There’s something both awe inspiring and intimidating that comes over people when Channing Tatum and Joe Manganiello walk into a room. The former comes with a newfound air of stardom after two back to back blockbusters this year (The Vow, 21 Jump Street) and the fact that his face has graced countless magazines on newsstands this year. The latter cuts just as imposing a figure as one would expect from his role on HBO’s hit series True Blood, where he plays werewolf Alcide Herveaux.
Together they arrive in a room full of press in Toronto to discuss their work on the film, Magic Mike, a.k.a., “That Channing Tatum male stripper movie” from director Steven Soderbergh, who reteams with Tatum following an appearance in the director’s Haywire earlier this year. The consummately attractive duo, also disarm by just how funny and charming they both are when it comes to talking about their respective roles in the film, with Tatum revisiting his considerably sillier early days as a male stripper and Manganiello relishing the chance to play the stereotypically named Big Dick Richie. (When you see the movie, you’ll find out why that last one is.) Together they play the touchstones of a Tampa, Florida strip club run by a charismatic fast talker (Matthew McConaughey) where they work alongside other familiar faces like Matt Bomer and former wrestler Kevin Nash as a crew of dancers that take a fresh faced newcomer in need of some extra cash (Alex Pettyfer) under their wing.
Tatum and Mananello sat down to talk about stardom, the differences between the strip club and the screen, working with Soderbergh, and why the film isn’t really based all that much on Tatum’s actual past,
I had a great time watching the movie the other afternoon…
Channing Tatum: You saw this in the afternoon? (laughs) Oh, man, sorry. (laughs)
Joe Manganiello: A hell of a way to start your day!
CT: That’s funny because that’s exactly what we would say when we were on set, too.
So compared to what you’ve done in other films, how does stripping on camera really compare to something like a love story or having to fight somebody?
CT: Well, I have a stunt person to do all my love scenes. I don’t really… (laughs) Actually, I just really dance in movies. It’s kind of one of the only things I do. I dunno, man, because this is something that’s completely unto itself. You can’t really compare it to anything. Even for me since I had actually done it before in real life.
Matt Bomer actually went up first when we were shooting…
JM: As a giant Ken Doll, right?
CT: Yeah, he went out as Ken and he was the first to actually perform. And we were all, like, “Good luck, motherfucker!” (laughs) Then he asked “Well, what am I doing?” And I just said, “I dunno! Just go for it.” I didn’t even have an answer for him and it was something I had done in the past.
JM: “GRAB YOUR JUNK AND PUT IT IN SOMEONE’S FACE!”
CT: (laughs) “Just do that and go do, um, something!” Then he just ran off and when he came back, he just kept laughing and saying that he didn’t even know what he’d just done.
JM: It’s that feeling of being the first one to jump out of a plane.
CT: GO! GO! (laughs) You really do just go out and do it, and before the first time I did it even I would think, “Man, this is a terrible idea. Why did I want to make this movie all over again?” I don’t know. It’s just completely unique.
How does your wife feel about your role here?
CT: I don’t know. (pauses, turns to Joe) How does your wife feel about your roles?
JM: (laughs) My future wife?
CT: (laughs) Yes.
JM: I think I have a better chance of meeting her after this movie.
CT: (laughs) No, she thinks it’s hilarious. She kind of revels in the fact that she married a stripper. But she knows this is really more professional. It is professional, but she actually got to see a bunch of different versions of this movie and I don’t think she ever got sick of me having to keep showing her the film. She had fun.
You know, I hope (after couples see this film) that if someone asks their boyfriend or husband why they don’t dance for them like that the other person will say they’ll handle that. (laughs) If they want to remain married, they better step up to the plate and be ready. They better come to the movie and get some pointers and go back and handle business. (laughs)
And I guess I should say something to the straight single males who don’t want to see the movie, that most of my boys would always come out to these shows and hang around afterwards to hit on all the women leaving. (laughs) Only, it never really compares because men and women go to these things for different reasons. There are never any “gentlemen” that go to a gentleman’s club.
JM: It’s fucking grimy.
CT: But women go mostly for the fantasy aspect of it all and to have a genuinely good time, and I hope more than anything that’s one of the big differences the movie can show. I mean, my wife and I, we still dance for each other and keep that fantasy aspect alive for each other in many ways. It’s just fun and silly. Who’s really just going to up and dress in a fireman’s uniform with an axe to trick people on the street? (laughs)
There’s an interesting part of the film where Mike has to tell the The Kid’s sister that there’s a difference between who he is on stage and who he is in real life. Is that something either of you find you have to explain on a daily basis in your personal lives?
CT: I think I’ve tried for the most part to just be myself both in public and private, and characters are characters. They’re their own thing. But I try to generally maintain who I am with my core group of friends and who I am in the press on kind of the same level. It backfires sometimes (laughs) and other times it works out.
JM: You know, for me, I think coming from Pittsburgh and having this blue collar background – my father was working in powerplants as an engineer and my grandfather worked off of a coal barge – you know, there’s a very hard working attitude that I come from, so my job has always been my job. But having said that, I always find myself on the morning after filming Magic Mike all day I’ll find myself filling my car up with gas and I walk into the gas station to get a drink or something and I’ll hear music playing, and all of a sudden I’ll just start dancing to the beat. (laughs) I kind of, like, plant myself in front of the drinks and look around and wonder “YEAH! Who’s Next?!” (laughs) You do walk around a little bit with it afterward.
CT: (laughs) Yeah, you gotta shake the characters off a bit afterward.
JM: Even when I came back to True Blood (Tatum starts laughing almost immediately) there was this scene where it was Anna Paquin, Steven Moyer, and Alexander Skaarsgard all together and, you know, everyone was really curious about the movie I had shot during the hiatus, so there were days when all of us were together and we would just spend all this time humping every piece of furniture on set and just pointing at each other. There was even one point where I literally came skipping onto the set and I just said (ripping shirt open) “Did somebody order a werewolf?”
(Tatum loses it, nearly falling off his chair)
JM: You keep the characters with you, but in the best way possible.
CT: I LOVE that I’m having such an impact on this whole world! (laughs) All of these Magic Mike moves that I came up with! Seriously, I’m going to kill myself, dude, when I see that.
JM: There are some scenes where I’m just doing the Magic Mike character on there.
CT: All of a sudden BDR is just going to pop up there out of nowhere. One day for no reason, he’s just going to show up and be a werewolf wearing a fireman suit.
Earlier this year, the New York Times referred to you, Channing, as “moviedom’s best hope for a male superstar.” I was wondering how exactly you would respond to that and especially now with something like Magic Mike where you’re the focal point of the film and you’re working with someone like Steven Soderbergh.
CT: I think the superstar thing is completely arbitrary. I mean, who has a movie that does well one week and then one that doesn’t do well the next week. Does that mean all of a sudden you’ve fallen at all? Especially nowadays, things like that are extremely weird.
But working with Soderbergh was great because we just got along. There’s no real shared frame of reference, either. We come from two completely different places. We just see how we want to make movies in the same way, probably even more than I could adequately put into words, from how he runs the set and how he empowers the actors around him to bring something personal and special to their role or to the job, from costumes, to set decoration, or anything. I just think he’s one of the more brilliant filmmakers I’ve ever worked with or will ever work with.
In the film Alex Pettyfer is playing someone who’s essentially playing a younger version of you. Did you have to give him any sort of special advice on how to play a character that seems like it was based somewhat on who you used to be?
CT: No, no no. (laughs) To be honest, and to clarify, it’s not really my story. We’ve been quoted as saying that if we put all the stuff that really happened back then it would just be an out and out comedy because you just wouldn’t believe it. I mean, I’ve ridden in the back of a U-Haul van with seven other strippers up to North Carolina, and it’s just bizarre. You can’t put it all in the movie, so we fabricated everything. The only things that are similar and relevant to my actual life is that I was 18 when I went in… (laughs) When I went in. “When I was 18, I went off to war…” (laughs). Well, it was a war in a way. I also had a sister and I played football in college before I dropped out. And that’s it, really. I never ODed or anything like that. That never happened.
CT: Yeah! (throws up hands victoriously) I don’t have a drug problem, guys! (laughs)
Your career has obviously changed so much since you were 18, was it weird to go back to that point in your life and try to revisit what used to be your job?
CT: You know, even writing it with my partner Reid Carolin, he had a buddy who was a stripper who created the fireman routine in the film, when you go into the story and you start to pull all these pieces together, you don’t really realize until I started going that I hadn’t relived any of it yet. I still had to actually go out and do this again. I think one of the strangest moments was when we actually went back to Tampa, and we went to Ybor, which is kind of like the club district there, and that was when it finally hit me where I was and what I have gotten to. These were the same damned streets that I stumbled down when I was just this 18 year old, little raver kid. The same stairwells that I was hooking up with girls in. Now I can go back and remember that I’ve made something of myself. I got out fairly unscathed and not a lot of my friends did.
Could you talk a little bit about Cody Horn’s character and where she fits into this movie, which really might be more of a guy’s tale than it really lets on?
CT: You know, her character was probably one of the most important, because in the beginning I tried to model her on my actual sister. I have a really strong willed sister. She’s a beautiful, strong woman that I’ve learned so much from. She’s the kind of woman where if I ever got into a fight in the neighbourhood, I wouldn’t go to get one of my boys, I was all, like “Yo, bro, don’t make me get my sister, son.” (laughs) And if they we’re all, like, “Fuck your sister” shit would be on. She’d be ready to rock. That’s kind of really the only note I gave to Cody on that and she just kind of ran with it and it became this character that she and Soderbergh cooked up.
At times, the film seems really close to just becoming a full on musical…
CT: We actually talked about that at one point, didn’t we?
JM: Yeah, we did. I think we want to take this to Broadway. Soderbergh was actually talking about it!
CT: Yeah, we did, because Bomer has one of the most amazing voices you’ve ever heard, especially as a singer, and I hope he does something like that. Didn’t he do Glee?
JM: Yeah, he did Glee. I was bugging him about Glee while we were shooting because I’ve known him since drama school. He sang “Hungry Like the Wolf”!
CT: OHHHHH, That’s amazing! I can totally see that. That’s so good. I have to see that now. (pauses) But, yeah, we did talk about that since it takes place on stage, it lends itself to that so well. I think it would be a completely different story if we did it that way, and almost better in some ways, especially for stage. It would just be more and more of an out and out fun sort of send up.
Joe, this is the kind of role that you really have to stay in shape for, much like what you have to do every week on True Blood. Did you have to do anything different to prepare this time around?
JM: I had to trim some hair. (laughs) It might sound surprising to you, but strippers are considerably less hairy than werewolves. Other that that, I think the dancing and the choreography was the biggest difference. We would spend hours working on that. That was a huge part of the workout. It was mostly weights and practicing grinding. (laughs) It was more of a workout than say, an elliptical machine, but that was interesting because with True Blood I actually know when all of my shirtless scenes are coming about three weeks out. So there’s a way to kind of peak for that day when it comes to it, but when you’re playing a male stripper and you’re doing dance routines for two weeks straight at a time, you have to peak every day. That became kind of crazy because it was all of us just lifting weights on set. The gym you see in the film was our gym, and we had another set up out in the parking lot, so we were all just lifting all day.
CT: We ended up just including these people just working out in the background of scenes…
JM: In an American flag thong…
CT: (laughs) Yeah, Adam Rodriguez (who plays a fellow dancer) would just be in a scene trying to talk to me about something serious and there he is just hanging out and trying not to laugh, and you just have to keep telling yourself “Okay, this is your reality right now.” But that’s really how it is. It is kind of funny, actually.
Now, you guys must be used to women almost trying to throw themselves at you on a daily basis…
CT: (laughs) Oh, you would think that.
How is the vibe you get as sort of a dancer and performer different from what you would get from being here with press or on the red carpet or on camera?
CT: On set, the girls were paid to behave themselves. In real life, in a strip club, they would go absolutely nuts. I actually think Matthew McConaughey broke them. They could not behave themselves in his actual scene and he actually got his thong ripped off. That’s a bit different than a red carpet, I would say. (laughs)
(Joe shakes his head.)
CT: And this guy’s, like, “Nah, man, not for me, dog.”
JM: You know I think there’s a real excitement here because of the nature of the film. It gives everyone the excuse to get a little rowdier louder, and crazier, but with that said there’s a lot of sex and violence that goes on at my day job with True Blood, so I think it kind of matches up a little bit. I mean, it will be kind of interesting to see what happens and where it goes once this movie comes out.
From where you are now to where you’ve been would you ever go back and change anything if you could?
CT: No, I wouldn’t change anything. I think if I took out one domino, the rest of them might not fall.
JM: This is the universe’s plan for me…
CT: Right here. Right now.
JM: All roads have led me to playing Big Dick Richie. I wouldn’t change a thing! I regret nothing!
CT: (laughs) Really?