By PETERSON GONZAGA
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Before he became a matinee idol, a young Channing Tatum was already burning up the stage in his native Florida working as a male stripper. The money, the women and the parties were the main draw for the handsome charmer. But once Hollywood came calling, it was time hang up the thong.
With the success of films like “Dear John” and “21 Jump Street” and “Step Up” behind him, Tatum returns to his exotic dancing roots in the Steven Soderbergh-directed “Magic Mike.” Tatum is joined by a contingent of hot young actors, who depict the upside and downside of male stripping.
The project came about after Tatum had a casual conversation with Soderbergh a few years ago about his pre-movie star occupation. The Oscar-winning filmmaker (“Traffic,” “sex, lies and videotape”) was intrigued with the idea of making a film about the world of male strippers. Not only does Channing star in “Magic Mike,” he also is one of the film’s a producer.
Joining Tatum onscreen is veteran Hollywood hunk Matthew McConaughey, who bravely sports a G-string in the film, as well as Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Joe Manganiello and Kevin Nash.
Tatum plays hot headliner Magic Mike in an all-male revue at Club Xquisite owned by maverick dancer Dallas (McConaughey). After meeting Kid (Pettyfer) on a construction job, Mike takes him under his wing and introduces him to the world of male stripping—dancing, partying, meeting women and making easy cash. Situations ensue that make Magic Mike reassess his priorities, though.
For most of the cast members, it was their first time dancing on a stage nearly naked, their modesty only protected by a thong. It was easy for Tatum, though, to hang out in character.
McConaughey recalls with a chuckle, “Channing would be there talking about what’s going on in the scene with Soderbergh and he’s in his red thong just working it out.”
Wearing a thong took some getting used to for the veteran Texas actor. He says he was worried about making sure everything was covered up.
“You check to see at every angle to see if everything is really covered and you don’t understand how it is and for the most part it is,” he says. “The first time you put it on your body, it kind of contorts and you have to straighten up and get the shoulders back. It is somewhat unnatural.”
Tatum says he felt bad for co-star Bomer, who had to go on stage first during filming in front of 300 female extras.
“I felt so bad for Matt,” he says. “Maybe I should have gone first.”
It didn’t take long, though, for the male cast to get comfortable in their stripper costumes.
“It’s a very humbling thing to get up there when you’re left with very little to the imagination of 300 people,” says Tatum. “Every single person went for it.”
Working with the female extras was interesting too, the actors recall. When the performance scenes started, the women went crazy—as they were directed. After each take, though, the women simply offered their kind support.
Tatum explains, “”They’ve become sort of our friends. You know, you get off stage and they’d say, “Yeah that was really a good one. That part that you did the thing was really great.”
McConaughey adds, “They were crazy during the dance but then afterwards, they became motherly, like they wanted to take care of us. One said, ‘That was a good run. You’ve done well today.’”
Will straight men go to a movie about male strippers, though?
Director Soderbergh thinks so.
“The point in fact that some of the issues the male characters are going through are issues that men confront,” he says. “Men tend to define themselves by what they do and so if you’re dealing with a character or multiple characters then there’s something there for guys too.”
Soderbergh says men and women gave the film similar ratings during test screenings.
“Guys liked it,” he says.
Actor Manganiello, who plays one of the male strippers in the film, says he thinks it should come as no surprise that men like the film as much as women.
“I think if you’re a smart single guy, you’re going to go see this on a Friday or Saturday night because guess who’s going to be in the theaters,” he says with a chuckle.