On Thursday, Lady Gaga premiered her epic clip for “Telephone.” In the nearly 10-minute-long video, Gaga is bailed out of jail by Beyoncé and the ladies go on a killing spree. Director Jonas Åkerlund sat down with MTV News to give fans the inside scoop on the video, frame by frame.
“We usually don’t do opening credits for videos, but it kind of goes with the story and the length of the video,” he explained. “This is actually a real jail, or it used to be, but they closed it in L.A. We looked at a couple. There’s, like, two or three jails in L.A. that you can shoot in. … [I] always try and stick in my female bodybuilders in my videos. We like that.”
The crew had to shoot as much as they could in a very, very limited time. “The idea was always to have a very stylish, a very cool jail filled with women. The whole video was shot in only two days, which is a lot of setups for what we need. So you average up to 150 setups a day,” he said. “We go from all these lip-synch parts and dance parts back to story. It goes back and forth all through.”
Gaga first shows off her moves in the jail as she makes her way to and from her cell. “This is the first of three big dance numbers,” Åkerlund explained. “It’s actually supposed to be attached to the other video we did last year for ‘Paparazzi’ and that one was, like, six-and-a-half minutes and I guess this one is close to 10, so you can put them together and it’s slowly growing into a little film.”
Finally, Gaga gets bailed out of prison. “The idea was always to not know until we see her, but we did add her name into the speaker at the beginning,” he said of Beyoncé’s first appearance. “But the reveal of Beyoncé is kind of cool when she lifts her hat. Beyoncé’s time was so limited, so [we] really had prepared [and] rehearsed so much for her, but she had so much experience that we figured it out.”
Although the video is full of pop-culture references both obvious and obscure, the most apparent is the truck the ladies drive through the desert. “And that car is actually the real car from the ‘Kill Bill’ movie and we had a different car,” he said. “We were gonna have a convertible hearse, but then Gaga had some sort of meeting with Quentin [Tarantino] and he offered to lend his car. We thought that was fun too.”
The “Kill Bill” truck wasn’t the only cameo. Gaga’s pals Semi Precious Weapons showed up, as well as Tyrese Gibson. “He was kind enough to help us out. Luckily he was in L.A. and he was up for it,” he explained. “It’s hard to get actors to be in videos. It’s not always as challenging and rewarding as they’re used to.”
While the video closes with the ladies driving off into the sunset, Åkerlund explained just how the big dance sequences came together. “It’s just like the big dance number with Beyoncé in it. This is how professional she is — she actually rehearsed on the day Gaga and her dancers had rehearsed a little bit before and pretty much nailed it,” he said. “We had a stylist working with all the designers, but he’s basically the genius behind the wardrobe and Gaga — she’s filled with ideas.”