The predominantly female fan base continues to buy out their concerts in seconds - next year's world tour of stadiums has already "gone clean" - and recently caused such a fuss at an LA movie preview that Sony Pictures is hiring extra security guards to keep order at theaters where the film opens today.
Much of the glossy, 3-D movie's appeal is that the cutely coiffed guys - just 16-18 when they made their debut on TV - come off so well: as funny, fearless, sweet and innocent souls who get along shockingly well, are kind to their mums and even to their former employers (Harry swept up at a bakery shop, Louis stocked shelves at Toys R Us). Even with those new tattoos (acquired post-filming), the lads could confidently be brought home to meet the parents.
The other shock is that these sympathetic character studies were captured and massaged by Morgan Spurlock, a seemingly cynical film director/auteur/comedian previously known best for blasting the fast-food industry in "Super Size Me" and the insidious growth of advertising placement in "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."
So what made him drink the boy-band Kool-Aid? Spurlock told all in a recent, exclusive (at least for our hour) schmooze.
Q: This film seems so far out of your discomfort zone. What lured you into the fold?
A: I've actually done music videos before, including with the Philly/Roots-connected Jazzyfatnastees, so the subject matter isn't totally foreign to me. As a filmmaker, you want to tell stories that people will actually see and resonate with. This film will play to more people on opening day than all my other films did combined. I don't always want to be the guy who just skewers sacred cows. As a storyteller you want to push yourself in directions that are exciting or different or challenge you.
Here I had to get in five personalities' stories, get lots of the fans in there and also put on a show. There's about 28 minutes of concert footage in the film, plus 62 minutes to tell the whole story. And while I knew nothing about shooting concert films in 3-D, I made sure to hire guys who did - director of photography Tom Krueger who did the terrific "U2 3D" film, and our executive producer Doug Merrifield, who's worked on the Jerry Bruckheimer "Pirates of the Caribbean" blockbusters and the Justin Bieber, Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert films. And working with a major studio (Sony) also gives you access to all the best, state-of-the-art equipment.
Q: Given One Direction's seemingly innocent, awestruck nature and your cynical upbringing, how come there isn't much insight to "powers behind the throne," people imposing their creative wills on the guys? There's just a brief glimpse of one songwriter and a little bit with their choreographer, Paul Rogers.
A: And as you see, Paul's not very successful. He's trying to get them to do choreography, which they don't want to do, with the exception of just blocking them onstage. When people look at them, they theorize there's some puppet master - a Simon Cowell - behind the curtains going "Dance, dance dance!," pulling the strings. And that's just not the case. I'm sure in the beginning they were being pushed in directions by management and the record label. What's happened now is they've got this little democracy where five of them vote on everything that happens. "Are we going to extend the tour and where, how many days are we going to work? Are we going to endorse this product?" If three out of five say "yes," they do it; democracy wins. They're taking the reins on songwriting with the next album. And it's their call to work a lot. I look back on when I was 19 to 21 and in college, doing shots of Jagermeister in the keg stand. Quite a different world that they're in, with a tremendous amount of responsibility and pressure. They're incredibly self-aware of where they are right now and where they potentially could be, if they decide to stay together and ride it out.
Q: So what makes them different, in your opinion, from other boy bands?
A: They have this easy charm about them. They don't have to turn it on. It's a rare gift. A lot of people in music have to work hard to communicate. Then once they're offstage, they think, "I'm not that person anymore. I have to go into this dark place and be this depressed artist." And that's not who they are.
Q: There's been a lot of media buzz that Harry (Styles) demanded you take out all shots of him with his former girlfriend Taylor Swift, after she turned their breakup into a hit song.
A: Not true. Never happened. Never shot one frame of Taylor Swift footage. Now I get to experience firsthand what the boys deal with all the time. People often write and report things about them that never happened. She was around in the fall (of 2012), they were going out November to December. We started shooting in January. By then they were done; they stopped dating before Christmas. That story was just a way to get their names together in the conversation one more time even if it wasn't true. Sadly, that's what so much of this pop culture world is about.