One Direction has conquered the world and their debut concert film (Vote for the best concert movie!) hits theaters August 30 chronicling their meteoric rise. Documentarian Morgan Spurlock had a front row seat with One Direction: This Is Us to the pandemonium that surrounds Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson.
Spurlock called Movie Fanatic for an exclusive interview to take us inside the filming of the concert documentary and he let us know why he thinks One Direction is beyond the hottest band in the world right now, as well as what it feels like to live – albeit for a few months – in the eye of a pop culture super storm. “I’ve seen fans for all kinds of things over the years, but nothing like this,” Spurlock said. Evidence of that mania can be seen within minutes of the One Direction: This Is Us trailer!
The filmmaker, responsible for Supersize Me and so many more documentary classics, has seen fandemonium -- after chronicling Comic-Con in Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. But what is happening right now with One Direction is something that has honestly never been seen. No band in the history of music has attained this type of success, this quickly.
Sure, they had the platform of The X-Factor and the help of music mogul Simon Cowell. But, to get to tens of millions of Twitter and Facebook followers… something special is happening here and Spurlock gives us priceless and exclusive insight.
Movie Fanatic: None of us can imagine what it is like to be in a Beatle-mania like situation. You experienced that with One Direction all over the world. Can you even describe that beyond what we see in the film?
Morgan Spurlock: It’s just insane. Being in the situation where everywhere you go there are people waiting, chasing, screaming, that are clawing to reach out and touch you where you go, it’s an incredible thing to witness and be along for that ride. It was one of those things where you know what it is and you get into it and you still can’t quite prepare yourself for the immensity of what’s about to happen.
Movie Fanatic: Where did you first notice it outside of Britain?
Morgan Spurlock: We follow the boys when they land in Japan for the first time and there are 3,000 people waiting at the airport for them as soon as they get off the plane. Going through Europe, there are thousands of fans that are chasing the bus around everywhere we go, camping out everywhere we went. In Mexico City, there were probably four and five thousand fans who camped outside of their hotel for five days straight… it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Movie Fanatic: Having lived that, having experienced that, can you put a finger on why?
Morgan Spurlock: I think it is a few things that caused them to explode. Right when they were blowing up, there was a real British moment that was happening with Will and Kate getting married. And with the Olympics coming, there was a lot of focus on how great Britain is. And here comes these five incredibly handsome guys who all can actually sing and have talent, and the minute they start talking and singing, they are disarmingly charming and are normal. They are regular guys. I think the thing that continues to connect them to fans and continues to make their fan base grow is this normalcy.
Movie Fanatic: It seems as if they're even bigger than the Beatles were, and it feels like sacrilege saying that.
Morgan Spurlock: Well, yes… they have inter-connectivity with them. They are the first band to truly be blown up out of Twitter and social media. And for fans to have that direct relationship with them and to have ownership of them -- the fans have made this happen. To have that, almost like stock in a company, they have stock in this band that is valuable to them.
Movie Fanatic: What surprised you most about these five lads?
Morgan Spurlock: In the midst of this insanity, what is admirable is how they haven’t let it corrupt them and go to their heads. One of the biggest reasons is because they are not solo artists. Each one of these guys have four other guys in the band that is there to keep you in check and give you a place to vent and take you down a peg if they feel that you need it.
Movie Fanatic: Why do a music doc now? And why was One Direction the right group for you to do it with?
Morgan Spurlock: I’m a lifelong music fan, and it’s probably hard to find someone who is not. The idea of doing a music doc… I was always excited about. I loved [The Band’s] The Last Waltz. I saw the Rolling Stones' Let’s Spend the Night Together doc when I was 12 years old. Those were pinnacle moments for me, these music movies. The idea of doing a documentary, the skill set that I have and combine that with a music movie, I was excited about.
Movie Fanatic: Was this the first chance you had to do one?
Morgan Spurlock: A couple of years ago, I got called by Paramount to meet about doing the Justin Bieber film, Never Say Never. At the time I was doing The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, so I couldn’t. Last January, while we were finishing both Comic-Con and Mansome with Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, I got called again by Paramount who would love for me to do the Katy Perry movie, Part of Me. Again, I said, “I’m doing movies now. I can’t do this.” So, when I got called in June about doing the One Direction film -- I was in the UK when they were blowing up at first so I knew exactly who they were -- it was one of those things where opportunity had knocked now for a third time. I was like, “I can’t let another one of these opportunities pass me by.”
Movie Fanatic: You’ve followed them, taped so many concerts… do you have a favorite One Direction song?
Morgan Spurlock: Of course! You can’t see 35 One Direction concerts and not have a favorite song [laughs]. My favorite song is off their last album, which is She’s Not Afraid.
Movie Fanatic: What was the biggest challenge for putting together One Direction: This Is Us? Was it what to keep and what to cut?
Morgan Spurlock: That’s the hardest thing in any documentary film. Whether it was Supersize Me where we had 300-plus hours of footage to Greatest Movie Ever Sold where we had 600 to 700 hours. This movie… total concert and doc footage combined it was 963 hours of footage in total. It does come down to difficult choices and what you fall in love with. There are scenes that are great that just don’t make sense in the storyline. It’s tough. Thank goodness that we now live in a world of the DVD extras… it’s fantastic [laughs]!
Movie Fanatic: When you sat down preparing to shoot This Is Us, did you know what songs you wanted to shoot where, or did you film everything and put it together in editing?
Morgan Spurlock: We filmed everything. For the 3D concert, we shot five shows at the O2 Arena in native 3D. We shot those shows start to finish. And once we were on the road with the guys, we were continuing to shoot concerts and shoot them behind the scenes, and from that footage, we were deciding what to convert to 3D afterwards.
Movie Fanatic: As a filmmaker new to 3D, how was it working with 3D?
Morgan Spurlock: It was incredible and one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Movie Fanatic: People have a lot of opinions about Simon Cowell. But after seeing this film, I’m even more impressed than before. To pick these five guys who had never met and create this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, is impressive. What was your take-away from him?
Morgan Spurlock: He’s brilliant. The fact that Simon saw these five guys -- saw them on a talent show independently of one another and said, “You know what. Rather than sending these guys off… why not put them together in a group? Let’s see what happens.” People say, “Oh, it was his master plan all along.” You know what? You can say all you want about a master plan, but success like this, you really can’t plan. You can’t predict how fans are going to react. The reaction the global audience has to this band is phenomenal. That’s the only way to describe it. These guys are a phenomenon. And people think he’s behind the scenes pulling strings. What I love about it is One Direction are their own bosses. They decide everything they’re going to do. They vote on opportunities and three votes wins.