new meaning for pranksters in this day and age, as occasionally some prank-centric comedians make serious announcements that are taken by the media to be a joke. This happened to Tom Green, a comedian ubiquitous in the '90s and early '00s but whom our younger readers may never have heard of.
Green was diagnosed with testicular cancer while filming Charlie's Angels, and Drew Barrymore would visit him in the hospital after getting off work.
Since he was known primarily for his prank and gross-out comedy, media outlets initially thought the announcement could be some kind of publicity stunt. They believed him when he made a (relatively) serious documentary about the illness, though.
16 The kung fu training
Modern action movies require a certain level of physicality from their stars, but most superhero movies these days make sure those stars don't do their own stunts. The stars of Charlie's Angels didn't do all of their own stunts, but they did a significant portion of them, thanks to the training they did beforehand.
For months, the Angels trained for eight hours a day with a kung fu instructor to make sure their wire fu scenes were as convincing as possible.
Furthermore, Cameron Diaz says this film acted as her fitness wake up call, calling it a "pivotal moment." The stars needed to be in shape-- how else could they have performed such elaborate fight scenes in heels?
15 The Thin Man was very different in the script
If you've seen Charlie's Angels, you definitely remember the Thin Man. A silent assassin and spy, he was played by Crispin Glover, and without the actor's input, he would have been very different on screen.
The Thin Man originally had several lines, and Glover painstakingly convinced filmmakers to remove them.
Glover says the lines were merely "expositional," and thought the character worked much better without any at all. Glover was also responsible for many of the odd touches about the character, like his high-pitched screaming during fights and penchant for smelling women's hair.
The Thin Man wouldn't have been nearly as memorable (or as creepy) without Glover playing him.
14 Lucy Liu was paid millions less than each of her costars
The unfortunate reality for actors, especially those who aren't white, in Hollywood is sometimes they get equally large roles as bigger names, but a fraction of the money. That's what happened to Lucy Liu in both Charlie's Angels and its sequel, as she was paid millions less than the other two Angels.
Cameron Diaz earned the highest paycheck of the three, but Barrymore was the one who made the most money of the franchise. Since she doubled as a producer, on top of her multi-million dollar paycheck, she also reportedly received a sizable chunk of both films' box office gross.
In the sequel, Full Throttle, Diaz was paid five times as much as Liu, $20 million to $4 million. Still, Diaz's take pales in comparison to Barrymore's total, which has been estimated to be well above $40 million for each film.
13 Barrymore and Diaz became lifelong friends
Some actors may have come away from Charlie's Angels with a new set of enemies, but two of the leads sparked a lifelong friendship because of the film. Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz clearly bonded while portraying Dylan Sanders and Natalie Cook, and their relationship has continued to this day.
This is all evidenced by Drew Barrymore's recent Instagram post, which showed her and her bestie Cameron hanging out together.
Barrymore has said Diaz would be the person she'd call if she was ever thrown in jail.
Now that's true friendship, right there-- perfectly in line with the Angels spirit.
12 Bernie Mac replaced Bill Murray in the sequel
Generally speaking, most film franchises try their best to retain their biggest stars from one movie to the next. Charlie's Angels didn't go with that approach in one notable case, but there were very good reasons for it.
Bill Murray is generally known as one of the best comedic actors of his generation, but his history reportedly isn't without its rough patches.
When the time came to make Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, both Murray and the studio seemed inclined to find someone else to fill the role of Bosley.
Enter Bernie Mac, another respected comedic actor, playing Jimmy Bosley, John Bosley's cousin. Fans may have been nonplussed, but the studios and actors seemed just fine with the switch.
11 Bill Murray vs the director
One of the primary reasons for Bill Murray leaving the franchise after the first film had to have something to do with an altercation that allegedly took place on the set of Charlie's Angels.
Director McG claimed in an interview that Bill Murray got heated about something and actually headbutted McG in the face.
For his part, Murray said this was untrue, though some harsh language he used after the fact indicates there may be bad blood between them . After proclaiming that the director "deserves to" perish, Murray said that McG should be "pierced with a lance, not headbutted."
Whatever happened, the two artists definitely weren't on friendly terms after this behind-the-scenes moment.
10 Bill Murray vs. Lucy Liu
Of course, it wasn't just Murray's reported fight with McG that sent him packing. Reportedly, he also had a problem with costar Lucy Liu, which apparently involved name-calling and profanity.
Some sources claim that Murray directly insulted Liu's acting ability, which resulted in an altercation.
Murray himself says that he was just insulting the lines she was saying. When asked about the incident in 2012, Liu reportedly said "there's nothing to talk about." While they both downplay the intensity of the event, there has definitely been no love lost between them in the intervening years.
This incident coupled with Murray's fight with McG easily explains why Murray didn't return for the sequel.
9 The crazy cast
A reboot of a TV series from the 70s might not seem like the type of project to attract lots of high-profile stars in Hollywood, but somehow the Charlie's Angels reboot found a way.
Even if you can ignore the likes of Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Bill Murray, the cast is still absolutely stacked.
There are Tim Curry, Crispin Glover, and Sam Rockwell in villainous roles. Matt Leblanc, Luke Wilson, and Tom Green play love interests. And we can't forget celebrity cameos from the likes of Alex Trebek and LL Cool J.
In short, rewatching the film is a trip, featuring huge names that you might have forgotten were in the movie at all.
8 An Angel takes over
It turns out that the primary power behind Charlie's Angels was one of the Angels themselves. Unlike the original TV series, one of the star actresses was also a producer on the movie, and in many ways her control over the creative direction was as powerful as the director's. That Angel was Drew Barrymore.
While it may seem that Barrymore was just the star, in actuality she was the highest on the totem pole on set.
Barrymore said in a recent interview that she and her producing partner Nancy Juvonen went to Sony and convinced them to essentially hand over the reins to her. She immediately began shaping the story to her liking, a lengthy process that took several iterations, and she was the one who picked out the director.
7 Barrymore's sizzle reel
As we've already mentioned, Drew Barrymore was in many ways the primary creative force behind the Charlie's Angels reboot. This apparently included work in pre-production, as when she first came onto the project as a producer she had to come up with a vision for the film itself.
To show executives how she wanted the movie to feel, Barrymore says she cut together a sizzle reel comprised of all her favorite scenes from her favorite classic movies. Included in the reel were films like Enter the Dragon, Used Cars, Foul Play, The Great Escape, and many, many more, about 200 in total.
Producers were convinced, and allowed her to make the movie how she wanted.
6 Romance wasn’t originally part of the story
Charlie's Angels set out to be a story about girl power, with women being super-spies and taking care of business. To that end, in the original pitches for the story there was no romance at all.
It was actually Barrymore's idea to include love interests for the three Angels, her reasoning being that "girls want love at the end of the day."
This gets at a fairly shrewd idea behind the making of the movie, turning it from a show primarily focused on men watching beautiful women doing things into a movie all about a female power fantasy.
The romance was added in so that women watching it could live vicariously through these characters having it all.
Barrymore understood that her female viewers wanted power and sisterhood, but romance, too.
5 The classic film references
The Charlie's Angels reboot was partially born from a reel chock full of classic films, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that it wore its influences on its sleeve. The movie is packed with references to great movies, some obvious and some less so.
There are scenes that echo movies like The Great Escape or Mission: Impossible, and some that are filmed in important locations--like the house from E.T.
Director McG also said in an interview that more references were cut from the film, like a scene set in the bathroom from The Shining. The original, infamous scene was meant to be creepy, and this one would obviously have been more comedic, but it just didn't make enough sense to make it into the final cut.
4 The many, many screenwriters
The development process for Charlie's Angels may have been spearheaded by Drew Barrymore, but that doesn't mean it went completely smoothly. According to both her and the director, McG, dozens of writers were brought in to rewrite the story, producing dozens of drafts for the script.
Only three were credited on the final product.
McG makes it clear that what kept the story together was the actresses themselves. Since they all had a pretty good grip on what they wanted the characters to be, that allowed the core to remain virtually unchanged. Still, we can't help but wonder what took place in the dozens of rejected drafts-- what parts of the Angels' adventure were cut out?
3 The one holdover from the original series
Most remakes of old shows and movies try to force in at least a few connections to the source material, but not all of them manage to have too many.
Charlie's Angels features just one actor from the '70s TV show, and you never even see his face in the movie.
The one actor is John Forsythe, the voice of the enigmatic Charles Townsend.
The sequel managed to bring in one of the original Angels (Jaclyn Smith), but the first reboot had to make do with just Forsythe, so at least fans of the show would find a familiar voice telling the Angels what to do.
Yes, that's really John Forsythe, the same man who voiced Charlie in the original. Good to know he was still doing his thing.
2 The man behind the wire fu
Charlie's Angels is known for its use of "wire fu," a film technique popularized in stylized kung fu movies from China. The Matrix greatly popularized it in the United States, and Charlie's Angels wanted in on the craze. To accomplish that, they brought in an expert.
Yuen Cheung-Yan went uncredited as the martial arts choreographer, but he is listed on IMDb as being in charge of the film's martial arts special effects. The brother of legendary choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping, Cheung-Yan brought mountains of expertise to the project, and even made a cameo in the film itself.
Yuen played a man on the plane in the opening, but his real role was to coordinate the wild, high-flying action scenes, giving Charlie's Angels an impressive pedigree.
1 It was McG’s directorial debut
Drew Barrymore might have been the main producer on Charlie's Angels, but she wasn't the director. That was McG (aka Joseph Nichol), now known for his many films and television shows. His career is something of a mixed bag, but there's a chance it wouldn't have happened at all without Barrymore on his side.
See, Barrymore insisted that McG was the right guy to direct the movie, despite the fact that he had never directed anything but music videos before then.
Thus, the big budget action comedy Charlie's Angels was actually McG's directorial debut and the springboard he used to move on to other big projects in film and TV.
Do you have any other trivia to share about Charlie's Angels? Let us know in the comments!