Magic Mike–Channing Tatum Male Stripper
Our formal review will be published tomorrow
The idea of making a movie set in the world of male strippers had been intriguing Channing Tatum for a long time. Having once been a part of that world, he felt it had real cinematic potential to be fun, unique, entertaining–and more than a little revealing.
But it was a conversation he had with Steven Soderbergh that finally put “Magic Mike” on its path to the big screen.
Tatum, who stars in the title role and is also a producer on the film, recalls, “I mentioned that I’d worked as a stripper for eight months when I was 18 and 19 years old. I’ve always thought about doing a story about that life because whenever the subject comes up, guys always want to know about it. How’d you get into it? What was it like? How much money did you make? Steven said, ‘You should do it. Absolutely. You should write it and I’ll direct it.’”
“I thought it was one of the best ideas I’d ever heard for a movie,” says Soderbergh. “It’s sexy, funny and crazy, and a view into an interesting, exclusive environment most people never experience.”
Adds producer Gregory Jacobs, “We both felt it was something we hadn’t seen in a movie before. And Channing’s approach was fearless.”
Soderbergh, Jacobs and producer Nick Wechsler joined Tatum and his producing partner Reid Carolin for a series of lively brainstorming sessions that formed the basis and inspiration for Carolin’s final script.
“I’ve never worked with anyone who is more collaborative,” Tatum says of Soderbergh, who directed him in the thriller “Haywire” last year. “Not just collaborative but empowering to the actors and the crew, to bring their own ideas into the process.” It was during these sessions that the director suggested giving the story a dual perspective, pairing the 19-year-old character Adam, called the Kid, who best represented Tatum’s youthful point of view, with the 30-year-old mentor character, Mike, that he would be portraying now.
Rather than actual events, Tatum says, “It was the atmosphere and energy of it I wanted to capture, and that feeling of being at a time in your life when you’re trying things out, and up for anything. You might have a plan for the future, but for now it’s about that next paycheck, that next party, and just having a good time.”
“None of the characters are based on real people, not even my own,” Tatum confirms. “Everything that happens is fictional, and we did that purposely because we wanted the freedom to create our own scenarios and tell the best story.”
“I think Channing’s life was probably much crazier than this movie could portray anyway. If we put in the stuff that really happened, no one would believe it,” quips Carolin. At the same time, he notes, “We wanted it to be realistic enough to resonate with his experience as a guy struggling to stay afloat, but who also has these almost surreal moments on the weekends when he’s tearing off his clothes and dancing for a room full of screaming women.”
As Tatum can attest, it’s not such an improbable choice. At 18, he was burning through a number of short-term jobs and trying to figure out what to do next when he heard a radio pitch for guys who liked to dance, and auditioned for an all-male revue. “I thought, ‘Why not?’ I could dance,” he says. “It sounded like something I could do for fun for awhile.”
“I’d show up for two hours and make $150, sometimes as much as $600 a week, all cash, which was a ton of money for me at the time,” he continues. “I really enjoyed the performing aspect of it, although being in a thong can be a humbling experience. The more you try to look sexy the lamer it is, so you just have to commit to the comedy and the skit because that can be hilarious. Strippers are some of the corniest guys you’ll ever meet. If it’s a fireman skit, it has to be the corniest possible version of a fireman, but the women love it; they scream and laugh and stuff money into your underwear. It was wild. We thought we were rock stars.”
In the film, star attraction Magic Mike packs the house for Club Xquisite’s savvy stripper-turned-manager Dallas, played by Matthew McConaughey. Dallas discovered Mike six years earlier, dancing with friends, and invited him to hone his talents professionally.
“Dallas is a lot of things but primarily a businessman, and he’s always on the lookout for the next big thing,” says McConaughey. Similarly, when Mike spots Adam, aka the Kid, played by Alex Pettyfer, he offers the eager young recruit the chance to make some fast cash and find his bearings, and the Kid becomes the audience’s all-access pass into the lives of the self-proclaimed Kings of Tampa.
“I wanted it to be all green lights for him, so you could see why he would find it so appealing and want to be a part of it, especially with someone like Mike guiding him through it; like a family where all your brothers are cool,” Soderbergh explains. “There’s a lot of camaraderie and insider humor that’s specific to a tight-knit group of people, where the comedy is in the characters and the situations. It’s funny because of our recognition of how people are.”
For the women who arrive in rowdy girlfriend-packs to let their hair down and cheer on these exaggerated models of masculinity—firemen, athletes, rebels, and men in uniform—it’s a chance to indulge their wildest romantic daydreams in a relatively guilt-free environment. But in some respects there’s a fantasy playing out on both sides of the stage and this is one of the themes “Magic Mike” touches on. Says Wechsler, “Stripping offers a way of making a good living, meeting women, and hanging with the cool guys. Not bad. But it can be like a drug that blocks the reality receptors; you think you’re pursuing your dreams but instead you’re just taking that drug.”
It’s the Kid’s sister, Brooke, played by newcomer Cody Horn, who’s the first to see that, raising questions about Mike’s life that he finds tough to answer. But as the story propels them through the steamy Tampa summer and Adam dives headlong into his new vocation, things happen that could send Mike and his protégé in different directions—and turn Mike’s focus toward the future.
“It’s about him finally seeing what’s really going on around him,” says Soderbergh. “And realizing he wants something more.”
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