On Aug. 24, 2013, One Direction and director Morgan Spurlock were at the New York City press junket for their 3-D documentary "One Direction: This Is Us," which opens in the U.S. and Canada on Aug. 30, 2013. In the morning, they did TV interviews, and then in the afternoon, they talked to people who work for print, radio and online media for various interviews, including press conferences.
I attended the press conferences for the movie. The interview sessions began with Spurlock doing a press conference. (Click here for more details.) And then One Direction's Harry Styles and Niall Horan were paired for one press conference, followed by One Direction's Liam Payne, Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson together for another press conference. Payne, Malik and Tomlinson were so eager to start their press conference that they bounced into the room and sat down at the same table while Styles and Horan were still talking during their press conference. Styles lived up to his reputation for being flirty and charming, because he was eyeing up the attractive women in the room. He even gave a girl a kiss on the cheek before he left the room.
Of course, there were hundreds of fans (mostly pre-teen and teenage girls) waiting outside the midtown Manhattan hotel where the press junket was held, in the hopes that they would get a glimpse of One Direction. Security was pretty tight because loiterers weren't allowed inside the hotel. Once inside the hotel, invited journalists at the press junket got a laminated "One Direction: This Is Us" press credential that looked like a backstage pass, which was required to be allowed access to the press conference room. There were two types of press-conference rooms for print/radio/online media: one room was for adult reporters, and the other room was for child reporters. (Many of One Direction's fans are underage, so it made sense to have a separate room for people representing kiddie and teenybopper media.)
The London press conference for "One Direction: This Is Us" had a lot more journalists overall, many from various countries. And the format was different in London, since all of the guys in One Direction and Spurlock sat down together for one press conference. The "One Direction: This Is Us" press conferences in New York City were much more intimate (about 30 to 35 journalists in each room) and had primarily journalists from the U.S. and some from Canada.
Many of the journalists at the New York City press conferences asked questions that have already been asked several times in other interviews, but the guys in One Direction handled these repetitive questions like true pros. I had a chance to ask Payne, Tomlinson and Malik how they've been writing songs for One Direction's third album, since the guys in One Direction almost never gets asked in interviews how they write songs. You can also figure out which questions came from people who work for tabloids or celebrity magazines since they usually ask questions about people's personal lives.
What were your thoughts when you saw the final cut of "One Direction: This Is Us"?
Styles: It was nerve-racking. The thing was, we saw a couple of cuts before. We saw, like, five or six cuts before it was finished. And I think when you go into a screening [of a movie] that you know isn't completely done yet, you have that kind of bit of insurance in your mind that if there's something you don't like, you can change it. And if you want to move things around, if you don't think it works that way, you can still make changes.
But the thing is, when you watch the first final cut, it was kind of like, "This is it. This is how we're watching it. This is how everyone's going to see it." And when you put yourself out there in anything like that, I think it's the same as putting out a song. You want people to like it. And it makes you look vulnerable, I think, putting yourself out there that much. It was exciting, but nerve-racking too.
Horan: [He points to a journalist who has been typing on a laptop] I feel sorry for that woman right there. She has to do all typing of that very long answer.
Styles: I'll try to be short.
Horan: She's probably one of those court clerks.
Styles: It was wicked.
How much creative control or restrictions did you have on what you wanted in this documentary?
Horan: Well, we wanted to make a documentary. And the only way to make the best documentary is by giving the producer and the director and the cameras "access all areas." I think that's the only way to make a behind-the-scenes documentary, so that's exactly what we wanted to do.
And as Harry said, you're putting yourself in quite a vulnerable position in doing that, but that's the only way to make it. So that's what we did. [Horan says to the reporter in the laptop] See, I make it a lot easier for you.
Do you remember the first time that you realized that you were famous or that everything had changed?
Styles: I think, for me, the first time I got recognized, I was actually on my way to "The X Factor" house, and I stopped at a petrol station [he says in an American accent], a gas stop. And I think a girl asked me if I could take a picture [with her].
Horan: The first time I knew it was a little bit different than before was when we were on the Big Time Rush tour [in 2012], and we left Radio City Music Hall, and there were hundreds of girls running after our car and banging on our windows. And I was like, "I've never seen this before."
How do you deal with all the ongoing rumors that someday one of you will leave One Direction and go solo?
Styles: The thing is, as soon as you're in a band, the history of bands is that sometimes people do leave and sometimes things happen like that. And it's always going to happen, any time there's ever a group. Everybody's going to go, "So who's going to leave? When is somebody going to leave?"
We're far too busy, first of all ... I think we're very happy doing what we're doing. And we're excited. We have a tour next year too, so we're focused on that.
Horan: I've got really bad knees, so I don't think I'm going to be running around stage at 60 or 70. So I can confirm that I won't be in One Direction at 60 years old. That's as far as my career goes.
Styles: You can crawl.
What kinds of pranks do you play?
Horan: We don't actually prank each other. Everyone always says that. We're pranksters. We prank everyone around who works for us, our team. [He says to the One Direction entourage in the room]. They're all looking at me like, "Yeah, you f*ck." Yeah, we just kind of joke around and do our thing.
What's the funniest prank you've ever done?
Styles: You put us on the spot. If we say what we think is the funniest, and no one finds it's funny, it's a bit like ...
Horan: We like stealing stuff. We're real-life criminals. We steal golf carts, fork lifts.
Styles: The musicians who play in the [backup] band for us ... We were in Madrid, and I taped up their door, so they couldn't get in the dressing room.
What do you like to do at home when you don't have to work? And what's the craziest thing a fan has done to get to you?
Horan: Last week, I was at a music festival, and I was walking around with my friends. And this girl jumped on my back to get my attention. All she wanted was a picture, but she decided she was going to go for a piggyback ride too.
Was she a big girl?
Styles: That's why his knees are bad! I think the best thing at home is when every time I go home, I just fall asleep on the sofa, or I just watch TV with my family or fall asleep. I think it's just nice to fall asleep and know you don't have an alarm set.
Horan: It's great.
[A female reporter says her pre-teen daughter, who is sitting next to her, made her a One Direction fan.] Everything about you is positive: your lyrics, your energy ...
Styles: Some of my tests are all negative. Thank you.
Horan: [Laughs loudly] That's the best answer ever!
Out of this entire process, what has brought you the most joy?
Styles: I think it's things like that, hearing things like that from parents ...
Horan: [He says to the reporters' daughter] How are you finding your relationship with the braces? [She replies that she doesn't like the braces.] Yeah, I just got them [my braces] off. it's fine. It's all good. A year-and-a-half I had them on. [He says to Styles] Anyway, go on. I was just having a chat.
Styles: The performing part is amazing and is the most fun. And just the whole job, if you want to call it a job ... we don't want to do anything else.
Horan: We've done some amazing stuff. The U.K. premiere [of "One Direction: This Is Us"], that was ridiculous. When we were on "The X Factor," we went to a couple of premieres on the Square, and "Harry Potter" was the biggest chain of movies for the last 20 years.
So we went to watch the premiere of ["Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1"] on Leicester Square three years ago. And we had our own premiere there this week. That, for us, was amazing: 6,000 people on the Square, and people watching all over the place. It was amazing.'
Styles: It feels good. To do things like that, it was just nice.
What are some of your dating deal breakers on a first date and why? What turns you off on a first date?
Horan: A ridiculous laugh.
Why a ridiculous laugh?
Horan: I don't know. It's the first thing that came to my head. Harry, you take over from here. This is just a disaster for me.
Styles: I think [on the first date], if you're going on a first date, be early, first of all.
Horan: Be early?
Styles: Just give a 15-minute window. Don't be late. Nobody likes tardy people. I always say if a girl ever spits. You know when you drive down the street and you see somebody spit, that's gross. I wouldn't go out with her.
Horan: I'd go out with you.
What's the one thing that makes you feel the most normal?
Horan: I like going to soccer matches, because that's what I used to do before all of this [fame], and I still like to do it as much as I can. And I like going to other people's gigs. Like last night, we went to see John Mayer.
[At this point, Tomlinson, Payne and Malik walk in the room, and they happily yell greetings to each other.]
Tomlinson: We were waiting outside for five minutes.
Horan: Yeah, we like doing normal stuff like that.
Tomlinson: I think Liam was the best part of [the movie]. Liam, you stay right there because you are perfect! [He imitates Payne's "Leeroy" character from the "Best Song Ever" video.]
Horan: Louis, would you like to take over for me? By the way, this is our new signing to our new soccer team in New York: Louis Tomlinson, everyone.
[Before Horan and Styles leave, Styles goes over the reporter's pre-teen daughter at the press conference and kisses the daughter in the cheek.]
Zayn, your girlfriend Perrie Edwards wasn't in the movie. Where is she? Where do you find the time to see each other?
Malik: I see her a lot. That's obviously private between me and her. And we just got engaged, and we're very happy. And that's about as much as I'll say about that.
Tomlinson: As for our girlfriends being edited out, when we obviously had our free time, the cameras weren't really [there]. When we had a week at home or whatever, the cameras weren't really with us.
Morgan Spurlock said that your love lives were edited out of the movie because he was trying to streamline the story.
Tomlinson: Is that what he said?
Malik: Good answer, Morgan.
Have you given any thought about what you can do with the power you have through your fans? Not necessarily world peace ...
Payne: [He says jokingly] We're trying to achieve that at the moment.
Tomlinson: Isn't that a typical answer?
Payne: I suppose we've come up on the same grain as role models. We don't like to think of ourselves like that, but I kind of suppose we have to be. It's a responsibility. I don't know.
It's kind of nice to have that sort of power and to be able to help certain things out. Like me and Harry recently did the thing with Trekstock, which is nice to be able to spread the word and raise a lot of money for charities and try to help out. We've got to give back in these sort of circumstances.
What was the process like to film "One Direction: This Is Us"? Zayn, have you and Perrie started planning your wedding yet?
Payne: He didn't think that far ahead. It wasn't such a difficult process to get the film together. The first thing we did was sit down with Morgan. We actually had dinner, we had pizza, if I remember rightly. And we kind of just said, "This is the kind of film we want to make. What do you think about this? We don't want it to be acted or scripted in any way, shape or form. We want to get across to the fans the real side of us."
The main thing about the film is ... For sure, the film was about getting across the story to the fans and the way the fans definitely made this band and put us where we are and now have the ability to now release a film in three years.
How do your families feel about being in this movie?
Payne: They act like, "Oh, I don't want to be on TV. I don't want to be." But then they're like, "Is this my close-up?" It was nice for them to have their soundings. It's been quite hard for our families for us to be taken out of our homes so young to go do this, and just seeing it all over newspapers and TV and stuff. It's nice for them to get their point across.
Is there any advice you've gotten that has really stuck with you or resonated?
Tomlinson: There is what Simon [Cowell] told us, but we always say that [as an answer].
Payne: To be fair, actually, what my mom said to me was, "Just do your best that you can do." I do believe in that. It's definitely true.
Malik: Somebody said something that was quite wise. Somebody said to me, "The key to being successful in this job is when you stop searching for anonymity and start searching for simplicity." And I thought that was a wise thing to say.
Zayn, in the movie, you said you don't mind being in a boy band because it's a cool boy band. Liam and Louis, what are your thoughts about being in a boy band?
Payne: I don't think it's anything we need to hide from. It's that sort of thing we just kind of take our own kind of road with it. That's kind of the way our music is. We don't dance. It's not all regimented. It's all kind of freestyle.
Tomlinson: Like I said in the movie, I've not really been a fan of boy bands before.
Payne: [He says jokingly] How dare you!
Tomlinson: But that's the thing. We didn't really follow the boy-band stereotype. So it's not like I'm saying I hate boy bands.
In the movie, we don't just see your fans crying. We see your families crying too. What was that like for you, especially for you, Zayn, since the movie shows your mother crying after she got the keys to the house that you bought her?
Malik: It was amazing to see that. It's amazing that we have that on footage, especially when I did get a house for my mom. I have that piece of footage on tape for the next 10, 15 years and that's what I'll keep quite close.
Payne: For me, it was quite hard to watch the bit where my dad says he wanted to take me to the pub and play snooker, and he has that dramatic pause with the music in the background. I can't help but cry every time. I was in the cinemas, I had the [3-D] glasses on, and I was trying to hide it. You can see it happening.
Tomlinson: For me, my mom says I've been back to [my hometown of] Doncaster five times. I didn't realize it was as little as that. It's quite shocking to see. It's also nice to see all of our families' thoughts and how similar they all are. It's pretty interesting, I think.
In the movie, Niall said that One Direction's third album has been the hardest to make because you've been on tour for most of this year. How have you been writing songs for the third album? And what's your favorite way to write songs?
Payne: To be honest with you, I don't think so much as the songwriting has been the hardest so far. I think the way we recorded it on the road in a rush, that was the hard part. To be fair, the writing part seemed to come easily, not in an arrogant way, but it just seemed to come naturally when the songs came together, which was quite good for us, because we didn't have enough time.
Tomlinson: Yeah, we've been lucky that the people who've agreed to write with us have been obviously have loads of experience and crazy talent. And so it's been great to be in the room with these people and learn from them and try and get better. And I feel like we progressed a little bit, and we're proud of this album.
Malik: The more relaxed the vibe is, the better. If we've got a barbecue going and a guitar, it makes it even better. That's a good vibe.
Has a fan ever done something that really frightened you?
Payne: I don’t think so. I was a bit surprised when I sat down and was having dinner, and this girl just appeared behind me, just shaking and crying. She was just right [behind] my chair. I was like, “Oh, hello.”
There’s never really any scares. The only time we really get scared is when there’s a big crowd, and there are people surging forward, and you can see a girl in front of you getting squashed or something like that. That, for us, is more the scary thing. Obviously, you don’t want anyone to get hurt. We feel the guilt a bit if we’re in front of the queue, and there are people pushing forward. That’s the scary part: for more their safety.
Zayn, you’ve said that the other guys in One Direction are like your best friends and brothers. So how will you pick a best man for your wedding?
Malik: We’ve decided … Is it a fight to the death?
Payne: Fight to the death or Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Tomlinson: Yeah, fight to the death. There’ll be no one left. Or maybe squash.
Payne: It’s going to be like “The Hangover 2.”