How Elizabeth Banks brought a new 'Charlie's Angels' to life

MANILA, Philippines – Charlie’s Angels has been a pop-culture touchstone since 1976 – a fun, action-packed story of women taking charge in a world where men call the shots.

Created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, the original TV series saw Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith as private detectives working for the Charles Townsend Agency, going undercover to crack nefarious crimes. The show was an instant success and continued for 5 seasons.

In the 00s, the angels were brought to the big screen with two hit movies starring Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu – and now, 16 years after the last Charlie’s Angels movie, another reboot is coming to the screens, under the direction of Elizabeth Banks, who also plays Bosley in the film.

In the new Charlie's Angels, Banks wanted to create something that would still have the comedy and adventure of the original series but also reflect a changed world and women’s new place within it. This time around, the Charles Townsend Agency has existed since 1976, and has become a powerful international conglomerate with different teams of Angels secretly protecting the world as they fight crime on all 7 continents.

Sisterhood

“We live in the same universe, on the same timeline, as everything that’s gone before,” said Banks. Continuing that timeline meant coming up with an all-new team of Angels. “I feel very empowered bringing together this many people to tell the story of not one, not two but 3 female protagonists."

The audience is introduced to the modern world of Charlie’s Angels through the eyes of a new recruit, Elena, played by Aladdin's Naomi Scott. Elena is a young, idealistic, intelligent woman working at a huge tech company. When she discovers that her bosses hold some dark secrets, she blows the whistle on them, putting herself in severe danger.

SISTERS. Ella Balinska, Kristen Stewart and Naomi Scott star in Charlie's Angels. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

SISTERS. Ella Balinska, Kristen Stewart and Naomi Scott star in Charlie's Angels.

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

“Her goal is to make the world a better place,” said Scott. Spotting her potential, courage and exceptional computer skills, two Angels – Jane and Sabina – swoop in to bring her on board.

Jane, played by British newcomer Ella Balinska, is exactly the level-headed problem solver you want on your team when things go bad. There is no situation she can’t handle. “She’s a very straight-laced, A-type, independent person,” said Balinska. “She has a long history of military training.”

Meanwhile, Sabina, played by Kristen Stewart, is the group’s rogue element. “As much comfort as Jane takes in rules and structure, Sabina’s the opposite of that,” said Stewart. “She’s one of those people who seems like she doesn’t have her stuff together at all, but at the end of the day she’s really good at her job…She’s someone who would take a bullet for you.”

All 3 women said they were excited to become a part of the Charlie’s Angels world because of what it represented for young women. They wanted to be a part of something that showed women working together and doing things on their own terms. These women come together as a team, a sisterhood supporting each other and having fun doing it! “That’s what I signed up for,” said Stewart. “The sisterhood.”

Action sequences

One of the challenges Banks faced with the film is combining the Angels' fun and funny sisterhood with some heavy-duty action scenes – but she ended up rising to the challenge, writing 3 of the action sequences herself.

“[I] wrote them, storyboarded them, designed them,” she said.

The action scenes were different in that they were not about aggression, but protection – which is perhaps a testament to the film's focus on feminine power.

“Everything we do is to survive and to save each others’ lives,” said Stewart. "Every single bullet is accounted for. Everything we do is defensive. We’re the least offensive force."

For Banks, directing this version of Charlie's Angels was an opportunity for her to tell a female-focused story.

WOMEN ON SCREEN. Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska and Elizabeth Banks star in Charlie's Angels. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

WOMEN ON SCREEN. Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska and Elizabeth Banks star in Charlie's Angels.

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

“I’m always looking for stories about strong women,” said Banks. "Charlie’s Angels has always stood for sorority to me. I loved the movies and grew up a little bit on the TV shows. I thought I knew exactly how to tell that story and how to embrace the legacy that came before.”

Banks knows that her version of Charlie’s Angels will serve as an inspiration to young women just as the earlier versions inspired her. Banks is the Angels' current torchbearer but not the last.

“All of us women who get to do this are standing on the shoulders of the women who came before,” she says, “And we’ll provide the scaffolding for the next group of women,” she said.

Charlie's Angels hits Philippine cinemas on November 13. – Rappler.com

(Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of the article, we said that Charlie’s Angels premieres in the Philippines on October 3. This has been corrected.)