Female Led Action Series
Charlie’s Angels was produced by power-producer Aaron Spelling. When he first proposed the show to ABC executives they almost put a stop to it before it even got started. They apparently hated the idea of a female-led action series.
Frankly, at the time, the 1970’s, female-led anything was nearly unheard of, much less having women as the sole stars of a TV show. The network allegedly said “it was the worst idea that they’d ever heard” because Aaron Spelling had his own money to invest in the show, it made it possible to actually shoot the pilot, which obviously changed the network’s mind because Charlie’s Angels made it to air.
The Alley Cats?
Charlie’s Angels had initially been called The Alley Cats. Part of the premise was the same with three females; however they were also living in alleys and decked out in whips and chains. What?! The cast was strongly against this title and because they had some pull with the producer, they urged them to find a new title.
Kate Jackson ultimately thought of the “Angels” title after seeing a picture of three angels hanging in producer Aaron Spelling’s office. And thus, the series was changed to Harry’s Angels. However, this too was quickly changed as the producers didn’t want any confusion with the popular detective show Harry-O.
Aaron spelling attempted to make a spinoff of Charlie’s Angels which was truly bizarre in its conception. The synopsis was as follows: The Angels get hits put out on them. Charlie tries to protect them and hires his lady friend Toni. Toni gets her three handsome detectives to watch over the Angels. The Angels are of course attracted to “Toni’s boys”.
First, this is totally ridiculous. The whole reason Charlie’s Angels was popular in the first place was because men loved to tune in to watch beautiful women and women loved to tune in too, because they want to be like the Angels. It’s no wonder the spinoff series never worked passed its pilot episode!
The character of Charlie on Charlie’s Angels was one that was consistently cloaked in mystery. Charlie was the Angels’ boss who would greet them over the intercom every morning with “Good Morning Angels.” The network really wanted Charlie to appear on the show with his Angels, however, he never once showed his face. Even in the episodes in which Charlie appeared on screen, his face was always obscured.
They wanted to use him as a big reveal on the show. Although it never came into fruition, it was discussed until the show was canceled in 1981. John Forsythe was the actor who played the voice of Charlie, but he never even came to the set. Aaron Spelling wanted to maintain the mystery so he was never even credited in the role until after the show.
The role of Charlie was originally played by Gig Young. Allegedly, Gig showed up to record lines drunk out of his mind and was fired immediately. Gig actually won an Academy Award for They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Sadly, his alcoholism was not the only scandal that happened within his lifetime.
Young was found dead of an apparent murder-suicide in 1978. Actor John Forsythe arrived on set to play him in an emergency. John Forsythe is probably best known for the 1980’s hit Dynasty. He played Charlie for the entirety of the series. John lived until age 92, in 2010.
NBC executive Paul Klein coined the term “jiggle TV” in order to criticize Fred Silverman’s television production and marketing strategy at ABC. Along with Three’s Company and their star Chrissy Snow, Charlie’s Angels was one of the foremost shows within this drama and considered to be one of its pioneers. Jiggle television is, of course referring to the fact that you could actually see a woman’s breast or buttocks underneath her clothing especially when moving or running, which of course the Angels did a lot of.
Paul Klein referred to it as “porn” and during the 1970’s there was a widespread backlash against porn. Of course, if you watch Charlie’s Angels today, you can definitely notice when the camera is focusing on the girls and their various body parts. This obviously set the precedent for much of film today and is probably the origination of film critic’s use of the term “the male gaze”.
Cooking For Her Husband
Farrah Fawcett specifically had her contract written so that she would finish on set for the day in time to cook dinner for her husband. Her husband, Lee Majors, was star in his own right starring in the The Six Million Dollar Man.
Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors separated in 1979 yet they reportedly reconnected before Farrah’s tragic death from cancer in 2009. Farrah also famously had a long-term boyfriend in actor Ryan O’Neal, she always refused to marry him until right before her death. She said she would marry him “as soon as she felt strong enough.” Sadly, that never came to be.
Charlie Was Never On Set
Throughout the entirety of the show, the character Charlie never appeared on screen. You would only see the back of his head or the back of his body. However, even this was allegedly a body double. Kind of reminiscent of the more modern Home Improvement, where you always only saw the neighbors eyes over the back of the fence.
In the case of Charlie’s Angels, not only did Charlie’s face never appear on screen but the actor John Forsythe never even showed his face on set! All of his vocal appearances were actually pre-recorded in a recording studio and dubbed in after. Reports on the reasoning behind his non-appearances are conflicted. Some say that producer Aaron Spelling wanted to keep the mystery of the character and others say that John Forsythe wanted too high of pay to appear on-screen.
The characters in the show were all written to have originally been in the police force. The characters of Jill, Sabrina and Kelly were all said to have been part of the Los Angeles PD, while the character Kris was said to have been with the San Francisco PD.
The only character not to have been in the police force was Julie, who was said to be an ex-model. Interestingly, the LAPD inducted its first woman policewoman in 1910. Her name was Alice Stebbins Wells. Her induction was the first nationwide, making her the first policewoman in the United States of America.
Farrah Fawcett left Charlie’s Angels in 1977 to pursue a film career. This worried Aaron Spelling because he thought Farrah to be the biggest asset of the show, and he thought her departure would be the show’s downfall. They tried to negotiate with Farrah’s management however it was unsuccessful.
They ended up hiring the equally beautiful but also inexperienced actress Cheryl Ladd. The show ended up fairing relatively well in ratings however co-star Kate Jackson was convinced that it was not doing as well. Because of this, there was an ongoing feud with Cheryl Ladd, and the two refused to speak to one another for days at a time.
Pay inequality was a major issue among Charlie’s Angels actresses. When the show first began, two of the Angels, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith, were inexperienced actresses and generally considered relative newcomers to television. They were both paid $5,000 per episode while Kate Jackson, who was better known, was paid $10,000 an episode an episode.
Eventually, Jaclyn Smith received a pay raise to $40,000 per episode. There was reportedly no feuding over this but you know it had to bother the actresses on a personal level to know someone was getting paid more for doing the exact same job as you. This ongoing argument about fairness in pay was unique at the time, as it was women arguing for the same pay as another woman, unlike the heated pay inequality feud that was simultaneously occurring on fellow 1970’s sitcom Three’s Company.
Before joining Charlie’s Angels, Kate Jackson studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. This might have seemingly given her the place as the Angel with the highest acting pedigree and thus better-received roles. However, she is the only Charlie’s Angel to never win an Emmy Award. Poor Kate was nominated twice but never took home any awards.
Ouch! She also lost a role playing opposite of Dustin Hoffman in the iconic film Kramer vs Kramer. Kate followed up Charlie’s Angels with the show Scarecrow and the King. Towards the end of filming for this show in 1987, she was diagnosed with a malignant tumor and underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatments.
Throughout the tenure of Charlie’s Angelsthere were multiple cast changes, even though the program was only five seasons long. Actually, only one angel remained on the show until the end of filming for all 110 episodes. That was Jaclyn Smith who was cast in the role of Kelly Garrett.
Jaclyn went to college in San Antonio, Texas and then moved to New York City to pursue ballet. Soon, however, her career goals switched over to modeling and then acting. Before Charlie’s Angels, Jaclyn was only known for her role as a Breck shampoo model, so this was her “big break.”
A True TV Star
Jaclyn went on to star in many television and film roles. Some of her notable roles include The Night They Saved Christmas, Florence Nightingale, TV movie Rage of Angels, and the TV movie Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy for which she won a Golden Globe nomination. She even made an appearance in the 2003 Charlie’s Angels reboot.
Like her co-star Kate Jackson, she is also a breast cancer survivor and lends her name to a variety of charities for the cause. She was even featured in a documentary about breast cancer, called One a Minute. Jaclyn is also still currently acting most recently in a TV movie called Bridal Wave.
Kate Jackson played the role of Sabrina Duncan in Charlie’s Angels. She was one of the few cast members to be previously known in Hollywood for her work. After she left the show, she continued acting, directing, and producing.
She ended up forming her own production company and had a starring role in the TV series Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Within this time she survived several bouts with breast cancer, and ultimately beat both of her diagnosis. Co-star and friend Jaclyn Smith remained at her side throughout her struggles. She went on to star in many more roles and even as recently as the television program Criminal Minds.
Farrah Fawcett remains arguably the most famous Charlie’s Angel. She was a style icon in the 1970’s and everyone remembers her for her feathered hair and her famous red swimsuit photo shoot. In Charlie’s Angels she played the role of Jill Munroe. Although she is the most famous Angel she only played the role for one season. Unbelievable!
She did, however, reappear in several guest appearances after departing. After the show, Farrah continued acting in TV and films. She also gained much notoriety surrounding her love life, first in her marriage to actor Lee Majors and subsequently to film actor Ryan O’Neal. Later in her life, she was diagnosed with rectal cancer which was widely publicized. She ultimately succumbed to the disease in 2009. We miss you, Farrah!
The actress Cheryl Ladd came on the show after the first season as a replacement of Farrah Fawcett. She played the character of Kris Munroe. Before she was an actress she actually had begun her career in music as a singer. She only had minor acting roles before joining the cast of Charlie’s Angels.
However, producers decided to take a chance on her. Cheryl Ladd has gained much fame over the years in the entertainment industry and continued as an actress. More recently she played the role of Jillian Deline in the show Las Vegas opposite of iconic actor James Caan. Her daughter, Jordan Ladd, is also an actress, famous for her role in the Quentin Tarantino film Death Proof.
Shelley Hack joined Charlie’s Angels after the departure of Kate Jackson. Previous to joining the Angels, she was a fashion model. She did not join the cast until Season 4, where she played the role of Tiffany Welles. One of her most notable roles of her career was the Martin Scorsese film The King of Comedy, for which she received critical acclaim.
Ultimately, she left acting and entered politics. She became a voting registration and polling station supervisor and later worked as a media and PR consultant for pre and post war countries. That is quite the career transition!
The last Angel to join the show was actress Tanya Roberts. She played the role of Julie Rogers, as the replacement for Shelley Hack in the fifth season of the show. After the show ended in 1981, Tanya continued to act. Probably most notably in her roles as Sheena: Queen of the Jungle and as a Bond girl in A View to Kill.
To the younger generation, she is probably best known as Donna’s mother, Marge, in That 70’s show, which is kind of a funny coincidence since one of her most famous roles actually derived from the 1970’s.
Oh, Charlie. John Forsythe was the actor who played Charlie for the duration of the series. Although as mentioned prior, he was not the original Charlie. He never appeared on screen, and even when you did see the character it was usually only the back of his head but even then it wasn’t John but a body double.
Producer Aaron Spelling enjoys the mystery it created, not knowing what Charlie looked like. John Forsythe also notably starred in the iconic show Dynasty, where he played the role of Blake Carrington. Arguably, this was his biggest role in life. After Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty ended he continued to act until his death in 2010.
Too Many Angels?
After Farrah Fawcett left the cast in 1977 (and after the subsequent legal battle over her contract), producer Aaron Spelling thought that the series was put off balance. Fawcett inevitably ended up leaving the show for good, so the search for her replacements began. ABC enlisted Cheryl Ladd, who was hesitant at first, but eventually was added to the cast. Kate Jackson, who did not get along with Ladd, allegedly believed that Ladd’s addition hurt the show.
Jackson eventually left the show as well, which brought in her replacement, Shelley Hack. However, Hack’s performance did not fare well for the show’s ratings, with TV host Johnny Carson even making comments about how Hack did not contribute anything to the “Jiggle TV.” Hack eventually left the show too, which brought in newcomer Tanya Roberts. By then, the show’s ratings were not doing well and Robert’s performance was not enough to salvage them.
1980s Actors Strike
In addition to the numerous cast changes, the television industry went into a tumultuous period during 1980. In July of that year, the Screen Actor’s Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists when on strike over the salaries and unfair treatment of actors. What ensued was SAG’s second longest strike, putting a halt to film and television work.
This event adversely affected the filming and production of Charlie’s Angels, the ratings of which were already in decline. Since they were not able to film any episodes during this time, there was nothing to keep viewers interested in the show.
Failed Television Ratings
Although Charlie’s Angels was initially met with rave reviews and steady Nielsen ratings for the first three seasons in 1977 to 1979, the cast changes and actor’s strike quickly changed these results. By the season four finale in 1980, Charlie’s Angels ranked at #20 on the Nielsen ratings.
Season five was when producers were clearly trying to keep the series afloat. From 1980 to 1981, the show endured three different time slot changes, going from Saturdays at 7 P.M.,then instead to 10 P.M., and finally settling on Wednesdays at 9 P.M. The inconsistent time slots ultimately resulted in the show ranking #59 out of the 65 shows for that television season, leading to ABC’s decision to cancel the series.
David Doyle (John Bosley)
Although John “Bos” Bosley (played by David Doyle) was originally conceived of as being a minor character, the role evolved a bit. He was the go-between with the Angels and Charlie, but he also became a De-facto back-up (a fourth Angel) as well. He may have started off as a goofy comic-relief office manager, but he became a more important character to the storylines and to the overall success of the show.
He was the only one who saw Charlie, and he appeared to have a long history with the boss. But, Bos was non-threatening, originally conceived of as a big, albeit sometimes-annoying teddy bear. Although the storyline reveals that he was married at one point, you never really find out the full story. Perhaps that’s just as well since that leaves the viewer (and the Angels) to imagine whatever they want.
A Blow To Feminism?
The goal of the creators, Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, was to create a hot (and popular) American crime drama. And, they succeeded. They never said anything about making a feminist statement or rocking the boat in any way. But, they were taking on roles and presenting themselves in ways that were really breaking down barriers for other women in the industry.
During the show, they took on the roles of figure skaters, massage-parlor workers, cheerleaders, stewardesses, exotic dancers, call girls, and even inmates in a women’s prison. Although their roles were eclectic and varied, it wasn’t like it was the intent for them to be astronauts or astrophysicists. Max Allan Collins said, in The Best of Crime & Detective TV, that the show did “more damage to the cause of feminism than the Susan B. Anthony dollar.”
What About David Ogden Stiers?
You may know David Ogden Stiers from his M*A*S*H days, or from any of his many roles since then, but did you know that he was also cast as Scott Woodville in the pilot for Charlie’s Angels?
As “Scott,” he worked for the infamous (and secretive) Charlie Townsend. He was a back-up for the Angels, and also John Bosley’s superior. Unfortunately, the executives didn’t like the character (or were less than “impressed”) and the role was cut when ABC picked it up for production. It wasn’t much of a blip on the career trajectory of Stiers, but it’s still interesting trivia. How might the show have been different with him as one of main characters?
Before Charlie’s Angels – There Was Kate Jackson
Aaron Spelling already knew that Kate Jackson was dynamite because he’d worked with her before, on the hit show, The Rookies. She’d become a popular draw for the show, receiving more fan mail than anyone, and there was even gossip that they wanted to give Kate Jackson her own show.
When they were tossing around the idea for The Alley Cats, Jackson thought the idea was “horrible” but came up with the idea of “Harry’s Angels,” when she saw a painting with three angels above Spelling’s desk. The “angels” would work for “Harry,” and receive instructions over a speakerphone (like the one she saw on Spelling’s desk). She reportedly said, “Angels! We should call them ‘Harry’s Angels’!” The name and title, then, changed/evolved, because there was already a show called Harry O.
Stereotyped Smart Women
Since Kate Jackson was the first one to be “given” a role on Charlie’s Angels, you might have thought she’d have been able to mold her character on the show as well. Unfortunately, to her chagrin, that was not the case. She was the ambiguous, flat-chested, “smart” Angel, who just was not built up to inspire as much appeal as her co-stars.
On the other hand, Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Jaclyn Smith both had major appeal. You could probably bet they’d be the first to appear in bikinis. Although the slant of the character may not have been what Jackson was originally hoping for, she was still popular. When she eventually left the show, ratings were dramatically affected.
Who Were The Angels Never Chosen?
While you know that Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith as the original leads on Charlie’s Angels, you may not realize how many really talented and (now-famous) women unsuccessfully tried out for the part of a Charlie’s Angel. With so few slots to be had, it’s not surprising that the producers had to turn away quite a few well-known hopefuls.
Kathie Lee Gifford, Priscilla Presley, Shari Belafonte, and Michelle Pfeiffer were among the women to audition. Out of them all, Kim Bassinger appears to have come closest to nabbing a part. Even, so she did make guest appearances on the show, perhaps most notably on the prison-break episode.
Dress for Success
It may not seem like an impressive sum now (ok, it still does), but the producers of Charlie’s Angels in 1976 authorized and established a clothing budget of $20,000 per episode for the actresses. After all, the idea was that they’d be fashion icons, both on and off the TV screen. They needed to dress the part.
So, yes, the producers wanted the actresses to be up-to-date on the current fashion trends. As you can well imagine, that’s an expensive proposition, though. Given a license to shop, the actresses made their way up and down Rodeo Drive. And, they often exceeded their clothing allowance.
Presidential Stamp of Approval
Charlie’s Angels was a popular show, breaking all records when it first appeared on TV in 1976, so it’s probably not surprising that then-President Gerald Ford took notice of the show. In fact, it apparently one of his “favorite” shows.
To make the interest even more intriguing, you’ll want to know that he also famously stopped by the show during filming. He wanted to say “Hello” to the Angels and also get a behind-the-scenes tour of the show he’d been enjoying so much. That certainly appears to be some kind of endorsement, even if it was unintentional. It’s also great trivia!
Did They Run in Heels?
Yes, some female actors run in heels for TV and movies, but the wardrobe department for Charlie’s Angels didn’t make the actresses run in heels for this show. It’s kind of hard to tell, though, right?
So, yes, the Angels were often dressed up and stunning, but they didn’t wear heels for those on-foot chase scenes. Instead, they wore platform shoes, so they could safely complete the shoot without worrying about one of the actresses getting hurt. Who would have thought the shoe fashion would be such a bit deal? When the safety of their stars is at stake, I guess it makes sense that it would be.
The Famous Red Swimsuit
If there was ever any doubt about the initial popularity of the Charlie’s Angels show (and of Farrah Fawcett), you’ve only got to look at the wildly popular reception of her bestselling poster. She’d posed for Bruce McBroom in a simple red, one-piece swimsuit, and also made a deal with a poster company. The rest is history.
The poster was so wildly popular and the swimsuit is now so iconic that it’s on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington. That’s kind of a big deal. It reminds us both of the brief time that Fawcett was on the show, but also how he flame burned so brightly. After leaving the show, her career quickly skyrocketed.
The Curse of Charlie’s Angels
You may think that it sounds like a bit of a stretch, but the Angels have considered the possibility that there was some kind of “curse” that affected the core group of stars on Charlie’s Angels. Just look at the evidence. As you’ve already read, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson both had breast cancer. But, their role as an Angel also seems to have brought them a whole world of other disasters, including six marriages and divorces.
It went beyond just the core Angels too. Cheryl Ladd experienced medical problems that nearly drove her off the deep end, and she also experienced divorce. Other tragedy affected the group as well, with Smith’s stepson being killed in a robbery, which remained unsolved. According to one source, “Farrah wasn’t the first of the Angels to wonder if Charlie’s halo has been less than heavenly.”
Maybe It Was the Stardom?
Then again, it could have just been a factor of stardom and the demands of the job. Cheryl Ladd said, “Doing that kind of show, filled with long hours, heavy emphasis on appearance and lots of media attention, brought to the surface the weaknesses in relationships.”
They all came out the other side of their illnesses, but they were not unscathed. Ladd explained the extreme nature of her situation, saying: “It is really confusing. It really puts a strain on good marriages because husbands are going, ‘What on earth is the matter with you?’ I didn’t know what the heck was happening. I wasn’t sleeping at all and I was so sensitive emotionally. My poor husband couldn’t say ‘hello’ right; I’d burst into tears.”
Hard Times for Cheryl Ladd
For all the cast, Charlie’s Angels was a life-changing experience, but can you imagine what it must have been like to try to step into the shoes of Farah Fawcett after fans of the show had already grown to love her? Cheryl Ladd tried to take it in stride. She even wore a “Farrah Fawcett Minor” T-shirt when she first arrived on set.
She once said, before she joined the cast of Charlie’s Angels “nobody cared what I ate, how I exercised, what clothes I wore.” After, well, everything changed. Everything was important (and noticed). And, suddenly she said, “Everything I said was interesting.” There are good and bad points to such a quick rise to fame. It may explain why she had a touch time afterward. She also says, though, that the fans are still very loyal.
Kate Jackson Is Ruined
Call it part of the curse, or something else, but Kate Jackson reported, “I am in financial ruin.” Most would be skeptical about reports like that. After all, she’s had a very successful career, and many stars are able to just live off the residuals. Unfortunately, that may not be the case for Jackson.
Yes, she had those nasty divorces, battles with cancer, and other unfortunate experiences in her life, but the real kicker appears to have been a matter of trust. She relied on the financial advice of a man she’d met via Farrah Fawcett, and he reportedly gave her bad info, stealing three million dollars while he was at it. Maybe there really is something to that report of a “curse.”
What About the Procedural Drama?
It sounds a bit boring, doesn’t it? But, it’s kind of a big deal to know what exactly the show is, from a genre perspective. Charlie’s Angels did have an episodic format, so one episode didn’t build off the previous one. The storyline was encapsulated, which also made it easier for the producers to replace characters when stars left the show.
Kate Jackson had just come from a procedural drama, so she was already familiar with the types of scripts she could probably expect, generally speaking. Episodes did tend to follow an expected flow. A crime was committed. The Angels were called in. They solve the case, and Charlie tells them “Job well done.” Of course, even though it may fit into a generic genre, Charlie’s Angels really did stand out.
A Question of Success
Aaron Spelling had already found success with The Mod Squad and The Rookies, so executives had to know that it was a good bet that it was a good bet that this series would be TV gold as well. But, he was spinning a slightly different combination with Charlie’s Angels. Beyond just a procedural show or detective drama, he threw in some fantasy and glamor.
Spelling hoped that it would have just the right mix to attract a wider demographic than the young-adult viewers he’d previously drawn. This show too was a further testing ground for the type of dramas he went on to develop with Dynasty, Beverly Hills 90210, and Melrose Place. It was a provocative, even cutting-edge concept, but it was still shaped within the auspices of traditional male-centered society. That meant that their boss was a man, but the Angels were also frequently underestimated.
The six women who played the Angels were all part of the fantasy, which was designed and promoted to appeal to men and women, of all ages. They appeared on magazine covers, posters, lunchboxes, and other merchandise. While some critics have complained about the objectification of these potentially powerful female characters, there’s also something to be said for the fact that this was a series that came out of the 1970s.
Beyond the fantasy, though, there was something that really drew the viewer in and offered a level of fascination and entertainment that has continued well beyond the end of the series. Yep, it’s become a cult classic, one that nobody has been able to successfully reproduce, no matter how hard they’ve tried.
Charlie’s Angels Film
So if you are reading this article, you are a true Charlie’s Angels fan. And you know that the infamous television series became a blockbuster film in 2000. It is an American action comedy film but unlike the original series, which had dramatic elements, the film featured more comical elements than were seen in the series.
The film was directed by McG and starred Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu as three women working in a private detective agency in Los Angeles. If you haven’t seen the film, you may be delighted to learn that John Forsythe reprised his role as Charlie’s voice from the original series. Cameo appearances included Tom Green (who was dating Barrymore at the time of production) and LL Cool J.
Charlie’s Angels also had a sequel, entitled Full Throttle, which was released in 2003. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle was also directed by McG and written by John August, and Cormac and Marianne Wibberley. The ensemble cast included the three angels from the previous movie, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu as the angels Natalie, Dylan, and Alex.
Cameos include a huge cast including Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Carrie Fisher, Shia LaBeouf, Matt LeBlanc, Luke Wilson, John Cleese Robert Patrick, Crispin Glover, Justin Theroux, and Rodrigo Santoro, with Jaclyn Smith reprising her role as Kelly Garrett, and Bernie Mac as Bosley’s brother. This was John Forsythe’s final film appearance; he died in 2010.
Drew Barrymore aka Dylan
Drew Barrymore plays Dylan, one of the three of Charlie’s Angels. She is an American actress, author, director, model and producer. As a member of the Barrymore family, which includes several American stage and film actors, she is the granddaughter of actor John Barrymore.
Her first major role was in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. She experienced a turbulent childhood that was marked by drug and alcohol abuse (with two stints in rehab). Barrymore wrote her autobiography, Little Girl Lost, in 1991. Since then, she has appeared in a string of hit films, including Scream, Ever After, The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, and of course, Charlie’s Angels. Would you believe Drew Barrymore was only one-year-old when the original Charlie’s Angels series aired in 1976?
A Special Appearance
If you have seen the film, you probably remember a scene where Dylan (Drew Barrymore) tumbles down a hill and she arrives practically naked at a house. At this home, two boys playing a video game. E.T. fans will recognize that this is the same house used in the classic film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Of course, Drew starred in the blockbuster film. If you look really close, you can even see a bowl of Reese’s Pieces (which was E.T.’s favorite candy) and a movie poster of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial making this a very special movie appearance within a whole other movie.
A “No Guns” Policy
While it is to be expected that the angels are involved in punches, kicks, and gravity-defying moves for fight scenes, but Barrymore, who also produced the film with her company Flower Films, wasn’t keen on adding guns to help the angels fight their battles.
During an appearance on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, she explained her thought process and reasoning around this anti-gun decision: “There’s a responsibility there, and it’s not patronizing or beaten over your head. We jump out of airplanes, race cars, drive speedboats — there’s so much going on, you don’t miss it.” Plus, it is nice to see three strong women not use assault weapons – other than their fists and personal grit!
Keeping Things Personal
Drew Barrymore bought the screen rights to Charlie’s Angels prior to the movie being filmed – a decision that earned her an estimated $40 million for the first film and a possible $80 million for the second—but she also made many personal choices to ensure that the overall experience was as seamless as possible.
Did you know that Drew Barrymore is a huge Harry Potter fan? She is such a big fan of the magical series that she even went as far as to read bits of the books to the cast and crew during the production of the Charlie’s Angels movie. You may have noticed that at the beginning of the film, during the clips of previous jobs, Barrymore is seen wearing a Harry Potter disguise, complete with robes, black hair and round black glasses. Another personal choice was to include Tom Green. Green, who plays Chad, was Dylan’s, Drew Barrymore, love interest/boyfriend in the movie and they were actually dating in real life at the time.
Lucy Liu aka Alex
Lucy Liu plays Alex in the film (and you will learn later that there was a bit of competition and controversy around her role). She is an American actress, voice actress, director, producer, singer, and artist. She first became known for her role in the television series Ally McBeal playing the vicious and ill-mannered Ling Woo.
She was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series. Liu has become very well-known for her role as Alex in the Charlie’s Angels film series.
Trouble Completing the Trio
According to reports, there was a long list of actresses being considered for “Alex.” Aaliyah was the first choice to play the role of Alex but she was deemed too young to take on this part. Then, Angelina Jolie was once in the mix to play the sophisticated Alex and so was Jada Pinkett Smith.
Liv Tyler was considered as well, along with a long list of other actresses like Thandie Newton, who was set to take on the role, but a scheduling conflict forced her to back out at the last minute. Finally, it was her Ally McBeal costar Lucy Liu who eventually landed the role as Angel Alex.
Cameron Diaz aka Natalie
Cameron Diaz was given the role to play adorable and loveable Angel, Natalie. She is an American actress, producer, and former fashion model who rose to stardom with roles in The Mask, My Best Friend’s Wedding and There’s Something About Mary. Diaz has also become known for voicing the character of Princess Fiona in the Shrek series but other high-profile credits include Charlie’s Angels and its sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle among a wide variety of other hit films.
Diaz received four Golden Globe Award nominations for a variety of her performances and as of 2015, the U.S. domestic box office grosses of Diaz’s films total over $3 billion, with worldwide grosses surpassing $7 billion, making her the second highest-grossing U.S. domestic box office actress.
A Request from the Boss
There is an incredibly memorable moment in the Charlie’s Angels film—if you have seen it, you know which scene we are talking about! The one where Cameron Diaz’s character Natalie is bustin’ a move in the sparkly disco! Sure she has many moments busting a move, but this one does stand out.
Well, in the DVD commentary, McG reveals that the dream sequence to introduce Diaz’s character, Natalie was a special request. It was proposed by Amy Pascal, then-chairwoman of Columbia Pictures, which produced the film. “The sparkly dress moment was her request, and we were happy to oblige,” he says. “Cameron didn’t even take too much time learning this choreography. She’s just such a natural athlete.”
Cameron Diaz Busts a Move
Another memorable bustin’ a move moment brought to you by Cameron Diaz was her gyrating to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” But she actually got to do this scene in the real ‘Soul Train’ studio. In the DVD commentary, McG reveals that Diaz even went as far as to co-design her booty-hugging outfit with the movie’s costume designer John Aulisi. Diaz and the crew also filmed at the actual Jeopardy! stage but it is a “one blink-and-you’d-miss-it” scene early on in the film.
After Natalie wakes up from her ballroom dance dream, she dances around in her bedroom. But Diaz was asked to dance worse with each take. Most people would have no trouble with this request but she found this somewhat difficult given her extensive ballroom dance training.
Angel Fight Training
It may look easy on film, but it takes a lot of work to be an Angel! There are splits, roundhouse kicks, and other acrobatic feats, so the actresses, who did most of their own stunts, had to anticipate these moves; they trained up to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for months with Hong Kong Kung-fu master Cheung-Yan Yuen.
Cameron Diaz said in an interview with E! “I couldn’t touch my toes when I went in to train!” After all of that training, it is no wonder why these actresses looked like natural Angels, kickin’ butt and taking names!
Bill Murray aka Bosley
William “Bill” Murray plays Bosley in the Charlie’s Angels film. He is a popular American actor, comedian, and writer who first gained exposure on Saturday Night Live. This role earned him his first Emmy Award, and he later starred in successful comedy films like Caddyshack, Tootsie, Ghostbusters, Scrooged, Ghostbusters II and Groundhog Day, just to name a few.
While Murray is a memorable comedic actor, he has garnered critical acclaim later in his career. He starred in Lost in Translation, which earned him a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He also received several Golden Globe nominations for a variety of roles and he later won his second Primetime Emmy Award for the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge.
Bill Murray Drama
Unfortunately, the production of the film had plenty of controversies. This was in part to an on-set tiff between Lucy Liu and Murray, who played Charlie’s right-hand man Bosley. Apparently, Murray criticized Liu’s acting chops during one of the opening scenes, which upset Liu; even the director recalled a time when he and Murray had their own throw down.
The director claimed that Murray head-butted him, which Murray adamantly denies. Murray told the Times of London in 2009 that the accusation was “total bull” and “complete crap.” Murray also said, “I don’t know why he made that story up. He has a very active imagination.”
A Serious Tiff
If you are a true Charlie’s Angels fan, you have to know these fun facts about the movie to go along with all of your knowledge about the series! And in this case, the film started with an extremely profane argument between actor Bill Murray and actress Lucy Liu. Their argument actually shut down filming for a day.
Allegedly, Murray referenced the actresses and singled out Liu by saying, “I get why you’re here (to Drew Barrymore), and you’ve got talent (to Cameron Diaz)… but what in the hell are you doing here (to Lucy Liu)? You can’t act!” The remark is said to have prompted Liu to launch a physical attack on Murray but he has played down the incident, citing script problems as the reason for the feud. He explained, “We began rehearsing this scene and I said, ‘Lucy, how can you want to say these lines? These are so crazy’. She got furious with me because she thought it was a personal assault, but the reality is she hated these lines as much as I did… I feel very warmly for her now.”
Melissa McCarthy’s Appearance
Melissa McCarthy even makes an appearance in Charlie’s Angels. She is an American actress, comedian, writer, fashion designer, and producer who originally began appearing in television and films in the late 1990s. Her first nationwide recognition was for her role as Sookie St. James on the television series Gilmore Girls. Later, McCarthy was cast as Molly Flynn on the sitcom Mike & Molly earning a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
McCarthy also achieved recognition as Megan Price in the comedy film Bridesmaids, which garnered her award nominations including an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, a BAFTA nomination and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. McCarthy played a receptionist in Charlie’s Angels. The film’s lead writer, John August made sure she received the role. Director McG said, “We cast her immediately, and I’d use her in anything.”
The film pulled plenty of inspiration from the 1970s TV series, which is probably why it was such a success. From the hair flips to the Angels-style sunglasses, they even nabbed the original Charlie speakerphone, thanks to prop master Russell Bobbitt.
The speaker sitting on Bosley’s desk, through which the Angels hear Charlie’s assignments, is almost the same as the one used in the original TV series. The speaker in the original series had a small “Bell” in the lower corner, the movie version did not. A few other notable technology additions include the mobile phones (Nokia 8210) and the device that the Angels attach to the system in Red Star is a modified Griffin Technologies iMate, an ADB-USB adapter used to connect old Apple Desktop Bus peripherals to newer USB Macs.
To Speak or Not to Speak
One very creepy character from the film is The Thin Man, who is played by Crispin Glover. One of the creepiest elements of this character is he doesn’t speak; originally this was a speaking role, but Glover didn’t like the lines, so he asked for them to be removed.
The director and producer agreed to make it a non-speaking role to give the character a more mysterious feel—Glover even came up with many of his character’s eccentric traits, such as ripping off women’s hair, sniffing it and then screaming. This decision to give Glover a lot of say in the role obviously made such an impact on how the character translated to film.
The Angels utilize a “secret language” in the film and it is actually Finnish. Though, it is a secret language because it is a very poorly pronounced version of Finnish. They said: Alex: “Onko sinun ja Knoxin välillä menossa jotain?” Dylan: “Ei tietenkään.” Natalie: “On vain niin, että suhteet asiakkaiden kanssa ovat tosi huonoja ideoita.” Dylan: “Olen samaa mieltä.”
Translated roughly in English: Alex, “Is there something going on between you and Knox?” Dylan: “Of course not.” Natalie: “It’s just that relationships with customers are very bad ideas.” Dylan: “I agree.” Finnish language experts have said that Drew Barrymore’s pronunciation was the best of the three. In the German dubbed version, the Angels’ “secret language” lines are Japanese.
Original Angels Appear
So while this is a remake of the original series, the original Angels do appear in subtle ways making this feel like a full circle moment. Tanya Roberts said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that while she was not asked to make a cameo appearance in this film, producers called and asked her permission to use her photograph.
So did you notice the original angels in the film? You can find her photo hanging on a wall in Charles Townsend’s Detective Agency office along with framed photographs of the other former angels, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. We love this detail and think it makes the film complete!