'This Means War' Director McG On Neurosis, Martin Scorsese Praise, Handling Chelsee Handler
One of the stories to emerge from the production of This Means War has been the loose-tongued verbal agility of one of its stars, Chelsea Handler, and the headaches this has been causing for the American censors. Is this true, or just one of those hype-builders people use to build attention around an average film?
Director McG - known for his high-octane, kaleidescopically colourful romps such as Charlie's Angels and TV's Supernatural - assures me Handler is indeed proving an obstacle:
"We're still not there," he laughs, commendably cool for someone with millions of audience dollars hanging over his head.
"Chelsea's so filthy with her vernacular. Every day we'd be ready with the page, ready to take advantage of her singular brilliance , and I'd tell her what the scene was about, and the two of us would have a ball doing it...
"Her worst line, I think, was: 'Well you need a better excuse, you need to say, my boyfriend is getting a penile reduction, because every time it hits my urethra it's like a poltergheist. I don't even know what that means!
"Of course, the prudish United states went nuts, and we still don't have our rating there, which is a delicious problem to have and we all laugh at it. Because there's so much in it, it's going to make for a really good DVD - the world according to Chelsea Handler."
This Means War - a tug-of-war love triangle with CIA agents Chris Pine and Tom Hardy vying for the affections of Reese Witherspoon - is proper popcorn fare, with an excess of energy zinging off the screen, almost like a cartoon. Where does McG get this same energy we've seen burning up on Charlie's Angels and, on TV, in Supernatural?
"I think it comes from having a very small life, not necessarily sad, but dreaming of a life larger than my own," he reflects.
"I'm a fan of larger-than-life personalities, and in film I want a transformative experience that takes me out of my life and into this place, it can be the cold wintery land of Dr Zhivago or the crazy world of Boogie Nights, there are many ways to immerse yourself.
"So I always try to create a velocity and energy that honours the audience to let go of self and of everyday life."
McG directing Reese Witherspoon in This Means War
Does he have it in him to make a small film? There is a big pause.
"Well, not yet, no. I don't think I've evolved to that place just yet, I think the voices are still ringing too clearly in my head, so maybe when they calm down..."
Despite the millions they've made at the box office, none of McG's efforts have disturbed the Academy just yet. Does he feel like a victim of inbuilt snobbery against action blockbusters in favour of high art?
"I love The Artist like the next guy and I absorb films that come out and sponge them up. You know when you're in the presence of a Woody Allen, or a Tim Burton picture, and it's your privilege to say you loved it or hated it, but at least you know that person cared, had a style and an imprint. If someone says it's rubbish, then it's their choice.
"I've had the privilege of meeting my heroes, and when Martin Scorsese told me he really enjoyed Charlie's Angels, I let all the other bullshit slide off my back, because I know he means it, and it means the world."
With so many millions in the bank, it must be tempting, surely, to take the foot slightly off the throttle, go at a slightly more stately pace... not a bit of it.
"I'm still part of the struggle, moving forward, still trying to make my best film, write the best music. I'm still striving, striving, striving. There's a deep sense of thirst and dissatisfaction that propels me to get up at 5am. I have a waste basket of neurosis."
"I'm a fundamentally neurotic guy - I was afraid of flying for a long time and that got me sacked from Superman, because I couldn't fly down to Australia back in 2005, so I have this place where I put all my neurotic fear and energy, and these things that any sane person would be concerned about, I'm not concerned about. It's both freeing and crippling, but it’s fuel."
This Means War is in UK cinemas from today. Below, star Chris Pine on his favourite bit: