It’s been a week since Jay Z and Beyoncé toyed with our emotions by releasing an epic trailer for a never-will-be movie. The “On The Run” promo video for their summer stadium tour saw the couple playing a gun-busting, modern-day Bonnie and Clyde with appearances by the who’s who of Hollywood. Aside from shouting, “When?!” (and being let down), many of us wondered, “How the hell did they do all that AND pull it off?” Elle.com caught up with the trailer’s director, Melina Matsoukas, and she revealed the secrets to how it all came about. During the chat, she dished on how the trailer almost never came about due to Jay’s skepticism, Bey channeling her inner badass, how most of the script was improvised and more.
How it all started:
Obviously I’ve worked with Beyoncé quite a bit; I know Jay through the years. We’ve been trying to work together for a couple of his albums and it just never came to fruition. I’d been dying to work with him and I love working with her so it just felt like the perfect combination. With this song, it’s actually a music video — I know everyone’s calling it a trailer, which I guess it is as well. But it’s a music video for his song “Part II (On The Run).” I feel like in Jay’s career he doesn’t want to just do a normal music video. So we were trying to come up with a way to visualize the song that wasn’t something that we’ve seen before. So I came up with this whole movie trailer idea and it just kind of progressed from there. We were talking about trying to hide the fact that it was a music video and the idea was to release this trailer for this blockbuster that you’ll never see.
On Jay Z almost ruining it:
Beyoncé was definitely really excited. Jay was a bit skeptical but we were able to kind of force him into it. He’s always interested in doing something different so I think that part was exciting to him. I think he was hesitant about ‘Oh, now I have to be an actor.’ I was like ‘If it works, great. If not, then we’ll cut around it and make it a more typical video.’ On Jay Z getting Sean Penn involved: We were working on all these cameos and obviously there were a bunch of people on our list but some people I just thought would never do it. Jay put in a call for Sean Penn. It was the end of us shooting the first day. One of Jay’s creatives came up me and she’s like ‘OK, we need to call Sean Penn now. He’s coming tomorrow.’ And I’m ‘What? OK.’ So I’m driving back through the desert and my phone’s not working and it didn’t work that night and I wake up the next morning to a text from Sean Penn. So I talked to him about the project and what were thinking of doing with him. And he’s like ‘I can be there at 3.’ I’m like ‘I kind of need you there in an hour.’ And he went home and got dressed and came camera-ready. It was all improv so it was kind of perfect. [Jay and him] discussed where their characters were at that point in our faux-film. He came up with his own dialogue. That’s actually one of my favorite scenes.
On the script:
In my head I knew it was a trailer for this movie and I knew it had this of Bonnie and Clyde, True Romance vibe. They were outlaws wrecking havoc around town and these different characters were playing along with them. So each person that would come on set we’d introduce their character to them and have a background and a history to give them motivation for the scene. I had suggested some lines to Jay which were not received well. I was like, ‘You don’t have to say this but say this.’ Of course I realized that Jay is a poet. So it became what it became. And it was way better than I would have imagined. So I was like ‘For the rest of the scenes will you write the script? Cause you’re a way better writer than I am.’ On Beyoncé playing a badass for the first time: When we first started she did send me some references and a lot of that was being a badass. I was like ‘OK, this is a role she hasn’t played that she’s definitely interested in playing so let’s take it way further than she could imagine.’ She’s really good with action and she’s a badass in real life. So why not be one in a video? It’s just about having fun and creating some cool images. And I think for her it’s a sense of freedom. Maybe these are things she didn’t think she could do a couple years ago and now she’s just like ‘I’m gonna play whatever part I wanna play and not listen to whatever people have to say.’
On finding time to shoot the trailer:
We were supposed to shoot in January, but he was on tour. We cancelled [that] shoot the day before because it was just too much. It came back up last month because the tour [together] was starting and they really wanted a visual for the song. I was excited because I loved the idea and wanted the chance to visualize it. We started shooting and all those cameos came last minute. Once we got one then we got everybody. If you’re still holding on to hope that the trailer turns into a movie, Melina says, “Nope!” But the director says she’s down if Jay Z and Beyoncé decide to answer our prayers