They’re set to be the first billion-dollar boy band in history. Sophie Herdman meets the lads behind the hype
Hidden away at a secret location, five boys and a ginger-haired middle-aged man are sitting at a table.
To many, the boys are instantly recognisable as Liam Payne, 19, Harry Styles, 19, Niall Horan, 19, Zayn Malik, 20, and Louis Tomlinson, 21. Or, in other words, One Direction.
The middle-aged man is American documentary-maker Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame.
He’s the lucky person tasked with making the highly-anticipated One Direction film, This Is Us.
As you’d expect, the film is 93 minutes of pure, unadulterated One Direction. It features live performances from their worldwide tour, footage of the boys backstage, in their hotel rooms, on the tour bus and, when not mobbed by hordes of fans, exploring the many cities they visit. “These are really intimate moments,” says Spurlock, 42.
The boys, who are tipped to be the first billion-dollar boy band in history, admit they’re a little bit anxious about the release of their first film.
“It’s so nerve-racking,” says Payne. Styles adds: “I don’t think we realised how hard it would be to get it cut, when you have to lose things that you want to put in.”
Nervous they might be, but deep down the boys must know that when it comes to ticket sales, they’ve got nothing to worry about.
They have a huge fan base, including four million devotees who call themselves ‘Directioners’ and each spend an average £1,000 following the band around the world.
The recent premiere for This Is Us was a classic example of their dedication: more than 300 Directioners arrived a day early, camping in London’s Leicester Square overnight. By the time the premiere started, 2,000 fans had turned up, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the boys.
“We think the fans are amazing. The level of dedication they show is second to none – they’re the best fans in the world,” says Payne.
Styles adds that their fans are the reason they decided to make the film. “With social media and 10-minute interviews, there’s only so much you can get across in terms of your personality, so this is a way for us to show what we’re like, for the fans to see,” he says.
So what is it that Directioners love so much? Interviewed in the movie, some of the screaming girls reveal that the band makes them happy – and that they sing the things that boys never say to them in real life.
Indeed, lines like “You don’t know you’re beautiful, and that’s what makes you beautiful” and “You’ll never love yourself half as much as I love you” are lyrical gold for the teenage market.
One Direction have had a dedicated following since their inception on 2010’s X Factor, when the five schoolboys, who’d all auditioned as solo artists, were brought together by Simon Cowell.
Despite only coming third in the series, they’ve had unprecedented success since, even in America, a famously tough market to crack.
Their two albums, Up All Night and Take Me Home, have broken records across the globe, while Live While We’re Young, a track from the latter album, reached the top 10 in almost every country it charted in.
Of course, fame comes with its costs and the boys constantly appear in tabloids and gossip magazines.
“It’s better for us to ignore things like that and it’s easy for us to do it,” says Tomlinson. Another downside to fame, Horan points out, is that they don’t go home very often.
Although the film skips over a lot of details (for example, no girlfriends appear on screen), the effect the boys’ fame has had on their families is well documented.
Many of their mothers are shown, teary-eyed, explaining that their sons went off to an audition aged 16 and have barely been back since.
And it’s not just the mums. One emotional scene sees Payne’s father explaining how he feels about ‘losing’ his son.
Payne admitted that it was difficult to watch, saying: “He’s always so happy when I see him and happy to have me home. To actually see what he’s like when I’m not there is a bit mad.”
Tomlinson points out that a lot of families parents know their children will go off to university aged 18, but for them it was different.
“For us, it happened out of the blue. Our mums had to wave goodbye to us on The X Factor. It was a lot for them to take in at first,” he says.
It’s moments like these, both in the film and in person, that reveal that, really, the boys are just an ordinary bunch of lads caught up in an extraordinary situation.
This message is repeated often during the documentary, but it’s something Spurlock believes.
“Part of the reason I think they’ve been so successful is because they’re so incredibly grounded,” he says.
“There is no air of superiority, no air of success. They’re the same five guys they were three years ago.
“I challenge you to go to this movie and not like them after the film is done.”