Nigel Dick had already directed videos for Guns N’ Roses, Oasis, and many others by the time he met Britney Spears in 1998, but even the “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” clips couldn’t come close to matching the culture-shaking impact of “…Baby One More Time.”
Dick went on to helm the videos for “(You Drive Me) Crazy” and “Sometimes,” and when it came time for the all-important first single from Spears’ second album, Oops!… I Did It Again, she and her team turned to him again. The director shared the story of his time with Spears on the new episode of our Rolling Stone Music Now podcast. Here, a few of the highlights.
The sci-fi concept for the “Oops!” video came straight from Spears herself.
“We jump on the phone,” says Dick. “And she says,’ Well, I want to do this video. I want to be on Mars. I want to be in a red suit. I want a cute spaceman, but no rocket. And that was it. You know, that’s the brief. Which for me, makes life a lot easier… Having Britney say, ‘I want to be on Mars’ immediately narrows it. You know, everything is now going to be red. So now you have to just try and make this idea work.”
Dick found the song’s infamous Titanic interlude baffling.
“You’re going, ‘What the fuck?’ I’m on Mars, which obviously means somewhere in the middle of the 21st century. And then suddenly the brakes squeal, and you do an about-turn and you go back to 19-whenever it was when the Titanic sank. I said, ‘This bit about the Titanic, what am I going to do with that? How does that fit in?’ And she goes, ‘Oh, you’ll think of something!’ So, you just go, ‘I’ll write something, and we’ll see if they like it.’ And as I recall, I don’t think there were any revisions on my treatment.”
The opening shot of Spears’ lips reflected how iconic a figure she’d already become.
“You don’t want to fire all the guns at once and reveal the big set,” says Dick. “So you just sort of think, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’ So I remember putting the shot list a bunch of close-ups, so you could have that as a little montage. It’s like a burlesque, isn’t it? You have the feathers and everything – you don’t deliver the goods until the final moment as the lights go out. You flirt with the audience.”
Dick rejected an outfit Spears wanted to wear, worrying it was too sexy for her age.
“I questioned whether it was right for her to be wearing it in the video for her audience, and both management and label said, ‘Yeah.’ But they didn’t want to say anything, so I said, ‘You know Britney, we need to go back to a trailer and see what else you’ve got. And she wasn’t terribly happy about that.” Dick never worked with Spears again after that video: “I’m guessing that had quite a lot to do with me questioning that outfit she was wearing.”
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