Elizabeth Banks, a sarcastic delight who was perfecting the art of on-screen saltiness years before that phrase was even invented, has a new project.
It was announced last year that the 43-year-old actor, director and producer would be directing a reboot of Charlie’s Angels, a film based on a TV series that also spawned another TV series. That has now been confirmed, with Banks’ remake being given an official release date of 7 June, 2019.
Casting details for the film are yet to be announced, but Variety reports that Banks will also serve as producer via her own company, Brownstone Productions. Her husband Max Handelman will act as co-producer.
It’s safe to say that Banks, who as an actor has stolen the show in everything from The Hunger Games to Modern Family, will also make a safe pair of hands behind the camera. She set a world record in 2015 when her directorial debut, Pitch Perfect 2, took £53 million ($69m) at the box office on its opening weekend – the highest ever figure for a first-time director.
She was also a producer on the original Pitch Perfect film, and is currently producing a ‘threequel’.
In signing on to the new Charlie’s Angels film, Banks is taking charge of a woman-led action franchise rife with potential pitfalls. While there remains a great deal of affection for the Charlie’s Angels story, which follows three female private detectives living it up in LA, earlier films and TV series have also been poorly received by critics, and criticised for their one-dimensional depiction of women. It seems likely that Banks, with her no-nonsense attitude, killer comedic instincts and strong feminist sensibilities, won’t let that happen on her watch.
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The original Charlie’s Angels TV series, which ran from 1976 to 1981 and made a star out of Farrah Fawcett and her flicky hair, was criticised by feminist activists at the time for being little more than “jiggle TV” – meaning that it often appeared to emphasise the sex appeal of its three female leads over plot or character development. Despite this, or more likely because of it, the show was a roaring success with viewers.
“When the show was number three, I figured it was our acting,” Fawcett is quoted as saying at the peak of Charlie’s Angels mania. “When it got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra.”
The first Charlie’s Angels film was released in 2000, starring Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore. (A sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, hit cinemas in 2003.) While many people enjoyed the goofy script and deliberately over-the-top fight scenes, the characters played by the three female stars were little more than outdated stereotypes: “the bookworm”, “the tough girl”, “the class act”. As with the TV show, these films were phenomenally successful, but didn’t receive a unanimously warm critical reception.
2011 also saw the launch of a second Charlie’s Angels TV series, but given that no one appears to have noticed its existence and it was cancelled after just one season, we’ll move swiftly on.
So: will the fourth iteration of Charlie’s Angels manage to be both a box office hit, and an intelligent film where women are depicted as more than 2D sex objects? We’ll have to wait and see – but if anyone can deliver, it’s Elizabeth Banks.
Images: Rex Features