20 Kick-Ass Facts About Charlie’s Angels (2000)
From the original TV series (1976-1981) to the 2019 continuation of the story, it’s safe to say that Charlie’s Angels is one of the most iconic action franchises of all time, especially when it comes to showing off powerful female characters. While the Farrah Fawcett TV show still feels fresh in the cultural consciousness, it’s the first transition to the silver screen that we’re looking at today, with a whole bunch of facts, trivia and bust-ups to boot. So, without further ado, here are 20 facts so secret even a trio of agents couldn’t uncover them!
20. Bill Murray and Lucy Liu fought on set
For a feel-good action flick, Charlie’s Angels (2000) had a turbulent production. While the stories vary, one thing’s for certain: Bill Murray and Lucy Liu did not have a good relationship on set.
As one story goes, Murray turned to the film’s lead trio and praised Barrymore, said Diaz had talent, and that Liu couldn’t act.
According to Murray, he was actually commenting on the poor quality of script, saying that Liu couldn’t possibly say the lines – because they were so bad and she deserved better – rather than critiquing her performance. Given Murray also supposedly fought the director, take that explanation with a grain of salt.
Murray has a reputation for being irascible on set, having been given the nickname ‘The Murricane’ by co-star Dan Aykroyd. He allegedly feuded with Richard Dreyfuss during the production of What About Bob? (1991), and disagreed with producer Laura Ziskin so vehemently that he threw her into a lake.
“Bill also threatened to throw me across the parking lot,” said Ziskin, “and then broke my sunglasses and threw them across the parking lot. I was furious and outraged at the time, but having produced a dozen movies, I can safely say it is not common behavior.” If it’s true that Lucy Liu ended up throwing punches Murray’s way, who could blame her?
19. The original trio could have appeared, but were rejected
Everyone loves a good cameo, especially when it gives the stars of the original TV show the chance to shine on the silver screen, but dealing with a complex ego and a well-loved property can make it hard to work out who should appear when and where. In the case of Charlie’s Angels, you can multiply those problems by three.
Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith were originally set to appear in the Angel’s big-screen debut, but negotiations fell apart before filming began due to what were seen as excessive demands on the part of the old cast.
Fawcett wanted to be the voice of Charlie, and Jackson wanted to play Vivian Wood, but their demands were rejected. Apparently enthusiasm for cameos can only go so far.
John Forsythe, the unseen voice of Charlie in the original series, does however reprise his role for the film, and again lends his voice to the sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003).
Having missed out on the opportunity to cameo in Charlie’s Angels (2000), and no doubt stung by the film’s success, Jaclyn Smith signed up for a cameo in Full Throttle without any of her previous preconditions. Her cameo went ahead, but her role is uncredited.
18. Cameron Diaz was paid twelve times as much as Lucy Liu
In the late 90s, Cameron Diaz was a rising star. Fresh off her lead breakthrough in There’s Something About Mary (1998) and showing her dramatic chops in Being John Malkovich (1999), both of which earned her Golden Globe nominations, Diaz was highly sought after.
This goes some way to explaining why Diaz was paid $12 million for her role in Charlie’s Angels, though it hardly excuses the treatment of co-star Lucy Liu.
While Liu is now famous for her role in the Kill Bill films, she was less of a known quantity at the time, having starred mostly in TV roles. Still, her $1 million fee pales in comparison to Diaz, and shows how actors are valued in markedly different ways.
As for Drew Barrymore, she was paid $9 million for her role. However, since Barrymore had bought the rights to the TV show prior to producing the 2000 film, she earned a great deal more than just her acting fee given the film’s box office success.
Some estimates suggest that Barrymore earned as much as $40 million on top of her acting fee for the film, and a further $8 million from the sequel, leaving Lucy Liu’s $1 million looking paltry. Sharing is caring, Drew!
17. The film stars Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy was not always the box office juggernaut that she is today, leading money-printing machines like Spy (2015) and The Boss (2016) as well as dipping her toe into Oscars territory with dramas like Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018).
In the late 90s, McCarthy had just broken through on Jenny, her cousin’s sitcom, and plays the minor role of Doris the office worker in Charlie’s Angels.
It’s not quite a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of role, but it’s minor enough that her character doesn’t get a single mention in the Wikipedia plot summary of the film. Take from that what you will.
Doris exists in the film as little more than a doormat for Lucy Liu’s Alex; she’s a secretary who mixes up dates and gets flustered in papers. In fact, the word ‘Doris’ only occurs once in the entire script. Everything else is pretty much using Melissa McCarthy’s character as a verbal punching bag for comic effect.
The role is a marked contrast to McCarthy’s breakout performance as Megan Price in Bridesmaids (2011) who is such a dominant presence that at one point she grabs Kristen Wigg, bites her behind, and makes her slap herself in the face. Isn’t it amazing how actors evolve?
16. The martial arts director appears in the film
Speaking of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, you might be surprised to learn that the film’s martial arts director – Yuen Cheung-yan – actually appears in the film.
Moments into the opening, aboard the plane, Yuen can be seen teaching two women to say ‘thank you’ in Cantonese.
Yuen is best known for his roles in Kung Fu comedies such as King of Beggars (1992) and Kung Fu Hustle (2004), though he has also directed and, of course, performed fight choreography.
He is the brother of martial arts director Yuen Woo-ping, who was the fight choreographer for The Matrix (1999) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and martial arts choreography is very much a family business. The two have collaborated on a wide variety of successful kung fu films, the most significant of which being the 1982 Hong Kong martial arts fantasy comedy film The Miracle Fighters.
Woo-ping and Cheung-yan’s father was also a martial arts director, Yuen Siu-tien, and starred in several films with Jackie Chan and under the direction of his sons.
15. Guillermo del Toro criticised the fight scenes
While Guillermo del Toro is a visionary director best known for Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and The Shape of Water (2017), his eclectic catalogue of films also includes the Blade and Hellboy franchises; you might therefore say he knows a thing or two about action sequences.
Unfortunately for Charlie’s Angels director Joseph McGinty ‘McG’ Nichol, the film’s fight scenes did not receive del Toro’s seal of approval.
During the making of Blade II (2002), del Toro contrasted his approach with the ‘wire fu’ style of Charlie’s Angels which, while popular in Chinese filmmaking, left him wanting. “The moment you see Cameron Diaz flying in the air, and you know that she is incapable of flying in the air and kicking five guys… you realise that it is done using wires.”
Wire Fu is a style of filmmaking in which actors are strung up by green wires – allowing them to jump, spin, and generally manoeuvre in a way that far exceeds their physical abilities. The wires are then removed from the shot in post-production.
The most famous example of Wire Fu fighting in Western cinema is probably The Matrix, the fight choreography for which was carried about by Yuen Woo-ping, presumably a reason why McG enlisted his brother Cheung-yan to bring some of that suspended magic to Charlie’s Angels.
14. Cameron Diaz found it hard to dance badly
It wouldn’t be a late 90s production without a lot of dancing – even if it was released in 2000, the hallmarks of the past decade are all there.
Natalie Cook (Diaz) wakes up from a dream in which she was ballroom dancing, and starts dancing around her bedroom. Interestingly, she was asked to dance worse with each take.
Diaz apparently found it difficult to dance badly due to her ballroom training, much to the hilarity of the crew.
Music plays a significant role in the film, providing a bed for most of the film’s action sequences and exterior shots. While there are fifteen songs on the official movie soundtrack, a mind-boggling further 25 songs are used in the film, ranging from Song 2 by Blur to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by Wham!.
As you’d expect, a lot of the music is timed with what’s happening on-screen, meaning Diaz’s dance training and rhythm did come in handy – just not for the sequence in which she dances!
13. The villain’s house is inspired by a real place
It might seem like something out of James Bond, but Eric Knox’s bachelor pad is in fact closely based on a real place: the Chemosphere in Los Angeles.
Built in 1960 by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice John Lautner, the Chemosphere was once described as the most modern home built in the world.
Unfortunately the crew were unable to film at the real Chemosphere due to its awkward octagonal shape, so the house seen in the film is a close replica built on a sound stage.
The house can only be reached by a funicular, a kind of small uphill train, which would have made shooting at the actual location even harder considering the number of crew and the weight and bulk of their equipment. Furthermore, the house is the only structure in the immediate area – until the building of the Chemosphere, the harsh slope of the land meant architects labelled the land as unbuildable, and issue circumvented by the Chemosphere’s elevated design.
More recently, the house has appeared in the end credits of the retro-futuristic adventure film Tomorrowland (2015), starring George Clooney and directed by Brad Bird.
12. Lucy Liu was a last-minute choice
When casting the three leads for the film, two of the choices were relatively clear. As mentioned previously, Cameron Diaz’s star was on the rise – and Drew Barrymore herself owned the rights to the films and was keen to insert herself into the main cast.
For the role of Alex Munday, however, the ideas were a lot more blue-sky. Stars who were originally considered include Asia Argento, Helena Bonham Carter, Jodie Foster, Uma Thurman…
…Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, and even Victoria Beckham! The Spice Girls were of course an enormously successful global brand at the time, but Beckham has yet to make her silver screen debut.
The exact reasons for settling on Lucy Liu are unknown, though her steely glares are more than reason enough. Despite being underpaid relative to her co-stars and having had difficulties with Bill Murray on set, Liu is still fond of the franchise and excited for the upcoming reboot.
“To me, I think it’s very exciting,” said Liu. “It’s like Sherlock Holmes. The material in itself is a very different type of literature – and it’s not necessarily literature. But it is something that people keep coming back to and they’re drawn to … it will only be a more positive result for women.”
11. The film is riddled with continuity errors
With all of the kicking and spinning, and spinning and kicking, it’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced action of the film. Look a little more closely, however, and some fun errors begin to show.
For example, in the film’s climactic action sequence, Natalie’s shoes seem to alternate between heels and flats, and not even according to the stunts that Diaz might be performing.
Elsewhere, the ‘Creepy Thin Man’ – a minor antagonist of the film – can be seen shooting at the Angels with a Luger P08 pistol. He fires it an astonishing 23 times. In reality, the Luger P08 has a capacity of only eight rounds, with an extra bullet loaded in the chamber, meaning the Creepy Thin Man’s weapon of choice is almost three times as effective as the real one. If only he could hit something with it…
There are other amusing examples too. The leading trio visit a drive-thru (because of course they do; it’s 2000), make their order, and drive away with the food without ever paying. Alex makes a roast dinner, but the carrots disappear before they reach the table.
Less tastefully, there are several shots in which the lead stars are wearing low-cut clothing which is then changed or zipped up in the shots that come immediately afterwards, perhaps indicating some opportunistic directing without caring much for continuity.
10. The Angels’ secret language is real
It always did sound too good to be gobbledygook, but the secret language the Angels use in the film is actually not secret at all; in fact, it’s spoken by well over 5.4 million people.
Rather than inventing an entirely new language just for the purposes of the film, the angels speak in Finnish, a native language of Sweden, Russia, parts of Norway – and, of course, Finland.
“Onko sinun ja Knoxin välillä menossa jotain?” says Alex. “Ei tietenkään,” Dylan replies. While native Finnish speakers have found the poor accents and lack of expertise laughable, it’s generally agreed that Drew Barrymore has the best pronunciation.
Interestingly, in the German version the lines are changed from Finnish to Japanese – which, coincidentally, is another language spoken in the film at the Japan-themed party.
When languages have previously been invented for films, it’s normally for alien races (think Minions) or for fantasy civilisations (think Dothraki from Game of Thrones), so it’s understandable that screenwriters chose a normal language rather than create a new tongue entirely or fashion one out of clearly incomprehensible gibberish.
9. Drew Barrymore is a Potterhead
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was once a time when we weren’t inundated with Harry Potter merchandise, no one knew who Emma Watson was, and when you said ‘wizard’ it either meant something really cool or a man in a pointy hat with stars on it. In 1997, however, that all changed: Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) was released, the film rights were snapped up, and a craze was born.
Barrymore, who was 22 at the time of filming Charlie’s Angels, was apparently as much of a Potterhead as any young woman at the time. While the first film wouldn’t come out until the next year, the fact that it was in production was big news, and Pottermania had swept the globe.
Apparently Barrymore was such a fan that she regularly read out parts of the book to the cast and crew of Charlie’s Angels “to keep them entertained,” which also suggests that production was quite a relaxed affair, or at least that’s the impression director McG wanted to give!
What’s more, there’s actually a Harry Potter reference in the film, way before it was cool. In a sequence showing the Angels’ previous assignments, Barrymore can be seen wearing a ‘disguise’ that bears a striking resemblance to the boy wizard.
The inclusion of this reference is either a display of Barrymore’s passion for the books or a marketing ploy, depending on your outlook – though the latter seems a little more likely given McG’s numerous comments about the homage in the run-up to the film’s release.
8. The film stars Matt LeBlanc
If the leather pants, one-shoulder tops and colourific visuals weren’t nostalgic enough, there’s something that’s sure to get you feeling that millennium vibe: the facts that Matt LeBlanc has a role in the film.
Best known for his role as Joey Tribbiani in the timeless sitcom Friends (1994-2004), LeBlanc also branched out into film at the height of the sitcom’s popularity. These offerings include Ed (1996), a film about a chimpanzee who learns to play baseball, and Lost in Space (1998), which is effectively an intergalactic Swiss Family Robinson. Needless to say, these films performed somewhat poorly.
But what better what to inject a shot of adrenaline into your big screen career than by starring in an adaptation of an iconic franchise? And so Matt LeBlanc signed on for a relatively minor role in Charlie’s Angels, though he does reprise it in the sequel.
LeBlanc plays Jason Gibbons, an action movie star who’s dating Lucy Liu’s Alex Munday. He doesn’t have much influence on the plot, but his ratio of screen time to laughs is pretty high: it’s hilarious to see a man pretending to be a kick-ass hero and not realising his girlfriend is the real deal.
You might not remember that the part was played by LeBlanc, but you might remember his iconic line from the film within a film: Damn you Salazar!
7. They have to edit the film for in-flight movies
It might shock you, but in-flight entertainment actually dates as far back as 1936, when passengers on the Hindenburg were treated to live piano and a full bar, and the first in-flight movie was introduced after World War II by virtue of a cumbersome projector – but only for lengthier flights.
These days, depending on which airline you fly with, you can have access to the latest films and hottest streaming content, though we definitely remember the days of craning your neck to see a tiny screen right down at the front of the plane, showing some awful film you’d either never heard of or frankly heard too much about.
With its emphasis on flashy action sequences and witty repartee, Charlie’s Angels was a perfect in-flight movie – and we mean that as a compliment. Few films are as universally palatable as one full of kicking, overacting, and the kind of sunny landscapes to get you in the holiday mood.
Except, well, it wasn’t quite perfect, as the film was banned from being shown as an in-flight movie unless one particular sequence was removed.
It turns out that the film can’t be shown unless the opening sequence – in which the Angels (disguised as LL Cool J) locate and remove a bomb on a Boeing 747, before opening the emergency exit and parachuting away – is removed. You’d think passengers would be able to tell the difference between Charlie’s Angels and a live feed of the plane they’re on, but you can’t take anything for granted these days.
6. The film was a box office powerhouse
The original TV series might have been famous, sure, but that’s not exactly a guarantee of success on the silver screen, especially since the Farrah Fawcett original had been criticised as ‘jiggle TV’ for its overabundance of – shall we say – flagrant appeals to heterosexual men. In fact, early reports suggest that Charlie’s Angels (2000) was expected to be a disaster at the box office.
Worries were allayed a little by a generally positive reception at test screenings, but the film’s relatively expensive initial budget of $93 million (you can’t shoot down helicopters without splashing a bit of cash) set a high bar.
Incredibly, the film did far better at the box office than expected, taking $13.7 million in its opening day and $40.1 million over the course of its first weekend. Not only had the film already made back half its budget, but it swiped the top spot at the box office from the Stiller / De Niro comedy Meet the Parents, which had been reigning over cinema for a full month.
Overall, Charlie’s Angels grossed a total of $125.3 million in North America and $148.8 million from the rest of the world, for a total count of $264.1 million.
Charlie’s Angels ended up becoming the 12th highest grossing film worldwide for 2000, beating classics like Erin Brockovich and Chicken Run.
5. It was McG’s directorial debut
You might not have heard of McG, but it turns out his fingers have been in a lot of famous pies, and his route to directing Charlie’s Angels wasn’t exactly a run of the mill story.
McG started out wanting to be the frontman of a band with his friend Mark McGrath, but after his fronting didn’t quite work out, he convinced McGrath to take over and McG took a more backseat role, producing and marketing what would eventually become Sugar Ray, in which McGrath still performs to this day.
McG moved into directing music videos, and has directed over fifty including Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) by The Offspring, and even Smash Mouth’s All Star. Impressed by his music videos, McG was approached by Drew Barrymore to direct the first film adaptation of Charlie’s Angels. Studio execs were harder to persuade, however, and only Barrymore insisted that McG was her pick could filmmaking begin.
Charlie’s Angels had a mixed critical reception, but – having proved his ability to create bankable films – McG was signed on not only to direct the sequel, but was also for a time at the helm of Superman: Flyby, a revival of the man of steel that McG later dropped due to his commitments on Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
Later, McG directed Terminator: Salvation (2009). The film fared well at the box office, but was a critical disaster. It was praised for flashy effects, but the story was described as flimsy.
4. There were 30 drafts of the script
As mentioned, production on Charlie’s Angels wasn’t exactly plain sailing, much as McG would have us believe otherwise. For one thing, there was little consensus on how to update the 70s TV show for a contemporary audience, how to strike the right tone, and how to fit the script to an ever-rotating dream team of cast members.
In the end, there were 30 drafts of the script (that we know of), and a total of eighteen different writers worked on the film. Progress was made easier once the lead trio had been cast, as their core characters traits helped coalesce a film around them.
Interestingly, however, there’s a particular writer who, despite eighteen writers being involved, did uncredited work on the script while filming was taking place.
Mitch Glazer is a writer and producer most famous for his work on Saturday Night Live (1981), Scrooged (1988) – in which he also starred – and Magic City (2012-13). However, Glazer was also involved in tightening the script for Charlie’s Angels.
While unconfirmed, it’s easy to theorise exactly how Glazer got involved with the project. At the time, he was married to Kelly Lynch, who starred in the film as Vivian Wood. Reading the script with his then-wife, he probably had a few suggestions.
3. It has a brilliant Drew Barrymore Easter egg
Drew Barrymore has had one hell of a life. Rising to prominence with a role in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) aged only seven, Barrymore recounted her troubled childhood in an autobiography published at 16, and starred in films like Poison Ivy (1992), Scream (1996) and The Wedding Singer (1998). By the release of Charlie’s Angels, Barrymore had acted in a jaw-dropping 29 films.
That said, her star turn as Gertie in E.T. remained her most iconic role to date, and she was keen to include an Easter egg in her latest flick.
When Dylan (Barrymore) is ejected from Knox’s house, almost completely naked, she tumbles down the hill and lands in the garden of a house; two children are playing a video game inside. If you can believe it, this is exactly the same house that was used in E.T.!
To further emphasise the reference, the kids are eating Reese’s Pieces, and a poster for E.T. can be seen on the wall.
The game the kids are playing is Final Fantasy VIII. Interestingly, both are clearly seen to be rapidly using their controllers, though the game is a single-player turn-based RPG. Oops!
2. Crispin Glover reworked his role
Crispin Glover is known for his eccentricities, but it’s a little-known fact that he completely transformed his role in Charlie’s Angels to make it just as weird as he wanted it to be.
Best known for his performance as George McFly in the Back to the Future series, Glover has also played Andy Warhol in The Doors (1991) and the monster Grendel in Beowulf (2007) through the use of motion capture technology.
So when it came time to cast the mysterious Thin Man, Barrymore and others knew that Glover would be a perfect fit for the strange assassin.
Initially, the Thin Man was a speaking role, but Glover reportedly baulked at the lines – whether because they were bad quality, or because Glover didn’t see the Thin Man as especially chatty, or both, is hard to say. He lobbied Barrymore and McG to remove the lines entirely, and eventually they agreed that it would make the character seem more bizarre and aloof.
To compensate for building his character through dialogue, Glover also came up with many of the Thin Man’s creepiest tics, such as ripping off women’s hair and sniffing it. Oh, and the screaming. The Thin Man does a lot of screaming.
1. Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore are still best friends
It might seem like a foregone conclusion now, but Charlie’s Angels (2000) was the first time that the leading trio had been brought together professionally. It’s heartwarming to see that the friendships they kindled on set have last for the nearly twenty years since the film’s release.
The original trio were reunited in 2019 to celebrate Lucy Liu’s inauguration into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, plus Demi Moore (the villain in Full Throttle). But far from the glitz superstardom, Barrymore and Diaz had actually met before working together. The story goes that Barrymore was working at a coffee shop at age 13 and served a 16-year-old Diaz, who was modelling at the time.
Since their initial meeting the two have been friends, but it was Charlie’s Angels that truly cemented their bond. “We’re like more than best friends, she’s my sister,” said Barrymore recently.
“We’ve been in this industry for a really long time together and that’s a feat,” echoed Diaz. “To have people that you’ve known for that long–those are real relationships–it’s real friendships, we’ve gone through a lot in life together.”
It turns out there’s no friendship like one featuring a multimillion-dollar action franchise that still speaks to us today. Sign me up!