From the onscreen (and real-life) tango of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to the yeah-baby! moves of Austin Powers, Buffalo native Marguerite Derricks' choreography has entered the pop culture zeitgeist. Here is Derricks' take on some of her best-known work:
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
This was the 2005 film that brought the now-split Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie together as a real-life couple.
Derricks is the choreographer of their famous weapons-frisking tango. (Though Pitt, she recalls, came up with the idea of smashing Jolie's head into the mirror.)
Rehearsals for this scene happened at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles. On the first day, Jolie was running behind and Pitt arrived first. He chatted for about 15 minutes with Derricks, who had told her female assistant to sit this one out.
"I wanted to dance with Brad," Derricks says.
Though Jolie still hadn't arrived, Pitt asked Derricks, "Why don't you show me what you've got?" They started dancing, but then Jolie walked in, and seemed put off.
"I could see, like, uh oh, she’s not happy we started without her, even though it wasn’t my decision – I wouldn’t have done that," Derricks said. "It was Brad’s decision."
Jolie started talking to Pitt about a barbecue; she seemed to be ignoring Derricks, who cut in by saying, "Let me show you some moves."
Jolie, as Derricks remembers it, responded by saying, "Wait a minute. I need to know the story of the tango."
It was a challenge, and the others in the room – Pitt and a couple of assistants – started backing up.
"It was me and Angie, nose to nose, standing there," said Derricks, who was thinking at that moment, I don’t know what kind of story I’m going to tell her.
Instead, Derricks grabbed Jolie's arm, put her hand around the actress' waist, and started dancing. She called over her male assistant, a guy named Brendan, and had him take over with Jolie. Derricks took Pitt.
"Five minutes later, I got her and Brad together," Derricks said, "and they’re laughing."
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Derricks pitched Mike Myers on the idea of making dance a key component of the "Austin Powers" movies. The actor, who created the comedically sexy British spy, went all in.
"I love dance, but I’m more of a dance enthusiast than a dance scholar," Myers told The News. "Before Marguerite would choreograph a scene that I was dancing in, she would ask me to dance it out. I would fumble through my limited knowledge, and she would heighten, and explore, and ultimately shape, my fumblings. And then she would push me to greater heights."
To rehearse this opening scene of the first Powers movie, Myers showed up at a youth dance troupe practice led by Derricks. It was a Sunday morning; Myers came in his slippers, with coffee, and learned with the kids — who impressed him. Myers told Derricks, "Let's put them in it," and they are. Many of the background dancers in this scene are actually Derricks' students.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Myers, Derricks says, would pick up on little nuances and transform them into the hilarious details that packed his Powers movies. For this second installment, Myers was watching ballroom competition and got the idea to have Austin balance on the thigh of Felicity Shagwell, played by Heather Graham.
“He just always came up with little quirky weird things that just made everything so funny,” Derricks says.
Austin Powers in Goldmember
One of the Powers producers called this piece "Marguerite's Ballet."
"It got bigger and bigger," Derricks says. The scene, from the third Powers movie, was shot over a full week on the Paramount Pictures lot. That included a long overnight shoot with Britney Spears – beginning around 6 p.m. and ending around 8 o'clock the next morning.
"We had Britney in her heyday," Derricks says. "She was fabulous."
As she watches her Austin Powers work, Derricks starts reminiscing about Mike Myers, whom she lovingly calls "crazy creative."
“Working with Mike on this one was so fun," she says. "He was at his craziest self.”
This Homorazzi.com blog about the top 10 Gap commercials says this about Khaki-A-Go-Go: "I love the choreography in this one! The music also sounds like something you’d find in an Austin Powers movie. So is the dance for that matter."
With good reason: Derricks channeled that late-’90s Powers vibe into this commercial, which was shot in one take. The very first take.
"Everybody looked at each other and said, ‘We can’t go home yet. We’ve got to shoot at least till lunch,’ ” Derricks says. "So we shot it a bunch of times, but went with the first one. That never happens.”
The commercial kicked Derricks' already-booming career up a level: It came out on the evening of the Academy Awards, and led to an interview with Diane Saywer, features in the New York Post and People magazine, and even her first Broadway offer.
"I was all over the place because of this Gap commercial," Derricks says. "It became such a big thing.”
"La Reve" and "Showstoppers" at the Wynn Las Vegas
The first half of this reel from the Wynn Las Vegas splashes out "La Reve," a show for which Derricks teamed with a full squad of experts, from acrobats to a synchronized swimming coach. Derricks' ability to do that effectively has impressed Rick Gray, who runs entertainment for Wynn. He calls Derricks "an incredible collaborator," and notes, "It’s always difficult for many creative people to be that collaborative."
"ShowStoppers" is the second half of the reel. It's a Broadway musical-style revue. For that one, Derricks says, "every move is mine."