When Pharrell asks, “Can I Have It Like That?,” the answer is usually, “Hell, yes!” For his new single from his forthcoming solo album, In My Mind, the Neptunes beatmaker had a few modest requests: He wanted his “Hollaback Girl” Gwen Stefani as a guest. He got that. He wanted chicks dancing, skateboarding, explosions. He got all that. But the naked women painted like leopards? Believe it or not, that was director Paul Hunter’s request, not Pharrell’s.
“I had two women body-painted,” Pharrell said. “That was Paul’s idea, which is a good idea. I can’t complain.”
The women crawl and wrap themselves around Pharrell as he sits with a real cat of his own, a baby cougar. “I asked for the baby cougar for the shot,” he said, “because I wanted to exude power.”
But even though Pharrell had a big wish list for this song, he wasn’t always so sure he was going to get what he wanted. “It was really weird how he asked me,” Stefani revealed, “because he was shy. He kinda asked, ’Will you be on my song?’ But of course I would love to be on his song!”
Being in the clip was also a way to return a favor, since Pharrell popped into her “Hollaback Girl” video after producing the track. “He had that little moment,” she said of his guest appearance, “so it’s like flipping it this time” (see “Pharrell’s Got Naked Women, Fireballs And, Oh Yeah, Gwen Stefani For Clip” ).
“We have an incredible chemistry,” she said. “He has so many sides to him. He’s so talented, he’s so inspiring. I feel lucky to know him and be able to work with him. And I always forget how cute he is until I see him again!”
Plus, it’s not like she had to do a lot of work. Just like she did in the movie “The Aviator,” Gwen makes the most out of a minimal part. “I had just one line,” she said. “I sang it like two times, and that was that.”
Most of Pharrell’s scenes with Gwen were shot in front of a green screen, where they dance a bit together. Behind them, Pharrell said, “It’s going to be like a dope equalizer.” But Pharrell didn’t get to hide in the safety of a soundstage when it came time for the video’s explosions, which were shot at night in the streets of Los Angeles. After one blast, Pharrell walked calmly out of the frame, and as soon as he was clear, he yelped and ran, in a bit of a delayed reaction. As the crew chuckled, he laughed back, “You ain’t going to make fun of me!”
“I’m a lucky dude to do this,” he said. “I’m kicking ass, shaking ass, breaking ass. I’m watching as Paul takes my ideas and manifests them into something beyond my wildest dreams.”
For a feature on Gwen and her latest fashion collection, check out “Gwen Stefani: Fabric Kingdom.”