Two weeks before the worldwide opening of One Direction: This Is Us, Morgan Spurlock's road trip with the world's biggest boy band, Channel 4 aired Crazy About One Direction, which followed some of Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, and Niall Horan's most ardent fans as they obsessively tweeted, tracked the boys' every move, and shipped Larry (i.e. fantasized publicly that Louis and Harry are lovers).
The broadcast unleashed a torrent of social media hate from Directioners who said Crazy About One Direction made them look, well, crazy. The Twitter barrage included threats to its director, Brighton-based documentary veteran Daisy Asquith, and a bizarre meme blaming the movie for a supposed rash of suicides among Larry shippers. This was far crazier than anything in the film, an incisive and often quite sweet portrait of superfandom that was clearly on its subjects' side even as it detailed some of their more OTT behaviour. (You can still catch it at 4oD.)
Spurlock, best known for comedic, corporate-tweaking participatory docs like Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, might have seemed an odd choice to document an X Factor-born global pop explosion. Was he the right one? Given Asquith's immersion in One Direction mania, we wanted to get her take on This Is Us. (You can read the full interview at MusicFilmWeb.com.)
What did you think of the movie?
I thought Liam's review of it, which he accidentally gave us all a few days before it came out, was the best one. In response to all the girls talking about [Crazy About One Direction] and how much they hated it, he tweeted that all documentaries are constructed, dramatised bullshit. And I thought, oh my god, I can't believe he's written that a few days before his documentary comes out. But it was constructed bullshit, unfortunately. I couldn't believe how much it was. That was really disappointing. [One Direction] going camping, going fishing, that sort of thing - peddling the idea of them as these wholesome boys. No one ever could say what they really felt. It was a giant promo.
Did you think that because it was Morgan Spurlock it was going to rise above the usual PR/commercial concerns?
I hoped they would embrace the subversive side of Morgan Spurlock and make a film that makes a virtue of that - that he's allowed in a way to question the situation. That obviously didn't happen. The boys have been selling it as an intimate film where "you get to know us," which is obviously clever - that's what the fans want. But it was also what I wanted. Anyone who likes documentary would want that. I thought maybe if Morgan taught them something about what makes good documentary, they might have bought into it.
If you take the Spurlock question out of the equation - the question of what he might have brought to it based on his past work - did it fail as a movie about a pop phenomenon?
Well, it doesn't fail as a movie for the fans - obviously they're going to love it. It's very unchallenging, there's plenty of shots of the boys with their shirts off. I understand that.
It's a good thing we did make our film when we did, because the fans have no voice at all in this film. Their excitement is explained away in two lines by a neuroscientist [laughs]. They're only allowed to be this anonymous mass of love.
Have you ever seen a One Direction gig?
I've been to a few. Those gigs are exciting, they're fun. In a way the problem with the [concert] footage [in This Is Us] is it's with the boys. You're not in the audience, therefore you don't get the excitement of being with thousands of other girls.
Does that render it ineffective as a concert film?
I think the film will work if the cinemas are full of really excited girls, but I don't think it's exciting in itself. The concerts are brilliant because of the level of excitement in the audience. I suppose it's a brilliant way for girls who can't afford the concert tickets, which are unbelievably, exclusively priced - it provides a service to those girls. I wouldn't want them not to have that. I just wish it was a little bit wittier. Those girls are very knowing about the situation they're a part of. They're actually very wise and funny about it, but the movie never goes there.
Which begs the question, why hire Morgan Spurlock? Unless you're just hiring him to lend credibility to what you're going to do anyway.
I guess that's what they were doing, yeah. And I wonder if Morgan Spurlock totally understood that. He probably did. When I was at Wembley - they were doing this press conference at Wembley, Morgan Spurlock's crew was there and I was there. It was the only time we were in the same place. And I checked into my appalling hotel around the corner and I wondered where Morgan Spurlock was staying, and which one of us was the bigger fool that night.