"Eight hours a day, five days a week," Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore intoned together at a recent press conference, just as if they were issuing a "Good morning, Charlie!" in Bosley's office.
Liu and Barrymore were describing the martial arts training they and co-star Cameron Diaz underwent to become the trio of detectives based on Aaron Spelling's wildly popular '70s series.
"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,'" said Diaz, sporting a modern version of original Angel Farrah Fawcett's feathered coif.
It took a lot of hard training, costume changes and hair flipping to make a movie Barrymore equates with a roller coaster ride. She should know: Her own Flower Films produced the movie, which hits theaters Friday.
"I actually sat in this room about a week ago ... and saw the final cut in the theater by myself, as, like, a total closure experience. It was great. Women love closure," Barrymore said at last week's conference, reaching over and twirling a piece of Liu's hair while she spoke.
In the remade Angel flick, the original Charlie, John Forsythe, returns to voice the detective agency owner's role while Bill Murray fills in as second-in-command Bosley. The producers tried to wrangle original stars Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson for cameos, but producer Leonard Goldberg says the three actresses' ideas of how to be involved differed.
Fawcett, for example, wanted to join Charlie on the speaker. Jackson wanted to be a villainess. But the film's director, who goes by only McG, had a simpler idea: He wanted the old and new trios to pass each other on an electric walkway at the airport. "We could never work out everybody's [requests]," Goldberg said.
The producers and McG refer to the modern-day Angels as an "homage" to the original series, not a spoof. The movie also pays tribute to several other classics: A house is modeled on one from Body Double; racetrack scenes are inspired by Paul Newman's Winning; a Soul Train dance scene featuring Diaz comes from the director's love of musicals.
Convincing Columbia to hand the reins to music video director McG, who had never done a feature, took some work, says Goldberg. But McG's performance in a pitch meeting sealed the deal. "He did the entire movie on his feet. He played all the parts, he described how he would shoot each scene, each angle he would use, what colors the sets would be ... and he got finished and everybody just applauded," Goldberg said.
The result is what the girls term an "equalist" approach to three women who can match Tom Cruise move for move in any Mission: Impossible (another source of borrowing in Angels). Ultimately, said star Liu, the movie says "We're women, we have hair and we can fight."
At that, the three stars laughed — in unison, of course.