McG enjoys a challenge. It's just as well, because reprising Shane Black and Richard Donner's seminal 1987 film Lethal Weapon as a television pilot is certainly that. There are younger men who are too old for this kind of shit.
Lethal Weapon, of course, starred Mel Gibson as burned out LA cop Martin Riggs, on the edge and suicidal after having lost his wife in a seemingly random car accident. He finds himself partnered with Danny Glover's Roger Murtaugh, a cop this close to retirement who finds his life turned upside down by the arrival of Riggs. The film gave birth to three sequels, all directed by Donner as well.
"There are obviously examples of great success and great failure in that reimagining dance," muses the director/executive producer of such TV series as Chuck, Supernatural and Shadowhunters. "We certainly want to be the one that delivers, and that's a challenge."
And not a new one, as far as he's concerned. Witness 2009's Terminator Salvation, the fourth in a series of films which attempted to build on the world envisioned by James Cameron, this time via a radical (and not entirely successful) left turn in the franchise's mythology.
"I did a lot right and a lot wrong with Terminator," he admits. "I tried to give that world Christian Bale and do the best I could in that respect, honouring what James Cameron had put in place. There are a few things we did right in that particular instance, and a few thing that I'd change if I were given the opportunity. It's always a moving target, it's always tricky."
It's a trick he feels he'd mastered when he took '70s big-haired TV stalwart Charlie's Angels and turned it into high-octane comedy-action hits with 2000's Charlie's Angels and 2003's Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, starring Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu.
"That was no gimme," he admits with a laugh. "We had to take what we thought had grip in the pop culture universe and then make it work for the audience, and then make it work for that time. And I'm very pleased with the way those stories came out. Cameron and Drew and Lucy did a great job and we captured a moment. I think those films have aged very well. People kind of recollect those films favorably and they make them smile. I'm hoping with Lethal Weapon we can get it right and really capture the essence of that Riggs/Murtaugh dynamic and make it a kick-ass, funny, compelling, multi-dimensional, big entertainment show."
Although Riggs hasn't been cast yet, Damon Wayans will be taking on the Murtaugh character. The TV show will tweak their back stories: Riggs is a former Navy SEAL who has lost his wife and child and moved to LA to start over. There, he's paired with Murtaugh, who has suffered a minor heart attack and must avoid stress. Fat chance. Also cast is Jordana Brewster (Mia from the Fast And Furious franchise) as LAPD hostage negotiator and in-house therapist Dr. Maureen "Mo" Cahill.
"It's extremely tough doing this," elaborates McG. "I'm thinking all the time about what is it Mel delivered and what is it Danny delivered. Richard Donner is someone I look up to tremendously. What did they do to create that magic and how can I adjust that and capture the essence of what it is, but make it new and work for today? I think [Phil] Lord and [Christopher] Miller do it so well. You see what they did with Jump Street, which was no gimme. I wouldn't have believed that Fargo could ever live up to the film and it certainly did. I hope I get Lethal Weapon right or I'm going to feel sick about it for a very long time."