One of Justin Bieber’s Fav Directors Is a Magician — No, Like Really
Director Jon M. Chu’s latest film, Now You See Me 2, is the second installment in a series of star-studded thrillers following magicians — played by Jesse Eisenberg, Danielle Radcliffe, and Dave Franco — through a number of adventures, and comes out June 10.
Usually, however, you’ll find him involved with projects that involve dance, like the Step Up movies, action films like G.I. Joe, and Justin Bieber.
Chu directed Never Say Never, the tour documentary that followed a young Bieber through one of his first nationwide tours, and offered fans an opportunity to view the young star in a different light. And despite all the controversy surrounding Justin’s latest tour, we thought it’d be fun to go behind the scenes with Jon M. Chu, the man behind the magic.
Here, he talks the making of the Bieber doc, and even gives tips for aspiring directors. See the trailer for Now You See Me 2, and get to know the USC alumnus-turned-big-time-Hollywood-director below.
Were you into magic as a kid?
Oh yeah. I loved [magician David] Copperfield and do those types of things, but I was never very good at it. Magic is a lot of storytelling, and the big trick is how you do it, and you distract your audience long enough to do your trick. We tried to do some magic stuff in the tour with Justin Bieber.
Oh yeah? Like what?
Well, Justin wanted to appear in the middle of the arena out of nowhere, which is a little bit hard, since, you know, in an arena you’re surrounded by an audience. So we were going to have him do all this illusion stuff before he arrived. But ultimately it got too complicated. Oh, and he also wanted to do this thing where you do a extreme version of the Michael Jackson lean, so we were trying to build this rig to make it happen. Anyway, it was just too complicated.
And so what was your experience of filming that tour?
I didn’t know about Justin too much at the time, you know. He had been recently found on YouTube, and he was 14 or 15 years old at the time. We had interviews with him, and I felt for him, and I could see he had such a good heart, and at that point, he was having a great time, and it was before sort of the rigor of everything kind of started taking a toll.
Right, he was so young at the time.
And even me, by the time we filmed the entire tour, I was like, get me out! I love Justin, but the whole machine of the touring experience, I couldn’t…I give him a lot of credit for being able to survive that. I really understand why it’s possible for someone to become a trainwreck like that. Because you don’t have a center in reality like that, you know? But he has a great team around him, and tries to surround himself with good people.
And so what decisions did you have to make about filming him?
I just wanted it to be that whether you knew everything about him, or nothing at all, that you came out of the movie seeing him as a human being, and not as some sort of a product. And just watching him in his natural environment, you get all the information you need.
Does music and dance influence your own film work a lot?
I guess it’s more of like that music is always around me. I’m not a dancer or a musician, but I can give an angle through my lens and let those artists who are, do what they do. So when I’m doing a movie, it comes more organically than that. Music and dance are languages that are a tool for me.
Do you like musicals?
I love musicals. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a great stage musical. Everybody who does it, interprets in a different way. It’s about a person whose destined to a dreamer, and is trying to find their way into that. In terms of a movie musical, I love Singing in the Rain of course.
What was your favorite Disney movie?
Beauty and the Beast and Lion King are both pretty high up there. Lion King was what catapulted me to saying, I want to make movies. I loved going to see Disney movies in theaters, because this was around the time that they were all coming out, and people would sing along and cheer and I remember thinking, this is amazing.
Do you try to find ways to get your audiences involved with your films?
Oh yeah. There was nothing better than the feeling of going to to see Step Up in theaters, during the third week after coming out, and seeing people literally dancing in the aisles. Dancing is just so infectious. Also, during the filming of Never Say Never, at one point, Justin tweeted out asking that those coming out to bring out glow sticks, and so many people did, so we had these awesome shots of the crowds just filled with glow sticks. That was such a cool way to interact with the audience.
What tips do you having for aspiring directors?
No one is ever going to come to you, and say, congratulations you’re a director now! Ultimately, you are what you do every day, whether it’s for pay, or not for pay. If you’re making stuff all the time, the only thing you are is going to be what you do every day. What you really are is what you do. And you don’t need film school. Right now, you could be ten years old and using an iPhone to make movies. So really, you just need to be working on whatever you want to be doing every day.
Do you love Steven Spielberg?
Of course. He saw my short film when I was at USC, and it was because the attention he gave me, that made it possible for me to become a director. He invited me on a set with him after seeing “When The Kids Are Away,” this short film that I made about the secret life of mothers, like a 15 minute musical. He’s really a great person.
Would you ever be open to directing Lindsay Lohan?
I actually worked with her back in 2005. I wanted to attach her to this Bye Bye Birdie remake I wanted to do.
Oh, she’s so Ann-Margaret!
Right? Anyway, I think when you have talent, it doesn’t just go away, so yeah!