Morgan Spurlock directed one of the most successful documentary features of all time, 2004's "Super Size Me," and he's been a VIP at major international film festivals ever since. But it's safe to say he'd never had a premiere anything like the one that look place in London's Leicester Square on Tuesday.
Morgan's latest film is "One Direction: This Is Us," a documentary that examines the UK boy band's rise to fame, their lives offstage, and the electricity of a sold-out One Direction concert, all captured in 3-D. The members of One Direction were on hand for the premiere – where some fans had camped out for days to secure a good look at the lads – and Spurlock looked both pleased and a bit overwhelmed as he competed with tens of thousands of screaming fans during his red carpet interview.
But how did this Oscar-nominated filmmaker and gadfly end up directing a movie about a boy band? According to Spurlock, the answer is simple: They asked him.
"I got called by the studio last year, they said, 'Have you ever heard of this band One Direction?'" Spurlock said. "I said, 'Of course I have, they're one of the biggest bands in the world!' I went in, met with them, met with the boys, and just really lobbied to get this movie. And I was so thankful that it happened."
Spurlock dove headfirst into the world of One Direction – he says he saw more than 35 concerts while making the film – and got to know the global heartthrobs well. And he says he liked what he found.
"The biggest thing is … you come into a film like this, and you think one of them's bound to be a diva," Spurlock said. "But then you start to see how incredibly grounded they are, how real they are, they're the exact same guys they were three years ago, and for me, I think it's that humility that I really love."
Spurlock also stressed that "This Is Us" says as much about One Direction's relationship with their fans as it does about the group.
"What I think I love about them [One Direction] is just the connection that they have with these guys, the fans," Spurlock said while gesturing to the cheering throng. "So to get to tell their story and talk about this relationship … when we came up with the name of the film, when we came up with 'This Is Us,' the original idea was, this is a film about who we really are. And as we continued the editing process and making the film, it became very, very clear that 'This Is Us' isn’t just about that. This success is about us — it's about the band and the fans."
Spurlock set out to capture a fresh dimension of One Direction by shooting the film in 3-D. "We wanted to make a film in 3D because I wanted the film to be very intimate, and I think they way the film was shot, the way the film looks, it creates an even more intimate process," Spurlock said. "You really feel like you can reach out and touch the boys during the film. Those moments where they were in their bedrooms or their hotel rooms, you really feel like you’re actually in those scenes."
And Spurlock also talked about Simon Cowell, the music mogul and "X Factor" producer and host who launched and guided One Direction's career, as well as co-producing "This Is Us." "The wonderful thing about Simon Cowell is, the guy that's on television is exactly the same guy in real life," Spurlock said. (Given Cowell's prickly public persona, that could be a compliment or an insult.) "The minute the TV is turned off, he's the same person. So you always know where you stand with Simon, and he'll tell you exactly what he thinks. He was a real proponent of me directing the film, so we had a great working relationship."
As for Cowell, he was also walking the red carpet, looking proud and pleased at the reception his group received. "I feel like a father," Cowell told one reporter, a cheeky reference to the paternity scandal that’s currently dogging the producer.
"This is just absolutely incredible," Cowell said. "I always dreamt when I was a kid that one day maybe I could produce a movie. This is fantastic."
Given the massive turnout for the premiere, one might imagine Cowell was thinking about his future in the movies, and he seemed cautiously optimistic in that regard. "This is the first movie, and I'm hoping it won't be the last," Cowell said. "I absolutely love it. I mean, I'm not the only producer, there's a ton of people involved. In fact, the band produced the movie as well. But it was an incredible experience. I loved it."
And Cowell has some advice for any aspiring stars who might audition for one of his talent competitions, as One Direction did in 2010. "For anyone who wants to know what it’s like being in a band, you've got to watch this film," Cowell said. "Because you're going to see how much hard work it is."
"One Direction: This Is Us" opens in theaters on August 30. Tickets are available for special preview screenings in selected cities on August 27.