How Elizabeth Banks Created Her Action Style For Charlie's Angels

The cast of the new Charlie's Angels

The world got its first look at the new Charlie’s Angels when Sony dropped a full trailer earlier this week. CinemaBlend got the jump start on everyone else, however, as we were lucky enough to travel to Berlin and watch director Elizabeth Banks as she poured her heart and soul into this updated version of the classic, female-driven spy saga.

The casting of the new Charlie’s Angels is on point. Banks tapped Ella Balinska and Kristen Stewart to be the initial team, a tough-as-nails tandem who are ordered by their Bosley (Banks, pulling double duty) to work with Naomi Scott (of Aladdin fame) on a brand new mission.

But on our trip to Berlin, we were most curious about Elizabeth Banks’ approach to action. While not a first-time director, Banks’ time behind the camera has so far been spent on comedies – she helmed a segment for Movie 43, and directed Pitch Perfect 2 before diving into Charlie’s Angels. So when we asked her about her philosophies on action thrillers, Banks told us:

The women in this film use their brains and their wit. And we had a mantra, which was, ‘We’re gonna fight smarter, not harder.’ And that’s how we approached most of the action sequences in the movie….I looked at a lot -- I love Tony Scott movies. I looked at a lot of Tony Scott movies. We also looked at Mission: Impossible a little bit, I love the sort of, the interplay of those characters -- the banter that they’ve had, especially in the latest set of movies. When I pitched -- originally pitched to direct Charlie’s Angels, it was right after Rebecca Ferguson had been in that Mission: Impossible movie, and I was so inspired by her and excited for Wonder Woman, which has since come out. Which I also looked at a little bit. And we don’t have super powers in our movie, so [laughs] I don’t have golden lassos to play with. But we also looked at Atomic Blonde and John Wick.

Needless to say, those are outstanding references for a modern action film, and you can actually see a few of those inspirations at play in the first trailer for the new Charlie’s Angels. In fact, the moment that Elizabeth Banks name-dropped Atomic Blonde, now I can only think of Charlize Theron appearing in a sequel as a badass ex-Angel who has to make life very difficult for Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska and Kristen Stewart.

As for Stewart, she has worked for numerous different filmmakers over the course of her career, and appreciated what she found in the collaboration with Banks on Charlie’s Angels. While she didn’t speak about the action scenes that they were concocting, Stewart opened up to us on the Charlie’s Angels set about Banks’ visual style and approach, explaining:

She can be really straightforward and kind of like not so precious because being an actor. There’s not this implied, careful nature because they don’t understand what it’s like to bring this to life. It’s like, ‘No no. I know exactly what this is, and I’m not gonna hurt your feelings or anything, but just do it like that.’ And so it’s yeah. It’s good. Also she wrote -- she took a script that was really plot-based, and made it live and breathe and actually contain people with lives. Every one of these girls, after [Banks] got her hands on it -- I read this ages and ages ago, and then obviously, throughout the process. It’s just become so individualized. Like, she’s really allowed each person to stand up within it, and it makes you not just like the girls and have it be entertaining, but it found its purpose once Liz actually came onto the project.

You can actually interpret the layers in this trailer, which make Charlie’s Angels look like far more than an empty shoot-em-up meant to capitalize on nostalgia for an old TV show. Check out the first trailer, if you haven’t yet seen it.

We will have more from the set of Charlie’s Angels as our coverage of the anticipated sequel continues. In the meantime, circle November 15 on your calendar, because that’s when the movie drops into a theater near you.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.