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Spurlock thrilled to super size larger-than-life One Direction for big screen

Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:42:30 AM MST
Updated On: Aug 30 2013 08:18:08 AM MDT
Morgan Spurlock One Direction

Tri-Star Pictures

One Direction (l to r): Laim Payne, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson (inset: Morgan Spurlock).

When Morgan Spurlock signed up to super size the international pop group sensation One Direction for the big screen, he had to know that some jokes about his Oscar-nominated 2004 documentary about his 30 days of eating all things McDonald's, "Super Size Me," were on the boy bands' menu.

"There's nothing they took more glee in than to eat McDonald's food in front of me and make fun of me," Spurlock told me, laughing, in a recent interview.

Opening in theater nationwide in 2D and 3D, "One Direction: This is Us" provides an in-depth look at the British boy band -- Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall and Zayn Malik -- from the fateful coupling on the U.K. talent show "The X Factor" in 2010 to their time on the road performing in front of packed arenas and stadiums worldwide.

Spurlock said he spent six months with the band to shoot the film, which also takes a look at their "humble of the humblest" beginnings and thoughts about the future -- including some introspective moments about the inevitable end of the fame.

"We had 963 hours of footage, both concert and documentary footage combined, that was cut down into an incredibly tight 90 minutes," Spurlock said.

While "One Direction: This is Us" isn't a narrative film, say like the first one that starred those lads from Liverpool" in 1964, Spurlock said he still likens his reality trip with the band to "A Hard Day's Night."

"I think the film plays like a documentary 'Hard Day's Night,'" Spurlock observed. "The guys in the band are so fun and they have such great personalities. They're so fun loving that the personality really comes out on screen. It's just them being themselves. It has a real 'Hard Day's Night' feel to it. I love that."

Spurlock said the greatest joy of working with the singers over an extended period of time was to discover how genuine they all were. And as a filmmaker whose job it is to highlight the lives of real people in both film and television, Spurlock certainly has the wherewithal to tell who is real and who is simply playing a part.

The filmmaker believes a big part of their demeanor comes from being raised in great homes.

"They come from good stock. They had amazing families that raised five really wonderful young men," Spurlock said. "The fact that they had these people who were so supportive of them in the beginning gave them the ability and courage to chase their dreams, and now that their dreams are exploding on a global scale, they've become a part of a new family. I think what keeps these guys grounded is one-another. One always has these four other people to help keep things in perspective."

It was certainly an fortuitous beginning for One Direction, who started off as five strangers on "The X Factor," and without warning, were thrown together to form a group by the show's music impresario Simon Cowell (who is one of the many people outside of the band interviewed for the documentary).

That fateful moment alone, Spurlock said, could have provided enough material for a separate documentary.

"Thinking about it, it's probably about a one-in-a-billion chance that I'm here talking about this film," Spurlock said. "Here you have five people showing up for this audition for this show -- five people who are about to get kicked off -- and then one guy who says, 'Why don't we put these guys together in a group and see what happens?' And then they become one of the biggest groups in the world.

"If I would tell you that story, if I said, 'Here's the scripted story of what happens to these boys,' you'd say, 'That's a joke. That story doesn't happen. It's not real,'" Spurlock added. "But the fact that this story is real is what makes it even more incredible."

The great thing is, that one-in-a-billion shot of all the stars lining up is far from being lost on the band. Tomlinson at one point remarks in the film if even one of the five guys didn't show up for the audition that day, how dramatically different their lives would be.

"I think that's because each of them brings something so unique to the band," Spurlock noted. "There are five different and dynamic personalities, which is one of things I wanted to make sure came across in the film -- both as a collective and as individuals -- so it's hard to imagine one of them not being there. I love the line in the film where Liam says, 'Imagine if we would have kicked Zayn out of the band?' and Harry says, 'Yeah, then Niall would have to be the mysterious one.'"

While the guys can crack wise about giving the boot to one another, Spurlock, 42, said he was also impressed with the level of maturity (they range in ages 19-21), and the willingness to confront the idea of their success fading.

"That's one of the things that I really appreciate and admire about these guys, is that they're very self-aware," Spurlock explained. "They talk about it in the film's campfire scene, where they say, 'One day, we won't be doing this.' But they're very realistic. They recognize that there's a finite amount of time of being in a band like this, but they also realize, if they want there to be some longevity, it's ultimately up to them and the quality of music they continue to make."

For the time being, though, the possibilities seem endless for the guys, although the idea for a certain promotional tie-in for the film appears to be fried. That's because despite the band's love for the fast food giant, Spurlock said "One Direction: This Is Us" Happy Meal toys are not meant to be, since his super-sized relationship with McDonald's remains a bit tenuous.

"We got a great relationship. I call them and they never call me back," Spurlock quipped. "It works out well."