Spice World has become one of cinema’s laughing stocks. A decade ago the British public voted it the worst film ever made. The Union Jack-clad Spice Bus, famously driven by Meatloaf, was found rotting in a Gloucestershire scrapyard. It has limped to a 35 per cent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
But as the UK's biggest ever girl group embark on a reunion tour tonight – a tour also called Spice World – the 90-minute movie that shares its name is due a reappraisal. To rewatch the film now is to be pleasantly surprised: there are no off-colour jokes that have dated badly and the sets and costuming have a now-retro charm. It's an irreverent, lighthearted romp that captured the brash, patriotic positivity of a London swept up in Cool Britannia.
It is the five Spice Girls – Melanie Chisholm (Sporty), Victoria Beckham (Posh), Geri Halliwell (Ginger), Emma Bunton (Baby) and Melanie Brown (Scary) – who are the biggest revelation. Full of personality, they exude an energy that few of today's manufactured groups – who were, after all, inspired by the manner in which Spice Girls were recruited – could dream of summoning.
What’s most remarkable, however, is the prescience laid into the script. Contemporary press regulations would have put an end to much to much of the work done by the film’s paparazzi antagonist.
Spice World, which made more than $100 million at the box office worldwide, was very nearly relegated to straight-to-video after the group famously ditched their svengali-style manager, Simon Fuller, weeks before its release.
Like their film alter-egos, the girls were young, in-demand and swiftly becoming disillusioned with fame. Within a year of making the Spice World, Halliwell had abandoned the group, leaving them a fractured foursome doomed to a swift demise.
For the millions of fans who retain flashbulb memories of seeing Spice World for the first time, the film presents a different view: one of young, fun women in control of their future, kind to one another and devoted to two essential mantras: “Girl Power” and “Friendship Never Ends”.
Those who made Spice World retain equally fond feelings towards it, despite the film being conceived, written, wrapped and edited within 12 months, while the group recorded a second album.
Spice World was made with an ever-changing cast of thousands and in the eyes of hundreds of press and fans, with a debut scriptwriter and five novice actresses at its heart. In the words of those who created it, this is how it was done.
'When they said, “We’re going to make a movie” it was no different to “we’re going to meet Nelson Mandela”'
The Spice Girls’ first appeared on British screens, and, subsequently, airwaves, in the summer of 1996. By Christmas, they were turning on the Oxford Street lights among hordes of screaming fans, and claiming the festive Number One. But the group, along with their steadfast manager, Simon Fuller, had bolder ambitions – namely, fame and world domination.
Mel C:In our initial meetings with Simon [Fuller] we spoke about international success and making a movie, so it was all very much part of the plan. We didn’t know if it was going to happen, but we were determined to try and make it happen.
Emma Bunton, 1997, Spice World: Behind the Scenes documentary: When we got together we said it was something we wanted to do. We said to ourselves, we’re not just a band, we want to try everything. One of the first things we said was, “It would be really great if we could do a movie”.
Kim Fuller, screenwriter: Simon was taking them to the States and talking to people in Los Angeles, trying to whip up interest. Disney signed as an option on them, but when the Girls read the script and they didn’t like it. I got hold of it, it was conventional Disney fodder. The girls were fictionalised to a certain extent, there was a single mother, one of the girls was supporting an ill relative and they ended up being globally famous. The girls didn’t want to do it. I said I’d write something on spec.
Barnaby Thompson, producer: I’d started a company called Fragile Films with a friend of mine called Uri Fruchtman. Uri, at the time, was married to Annie Lennox, and Annie Lennox was managed by Simon Fuller. On November 1, we had lunch with Simon and his brother Kim. We really decided, over the course of that lunch, that we would make the film and that Kim would write the script, and we’d all produce it together.
Kim Fuller:The premise was that [The Spice Girls] would have to be themselves, because they’re not going to be able to act any other characters. I liked the idea of not quite knowing if what we were doing was real or not real.
Barnaby Thompson:Simon, in the way that only he can, laid out exactly the arc of the girls’ career, which of course happened, more or less to the day, for the next year.
Jamie Curtis, screenwriter: Barnaby came and had a drink with me and said, “Do you know the Spice Girls?” and I had to say, “I must admit, I do not”. I then watched some videos of them and I thought it was quite extraordinary.
Kim Fuller: It was a comedy, essentially, it was funny.
Jamie Curtis, screenwriter: Kim had written a script which was called Five. It was very much a TV script, and reasonably straighter down the line, as though it was three days in the life of the girls, a bit more in that Hard Day’s Night sort of vein. Simon had very specific ideas about what he didn’t want the film to be. The mandate was bright and big and fun.
Jennie Barnor-Roberts, hair stylist: There was so much going on, there were always ideas thrown at them. When they said, “We’re going to make a movie” it was no different to “we’re going to go on a world tour” or “we’re going to meet Nelson Mandela” or “we’re going to make another album”.
‘The traffic on the Croisette came to a standstill’
Fuller had predicted that Spice Girls would top the US charts in May 1997, and so it came to pass. Between November 1, 1996, when the producers and writers met to embark upon the film, and presenting the group as a viable film investment six months later, the girls had released four number one singles. Rarely a day went by without them being reported about in the press.
Barnaby Thompson: We closed a European deal, from memory, in April, and then we took the girls to the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Dennis Davidson, publicist: What we tried to do was to take it from music to the film, and in order to do that we did a big event at Cannes. We knew we’d have 1,000 photographers and TV crews and all the other stuff going on.
Dennis Davidson: We had this idea of doing the photocall and putting the girls on the canopy of the entrance to the Martinez Hotel, which meant that you looked out of the window. We had to get management to agree and an engineer to make sure it would bear the weight, and he said as long as it was just the five of them it would be fine.
Barnaby Thompson: It was quite a dour film festival, it was full of very dark, sombre movies. We had the girls arrive by boat, in this big burst of colour, wearing headscarves, in honour of Grace Kelly.
Dennis Davidson:Then we put out a photocall notice and it was insane. The traffic on the Croisette came to a standstill, there was a screaming crowd, people hanging out of the windows, it was totally insane.
Barnaby Thompson: There was must of been 5,000-10,000 people outside, the whole town went bonkers. So we basically sold every territory there was.
‘I went in and said, “Look, turn your phones off, this is serious. I’m going to read you the story"'
Simon Fuller was all too aware that the group were cresting a wave, and that if a film was going to be made, it needed to be done so quickly. But he was also keen on his vision for Spice World: nothing too trendy, nothing too artistic, but a camp caper that gave the group’s voracious fans a Spice Girls insight they’d not witnessed before. For his brother, Kim, and co-writer Jamie Curtis, as long as they had this nailed, they could sneak in as many subversive comments on society as they wished.
Kim Fuller:I’d met The Spice Girls when Simon first brought them round to my flat in Notting Hill. I talked to them and liked them and I’d been to some of their shows, it was sort of a half-socialising thing.
Mel B, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie: We all had quite a lot of impact on the script, individually and collectively. We told Kim all our stories and spent some time with him so he could really get to know us, and he took bits from all of us and linked it up.
Kim Fuller: I knew that if I’d given them a script each not all of them would have read it, some of them would have half-read it. Really, a script is quite a tricky proposition. Some of them would have not liked it. It would have been a mess. So I got them in a hotel in London, Park Lane or somewhere. They were all very silly and all over the place and you couldn’t get them together for more than five place. Anyway, we got them together for a couple of hours and I went in and said, “Look, turn your phones off, this is serious. I’m going to read you the story.”
Mel C: I don’t have any memories of that at all.
Kim Fuller: It took me an hour and a half. I precis-ed it, “Geri says this, and then she says that”. And they were laughing.
Geri Halliwell, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie: I worked very closely with Kim Fuller on the script for about two months before we started shooting. Even when I was on holiday in Bali I was spending hours on the phone trying to get it all sorted out and make sure that it was right. By the time that we started, it was almost perfect. Okay, everyone changed a couple of words here and there, but no one felt that the situations they were in were wrong. That was the main thing.
Jamie Curtis:Geri was by far the most interested. She was forever coming up and putting in ideas and asking how it worked. She was an inquisitive person, and she was having the time of her life because she was getting to witness a lot more of the world than she had done before.
Kim Fuller: And at the end of it, they said, “Great, brilliant.” They picked up their phones, turned them on and left the room. Afterwards, Simon said, “They loved it, and you’re off”. That was it. I never read all the iterations of the script after that.
Mel C: I still have the script, it’s got notes on it. I think the title was Five. It’s a bit dog-eared and stuff but I can’t part with it, you know, it’s a piece of history that I’ve got there.
‘Roger Moore entered the studio and broke the unmistakable anticipation by inquiring, "Do I owe anyone money here?"’
What had started as a bit of a spoof had ballooned into a probable blockbuster. Any British star keen for a bit of youthful relevance - or with children aged between seven and 15 - had Spice World on top of their agent’s list. Spice World, too, wanted as much celebrity clout as possible.
Kim Fuller:Once I’d done the early drafts I said, we need the manager. I’d loved Richard E Grant in Withnail and I and I’d worked with him before. His daughter heard the answerphone message.
Mel C:His daughter was a huge fan, so he had no choice, he had to do it.
Richard E Grant, 1997, Spice World: Behind the Scenes documentary: Geri and Emma said, “You are going to be in this film, aren’t you?” I said, “Yes, of course.” I was flattered they even knew of my existence.
Kim Fuller: Once Richard E Grant said he’d do it I thought, well, that’s great, because we’ve got a really kind of crazy character with them. That made me feel confident in the comedy because they’re not comedians. They’re funny in themselves but this is a film and you’ve got to be careful with how you present the comedy because it can fall flat if it’s a load of young girls who are in a band.
Barnaby Thompson: The Spice Girls managed to, somehow, be popular and also hip at the time, so literally everyone we ever asked to have a cameo in the film, they’d say yes. Casting directors would ring us up everyday with other people who were sort of offering to be in the movie.
Geri Halliwell, 2017:I remember seeing Alan Cumming performing as Hamlet [at the Donmar Warehouse]. When it came to Spice World, however many years later, it came to casting and we were going through pictures and I was like, “Let's pick him, I saw him in Hamlet.” It was brilliant to have that calibre of actors to be in our funny movie.
Jamie Curtis:Suddenly I’d get a call at 7am saying, “We’ve got Bob Hoskins today”. And Kim would ring me up on his way from Brighton, and we’d be talking in the car on the way to the set coming up with a scene.
Barnaby Thompson: Bob Hoskins, I don’t think he really knew who the Spice Girls were but he had clearly been told, in no uncertain terms by his children, to get into the movie.
Geri, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie: We happened to bump into Gary Oldman. We met his eight-year-old son, who is a big fan and we asked him to be in the party scene in the film.
Mel C: We had a wonderful cast. It was incredible it kind of seems like, everybody was in it, you know. This list of wonderful people, Richard O’Brien and oh my goodness, Stephen Fry, oh gosh, Bob Hoskins it was just, it was such a fantastic time for the girls, we were really riding so high on the wave, and literally our dream wish list of people to be in the film, and people were just saying “yeah!”
Kim Fuller:Michael Barrymore in the Army scene.
Kate Carin, Costume Director: We had Meatloaf, Richard E Grant, Bob Geldof... They were queuing round the block to come and be part of it.
Richard E Grant, Spice World diaries: Geri returns from having her hair bouffanted. She bangs open the door and yells, "Hey, girls! It's Jooooooools Holland!" Which causes instant hysteria and the immediate end of rehearsal, as they ask the jazz pianist and late-night TV host for his autograph.
Geri, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie: I’m late for our script reading. I enter a very small caravan with the Spice Girls, Richard E, Clare and Jools Holland, who plays our musical director. Everyone is pretty casual. For five minutes, I am too, but then I yell, “It’s Jools Holland! Sorry, I had to get that out of the way.”
Jonathan Ross, 1997, Spice World: Behind the Scenes documentary: I was at home the day one of the tabloid newspapers had a two page spread on all the celebrities who had been asked to take part in the Spice Girls movie and my name wasn’t there. And secretly, inside, I was weeping. Then I bumped into the director and he said, “Do you want to be in the movie?” And I said, “Bob I’d LOVE to”.
Kim Fuller:To have Roger Moore in the middle of it. We didn’t know if we’d get him, and he came over for a day. He was brilliant, he’s so fantastic Roger Moore, he’s hilarious.
Richard E Grant, Spice World diaries: Roger Moore entered the studio the day before, dry as a Martini, and broke the unmistakable anticipation from the crew by inquiring, "Do I owe anyone money here?"
Kim Fuller: Bob and I went to see him beforehand. He firstly spent half an hour telling anecdotes. I’d written this cod philosophy. And I said, that’s a bit much, I’ll take that out. And he said, “What happened to that speech? I spent hours learning the f------ thing!” So he just did everything.
Jamie Curtis: Roger Moore played the big boss up at the top, talking in a language that you essentially don’t understand a word that he’s saying. It was a little nod to how we perceive all the madness of the culture of these things works.
Kim Fuller: We had a cat, and we had a rabbit. Then we brought a piglet on and it just pissed all over his jacket.
‘They literally showed up on the first day and we had no idea if they were going to pull it off’
With lucrative promotional deals with Walkers and Pepsi, international interviews and photoshoots, Spice World was just another thing on the girls’ schedule. The film started shooting on June 9 and wrapped on August 1. Their morning calls were frequently before dawn, and 7am was considered a lie-in. Their diaries from the time showed that they would finish for the day at midnight.
Barry Norman, interviewing the Spice Girls in Cannes, 1997: Can you act?
Mel C:I hadn’t acted professionally, but I loved acting and did a lot of productions at school and when I was 16 I went to performing arts college. I’d done quite a bit, but very much an amateur level, which people might believe that Spice World is anyway!
Jamie Curtis: Emma was incredibly professional. She had been to Sylvia Young so she knew what to do, she knew how to hit a mark
Richard E Grant, Spice World diaries: The division between their "acting" and just "doing what comes naturally" blurs while I try my Snaford Meisner best to capture Clifford in all his shark-suited glory. After the first take, Geri leans in wide-eyed and says sotto voce, "I believed you."
Kim Fuller: So we wanted [Director] Bob Spiers because Bob had done Fawlty Towers, he was a good film director in TV land and he’d done comic strip stuff. We said to him, “Look, they’re not going to learn the lines and they’re not going to be diligent about having rehearsals and they’re not going to be doing more than a few takes. They’ve barely acted, they’re not actors as such.” We got on and he’d let me be on set.
Jamie Curtis: Bob was very much Simon’s idea. I’m not sure why he picked Bob.
Barnaby Thompson:Kim Fuller had worked with Bob and Bob had done Ab Fab, the TV show. It seemed that tonally, that was a good fit. That’s why we got Bob involved.
Jamie Curtis: There were a few names bandied about at the time of really cool, young filmmakers who wanted to do it and Simon was having none of that. He just wanted somebody to do it in a simple way and not particularly question it.
Barnaby Thompson: Although he spent his career doing comedy, Bob was quite a curmudgeon. And I don’t think he was ready for the full impact of the girls.
Bob Spiers, 1997: [The Spice Girls] are completely unaffected by it all, that’s what I find extraordinary. They are as you see them.
Jamie Curtis: We just wanted it to be quick – the whole thing was written, produced and out in a year. I started writing it in November and the film came out in Boxing Day. it had to be that fast. Didn’t really get them to rehearsals as such at all.
Barnaby Thompson:There was no rehearsal. They literally showed up on the first day and we had no idea if they were going to pull it off.
Kim Fuller:I’d go in when they were all in their hairdressing caravan, getting their hair done, and I’d have all the pages and I’d give them to each one with their lines underlined. We’d have a vague run-through while they were getting their make-up and hair done and then they’d get out and we’d quickly rehearse it, run through it. I’d step out the way, Bob would get in there and film it and that would be it, that’s how it works. You needed to catch them at the right moment, when the energy is there. They’re not going to do 20 takes of one line, you know, so you had to think quickly on your feet.
Mel B, 1997, Spice World: Behind the Scenes documentary: I never stick to the script. I don’t think any of us, really, we all interpret it in our own words. We contribute our own little sparkle on top of it.
Emma Bunton, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie: There were some times when we’d say the lines wrong just to make us laugh.
Kim Fuller: The script lady went beserk and nearly resigned because we kept changing everything. There were a lot of flowers and we consoled her for a while and everything was fine after that.
‘They were terrifying. Particularly if you were a man’
The stories you hear from those who have worked with the Spice Girls corroborate easily. They worked incredibly hard, they were polite and professional and never ran late. There were no diva antics. But they would run circles around those in whom they could smell fear with their jokes, provocations and overzealous hands.
Geri, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie:A harem of relaxation is the only way to describe today’s set – filled with giggles, word play and raucous banter.
Jamie Curtis: “Ah! Mr Posh! Shall we do this? Shall we do that?” They were excellent. They really were a force. They were terrifying. Particularly if you were a man. If you walked into a room and it was just the five of them you would literally turn around and try and get out as quickly as possible.
Richard E Grant: Traditionally, makeup and hair folk provide the running commentary in the early morning, but they are comparatively mute in the gals' company. I am bombarded with questions. "Who have you worked with? Who have you liked the most/least? Are all your friends famous? How long have you been married? How old's your daughter? Do you always have to get up this early? Will it take forever to film? Are you a Spice Girls fan? Have you been circumcised?" Yes, yes, yes, yes, of course, yes!
Mel B, 1997, Spice World:The Official Book of the Movie: It was very boring hanging around to do scenes. But I soon got the hang of making the most of my free time. I went shopping a few times. One day I got the World of Leather to open up for me during one break.
Jamie Curtis: They were always a little bored because they were working hard so they really had the ability to just rip into you. They would play the Would You Rather game a lot, even on set. And Mel B would go, “Oh, Mr Posh, would you rather?” and Barnaby would go, “DON’T PLAY IT! DON’T PLAY IT!” and warn you away. Because they’d have you saying things you don’t want to say in about a minute.
Kate Carin: They were like normal girls, they were just normal girls. They used to share a trailer, piss themselves laughing. If you went in there was always a joke to be had. Victoria had only just very gently started to have a relationship with David.
Jennie Barnor-Roberts: The energy was always there, even when they were in there all at once. I suppose they might have pinched my bum, every now and then, grabbed my boobs. They were always very touchy-feely. That was them, they were who they are, always. There’s nothing fake about them whatsoever. And I have to say, in all of my work that I’ve been doing for 30 years, they are the most professional group of people I’ve ever worked with. They were never late, they never bitched about each other, they were always in the chair on time.
‘Shall we make them arse-less chaps?’
Image was ingrained into Spice Girls long before Spice World. Even when the group were in their nascent form, in a rented house in Maidenhead, their identities – Baby, Sporty, Posh, Scary and Ginger - were being created. With little in the way of sensible plotline, hair and costumes could run amok, with complete creative control being given to those in the trailers and, of course, the girls.
Kate Carin:When I was asked I would go and interview for doing the costumes on the film I didn’t even know who the Spice Girls were. At the time I was being interviewed they were very well-known but I had just had a child, I was a bit older, it wasn’t really my vibe. I just said that I would run at it really hard and do it with a great sense of humour, which was obviously what they were looking for.
Jennie Barnor-Roberts: Each girl had their own look so you would work within that look. We did make some mistakes. When Mel B has her hair in those little China buns, all over her head, that scene was done in several different days. I made a rod for my own back with that because it had to be done over and over again, with the same parting, the same amount of hair for continuity. That was really difficult. So I learned quickly to make it simple.
Kate Carin:We had two huge wardrobe trucks, just for the girls’ costumes, never mind anyone else, and a separate truck that was shelved out just for shoes, because those great big Buffalo boots took up so much room. I think we had a six or eight-week fit. People threw stuff at us, people literally threw stuff at us. We had a deal with Marks and Spencers at Marble Arch where you’d literally go in and fill your trolley.
Jennie Barnor-Roberts:It was a baptism by fire, because I’d never done a movie before. They were like, “read the script”, but It was like reading a book, it doesn’t tell me what’s what. We all just learned on the job, we just picked it up and run.
Kate Carin: Before you know where you are you’re saying, “Shall we do chaps?” and you mention it to one person and then you’re saying, “Shall we make them arse-less chaps?” One thing leads to another and you think, “This is ridiculous, there’s no way they’ll let us get away with that,” and then you kind of say it in passing to a producer and they don’t flinch. And then you say it again and they still don’t flinch, so you think, “Well, I’ve obviously gotten away with this.”
Jennie Barnor-Roberts: I wouldn’t say we were agony aunts, because they didn’t divulge too much to us, but we were certainly there as big sisters, [make-up artist] Karin and I. They’d talk to us about boyfriends and stuff. And us to them, as well. We’d talk about life and what was going on, families. We were all in it together.
‘This isn’t how we write songs, this isn’t how we record. The songs have to come first’
While Spice Mania was taking over the world, the group hadn’t released a single since November 1996. New music was needed for both the film, which acted as an elaborate music video for their second album, also named Spice World, and to prop up the charts.
Mel C: It was a really chaotic time. Things had gone incredibly well with the first album, and we were working on album number two, Spice World, while we were filming. We had a mobile studio on set. Some of the songs on the album were written and started on the set of the movie.
Biff Stannard, songwriter: We were so worn out. We had Abbey Road on hold for three or four months, and the Spice Girls came in and out to Abbey Road from shooting. But we also had a mobile studio on site, and that had everything in it, microphones, everything. It was basically a big winnebago with a recording studio in it.
Victoria, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie:It was quite good doing the album at the same time as the film because we were always hyperactive after a day on set and that meant we could go in the mobile studio and vibe off each other.
Jennie Barnor-Roberts: The hours were really long. It’s only looking back now I realised what they were doing at the time, doing an album in the recording truck, which was parked alongside their trailer.
Biff Stannard: They were just so busy. They’d all come in wearing their film make-up, they’d come to Abbey Road in full costume, that was fun. I personally, I don’t know how they physically managed to do it, with the hours and the schedule. Especially writing songs, which I know they’re really proud of, which is tiring, and doing that while recording and working on a second record, which is so stressful because of the pressure. I don’t know how they did it.
Jamie Curtis:They were doing the film during the day and then they were recording an album during the evening and it was pretty tough on them. But they were always chirpy unless they were crying.
Barnaby Thompson:Whenever they weren’t shooting, they were recording songs. And they were delivering songs. Spice Up Your Life, I think we all heard that, maybe 24 hours before we shot the scene? The whole thing was like that. Simon would just say, “Don’t worry, we’ll have a song, and we had a song.”
Biff Stannard: Towards the end of one writing session at Abbey Road there was this security guard tapping his watch, telling us to hurry up, and I had a complete fit. I said, “This isn’t how we write songs, this isn’t how we record. The songs have to come first.” I threw everyone aside from the band and Matt Rowe out. I said, “I want to write how we always used to, I want to sit down in a small room, with a guitar and piano.”
They looked at me like people do when someone who doesn’t usually get angry gets angry. We sat down and we wrote Viva Forever. We just tapped into why, and how, we’d got to where we had, and how it had happened. Just seven friends sitting in a room. We just put the film on hold for a bit, and let’s write a great song.
‘A miniature riot ensues between the public and the police’
Even the broadsheet press couldn’t ignore the hysteria that was swarming around the Spice Girls. Six weeks before Spice World was due to open The Observer published a synopsis of the film’s plot, adding as a payoff: “Oh dear. I suppose that means we’ve spoiled it haven’t we?” With the shoot colliding with the school holidays, fans gathered at the London sets and paparazzi mirrored the behaviour of Richard O’Brien’s character Damien, the sleuthing snapper.
Mel C:Obviously, we didn’t want it to leak, when something is as successful as Spice Girls everybody’s trying to get some exclusive.
Jamie Curtis: There were talks of there being a mole on set, how come they kept having so many stories in the papers.
Dennis Davidson: I’m sure there were leaks. It quickly gets out. You’ve got 100 people on the crew, you’ve got the editors, you’ve got the agents, you’ve got the managers. It’s not as bad as it is today but it would have been on the websites. I’m sure the radio DJs were broadcasting it.
Mel C, 1997, Spice World: Behind the Scenes documentary: Paparazzi photographers are the bane of our lives. They’re everywhere. We take it to the extreme in the film but you wonder when you go to bed at night if there’s going to be one hiding under your bed. They just seem to know where you’re going to be and when you’re going to be there, it’s so bizarre.
Jamie Curtis: You’d often pick up a newspaper and find out what was going on with your day on the front of The Sun before you’d even got to set. That was funny. I remember getting a call from Barnaby saying, Jamie, “Emma’s broken her foot. The Sun says so.” And then we’d get to set and there she was with a bust foot.
Richard E Curtis, 1997, Spice World diaries:Saturday afternoon, Emma B, aka Baby Spice, has injured her foot in a platform-shoe fall and has worked through the pain by having it ice-packed between takes all day.
Jamie Curtis: There was a sort of Beatles-esque-ness to it all, the insanity of the media. Wherever we were filming you could just see people lined up with the cameras behind the bushes 150 yards away, or you’d have to cut because there was a helicopter flying over.
Geri, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie: It’s quite funny how we’re driven such a short distance from our winnebago to the set, so that the paparazzi hiding in the bushes don’t get us!
Barnaby Thompson: It was sort of amazing because everywhere we went, as soon as people found out we were shooting, there would be crowds of people, would gather. Hundreds of people, sometimes.
Richard E Curtis, 1997, Spice World diaries:The girls do an impromptu meet-and-greet walk-around to appease the huge crowds behind the metal fencing. The girls' attempts to quell the zoo-feeding time hysterics fail and a miniature riot ensues between the public and the police.
Geri, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie:Little do we know it’s all kicking off big time outside the set. Hundreds of kids have accumulated over the day and it’s getting rather chaotic as they try and storm the set. The police are called and it’s a mini-riot.
Kate Carin: There’s no peace, you were followed everywhere you went, you were followed by thousands of screaming fans.
Geri, 1997, Spice World: The Official Book of the Movie: We did a million just-one-more takes for this scene where fans are screaming outside. I’ll leave it to your imagination, but reciting the same scene over and over again in front of hysterical eight-year-olds can get to the best of them.
‘We had a note asking, “Can we subtitle Mel C’s voice, nobody can understand it?"’
The film was not meant to work. It had been a rushed job, by an inexperienced writer and an even more novice band of stars. But audiences adored it, and the Spice Girls retained enough A-List allure to attract international star-studded premieres – one glaring omission from the guestlist was Simon Fuller, their recently ousted manager.
Barnaby Thompson:We finished it within a year of that lunch. That lunch was on November 1 1996 and we delivered the film exactly a year later, November 1, 1997.
Jamie Curtis:We had all these notes from Sony come through, seven pages of very solid, studio executive notes, saying can you do this, can you do that, can we subtitle Mel C’s voice, nobody can understand it, can we subtitle all of her stuff?
Kim Fuller: Funnily enough, the previews in Los Angeles went really well.
Jamie Curtis: Sony just got back to Barnaby and said, “They said, ‘rip up the notes’”.
Kim Fuller: They said to me, “We were wrong about our notes and we’re glad you didn’t take them up. We get it now. We understand what you’re trying to do.”
Barnaby Thompson: That it would get a panning was one of the few things we knew for certain. A lot of the reviews are actually surprisingly good because I think people had such low expectations.
Kim Fuller: I think if I’d known what had been at stake I would have been much more conservative and much less willing to go out on a limb for it. If Simon hadn’t believed in what we were doing we’d have been trying to compromise and it wouldn’t have worked so well.
Kate Carin:I went to the premiere of that film and I was the most un-famous person there. Every seat was jammed with famous people and their families. There was a huge party afterwards.
Jamie Curtis:The opening at the Empire Leicester Sq where we all stood in a line and shook hands, that was hilarious. What was quite charming was that you had these two princes, who had just lost their mother, and, at that time, were the most famous people in the world. And the other sort of, most famous people in the world, The Spice Girls meeting them. And to have those little boys really laughing and cheering, and they were totally entranced with the girls who were totally all over them, was just rather lovely. It all just happened at the end of the filming.
Kim Fuller: It’s funny, the British film industry are very po-faced. There were some awards and the host said, “Ha, of course, the Spice World movie”, and there was a snigger around the room. And I thought, “F--- off, that film made more money in its first week than most British films make at all.” I’m not bothered what the critics think, and it wasn’t panned. It was what it was. I just wanted for people to go and see it.
Jamie Curtis: What’s ironic is that everything that happened in the movie then happened in real life. It was odd that, a few months after wrapping the movie, they did indeed leave their manager, like they had in the movie, because they were being pushed hard, exactly like they were in the movie.
Mel C:I went through many years where I couldn’t bear to watch it. But my daughter had a birthday party a couple of years ago and she was having a movie and a sleepover, and they wanted to watch Spice World. I sat down with them and I actually really enjoyed it, I laughed out loud. It brought back so many memories, and I think enough time has passed for me to be able to watch myself.
We were so young, and so much has happened since then. But you know in a way, it is brilliant. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, very silly. And the thing about really, that I really realised, was there was so much of us in it. It was very, very real.
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