Roundtable Interview with Morgan Spurlock
Director of “One Direction: This Is Us”
August 7, 2013, Dallas, Texas
Presbyterian Outlook (Ronald Salfen): In the midst of all this hoopla, what keeps these guys grounded?
Morgan Spurlock: I think what keeps this band grounded is that they have each other, for feedback, for support, to keep it real, to keep each other accountable, to share the experience. Their original families of origin are still important, but they are now their new families to each other. There’s nobody behind the curtain pulling the strings here. These guys are real, and they’re really for each other. They make all the decisions about what happens to them. They vote on it. Stuff like adding more tour dates, do they do matinees, who their sponsors are, what type of merchandising? They have this great little democratic process, and the majority rules. I think part of the reason they continue to be successful is that they really take an ownership in who they are. And fans can appreciate that, because it’s not like they’re becoming someone else when they get on stage. One of the things their fans connect to, and so do I, is that who they are when they’re on stage is who they are backstage, is who they are with their families. They are themselves. And that works.
PO: I want to be the only one who asks about the church scene….
PO: The wedding – how was that?
MS: It was beautiful. It’s one of those moments that I find to be really special about the movie, because when I asked Niall if he was OK with shooting his brother’s wedding, because he was the best man, he says, “I’m all for it, but you have to ask Greg and Denise. It’s their day.” When I asked them, they were ecstatic, they said, “Oh yes, please come. That would be so great.” And they were so gracious, and their families were wonderful, and I just got chills telling you this story…. [everybody laughs]
It was just beautiful. It was such an amazing thing for them to say, “Please come and be part of this.” And for them to want to share that not only with us, the filmmakers, but also the fans who want to see this movie. I think it shows you how far they were willing to go to open up to us, and let us share those special moments with the fans.
PO: You didn’t have any problem with the church, or the priest….
MS: No, the church was so supportive, they loved Niall. He’s a hero in Mullingar [Ireland]. There’s this great scene that got cut out of the movie where there’s this big pile of fan mail that shows up at his dad’s house every single day. And some of those are like Santa Claus letters, they just say “Niall Horan, Ireland,” and they make it. There’s no address, there’s no postcode, but they get to his house. And there’s this great conversation we have with Niall outside the church, where he talks about the pressure of fame that comes from not having space. When he went home for the wedding, there were paparazzi outside the church, hundreds of fans just waiting to see Niall the day of the wedding. And Niall said, “If you can’t go home to have some peace and quiet, where can you go?” And that’s one of the things they’re still kind of struggling with. They’re ecstatic with the amount of success they’ve had, but they’re learning that there are caveats.
PO: Do you have an explanation why prepubescent girls go nuts like this?
MS: It’s like that scientist tells you – it’s the release of dopamine in the brain!
PO: But that kind of begs the question, too. Why is dopamine released?
MS: Yeah. Excitement. Enthusiasm. They are five very handsome and instinctively charming people. There’s this natural ease about them that I think girls find to be very attractive. They are eternally likeable. There is rarely a time when I was filming with them when they were miserable or unhappy or angry. They’re 19 to 21 years old, and they’re literally having the time of their life. And that fun-loving spirit is also what is attractive to fans. They are really optimistic. And yet very self-aware about the potential finiteness of their careers. But they also realize that a lot of it is in their hands. There could be longevity if they want it…. But these guys come from good homes. They have good hearts. And to see this level of success and still, they’re grounded…that’s admirable.
PO: You didn’t have anything about girlfriends.
MS: Two of them have girlfriends, another had a girlfriend when we started shooting but they broke up while we were filming. And that was part of the reason I didn’t want to put them in there, because what if we start telling a story about girlfriends, and then suddenly she isn’t? I think the interesting part about girlfriends was Liam talking about the difficulty of finding someone who was interested in him and not all the other stuff. How do they find real love?
PO: You didn’t have much rehearsal in there, either. Did you find it disappointing, or…
MS: It’s just a lot to tell. We shot a lot of footage of that, but we decided it was more exciting to hit the road and get out.
PO: Who’s the musical genius behind the group?
MS: They’ve been fortunate to have so many great songwriters want to work with them, people who have done Backstreet Boys, Nicki Minaj… and now the boys are working with the songwriters and they’re actually part of the creative process themselves. Again, it’s them, voting, deciding which songs and who they’re going to work with. And so, it’s all them.
RONALD P. SALFEN is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.