The dramedy film “Magic Mike” (directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh) is based loosely on Channing Tatum’s own real-life experiences as a stripper before he was famous. Tatum is one of the producers of the movie, in which he stars as Magic Mike (a stripper at Club Xquisite in Tampa, Florida), who dreams of eventually leaving the world of stripping behind to opening his own custom-furniture business. Mike’s boss/occasional stripper Dallas (played by Matthew McConaughey) has other plans, since he wants Mike to invest with him to open a male strip club in Miami.
In the meantime, Mike mentors a younger man named Adam, a ne’er do well nicknamed The Kid (played by Alex Pettyfer), who thinks the easy money and fast-lane lifestyle of being a stripper are attractive and addicting. Adam quickly fits in with his co-workers at Club Xquisite, whose other strippers include Big Dick Richie (played by Joe Manganiello), Tito (played by Adam Rodriguez) and Ken (played by Matt Bomer). Adam lives with his no-nonsense older sister Brooke (played by Cody Horn), who is not as impressed with the stripper lifestyle, even though she and Mike have a mutual attraction to each other. Here is what Tatum, McConaughey, Pettyfer, Horn, Bomer, Manganiello, Rodriguez, Soderbergh and “Magic Mike” screenwriter/producer Reid Carolin said at the Los Angeles press conference for the movie.
There are a lot of dance montages in this movie. Are we going to see the full numbers on the DVD, like Matt’s Ken Doll number? And Channing, can you talk about dressing like Marilyn Monroe. Are you ready for a cameo on “Smash”?
Tatum: Do you have any cash on you? Do you have any $1 bills?
Soderbergh: We have edited together the full-length versions of all the routines. They’re pretty disturbing. We sent them all to Sue Kroll at Warner Brothers and she said, “I really like these a lot.” I think it’s not for men, these things. It made me really uncomfortable to watch them. We did 10 or 12, and to watch them all back to back was really disturbing. So, I don’t know.
Tatum: I don’t think that people get that they all end the exact same way. They all start clothed and end naked, and there’s no really cool editing happening to miss the really gory parts. But Marilyn, as far as that goes, I don’t think they want me on that show. That would just be a bad idea, but I would do it. I’ll have you stand in.
Bomer: I’m there.
What did you think about the outfit and dressing up in it?
Tatum: Yeah, I did that to a buddy of mine on his birthday. He was eating at a restaurant and I walked in as Marilyn and basically sang him happy birthday and embarrassed the hell out of him. So we just decided to put it in this movie for fun.
Matthew, what does your wife think about this “Magic Mike” movie, and can you talk about your dance routine? Were you nervous?
McConaughey: Sure. My wife now, girlfriend at the time, actually showed up, snuck in quite a few days and she gave me the thumbs up and said, “Go for it, baby.: So she’s going to like it.
My dance routine, was I nervous? I was very nervous, yeah. Before going out on the stage to dance, even if you’re not taking your clothes off, for everyone live is kind of nerve racking, but then knowing you have to strip down — very nerve-racking. Then after doing it once, God, I wanted to get up there and do it again. That was a lot of fun.
When I first talked to Steven, he called to offer the role of Dallas to me. He had pitched the story and told me who this guy was and I was laughing really hard on the phone and said yes. I said, “Can you give me one line just so I can hang up the phone and walk away here and imagination can go somewhere?” He said, “Well, this guy Dallas is pretty connected with UFOs, man.”
So that was a great launch pad. It was a pretty roofless bit of direction on the phone in the beginning and so I knew that I was going to be able to fly. That was really fun to play someone so committed in many ways.
It seems that if you made a movie about female strippers and men reacting excitedly that it’d be lascivious. What is it that differentiates those two experiences that allows us to enjoy this experience and see this as fun?
McConaughey: Channing does a very good impersonation of men at female strip joints.
Tatum: No, I just think we’re trying to do our part to objectify men for the first time in movies.
Is there something about shooting that enables that celebratory thing?
Soderbergh: I just can’t believe we’re having a press conference for a stripper movie. It’s really hard to be serious. Look, now that people are starting to see the film, I think there might’ve been a concern for men who were having to see the film that really the movie was so driven towards the female audience, that there would be nothing in it for them to sort of latch onto. Of course, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do, that in point of fact some of the issues that the male characters are going through are issues that all men confront about what they want.
Men tend to define themselves by what they do, and so if you’re dealing with a character who’s trying to figure that out, or multiple characters, then there’s something there for guys, too. When we tested the film the female scores were not significantly bigger than the male scores. I mean, guys liked it. The trick is, I think, getting them to come, but we’ll see what happens.
Manganiello: 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 theater?
Tatum: And if you’re really smart, you’ll wear a fireman’s outfit and you just might go home with a few numbers, or even better, someone.
Manganiello: Don’t forget your axe.
Would you say that Dallas is kind of delusional when you talk about him communicating with UFOs, him saying, “I want to bring you to the universe?”
McConaughey: I’m going to speak as Dallas here, OK? Absolutely not delusional. Dallas is working his ass off to be the messiah of the male revue universe, as he says, “The moon is merely a chip shot away, baby. We’re going lunar.” He doesn’t just want to take over the male revue on the planet earth. He wants to control the solar system.
Tatum: Dubai is next.
McConaughey: Dubai is a start, yes. We start with 4,000 square feet of prime real estate in South Beach and then move to Dubai, and like he says, he’s got a great idea, “We’re going to simulcast.” He’s a big thinker, that Dallas. So, no, not delusional, at least not in his mind, whatsoever.
Matthew, you have more movies coming out this year than Channing does …
McConaughey: Is that possible?
Do you feel this is a renaissance year for you?
McConaughey: Well, I made five in a row last year. I went back to back to back to back to back, and it was my most creative, constructive and fun working year I’ve ever had. I did not have one single day in all five films where I was not excited to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. I didn’t have one hour of complacency in any of the work I did in five films, and I’m happy to be able to say that because that’s not always been the case.
It’s fortunate to be able to say that, and I got to work with a lot of very interesting directors and some very interesting stories and all characters that didn’t really pander or placate to any laws, government, parental guidance, what have you. When I say committed characters, that’s really fun because it’s boundless how far you can go, almost four dimensionally. I mean, with Dallas, in this role, I couldn’t get pinned down with writing down ideas and things and sending off emails. The verbiage of this guy’s mind just kind of flew.
Did any of the ladies who portray the club patrons take their roles too seriously?
Bomer: Yeah, I think those were all happy accidents when those happened. It was a part of the world, and if they wanted to lick you in certain places or touch you, or whatever, it was welcome. It was just a part of the world we were creating.
Tatum: Got to commit.
Rodriguez: We were really grateful to them for that. You need that. You’re going out there and you want that audience screaming to help you know that you’re doing the right thing, and they did that for us.
So that helped to inform your performance?
Tatum: Very much so. Actually, McConaughey said something yesterday, they were there for a while with us and they became sort of our friends. You’d get off stage and they’d go, “That was a really good one. Really, that part where you did the thing, that was great.”
McConaughey: Yeah, they were crazy during the dances and then afterwards they’d become very motherly, like wanting to take care of us. “That was a good one. You done good today,” especially after a few weeks.
What was it like to work on a movie that looks at what it means to be a man these days? Channing’s character has to grow up emotionally and become a man.
Pettyfer: What’s it like to be a man? It’s kind of interesting. Oh God, I don’t know.
Rodriguez: I think so much of what the story is about is getting out of this way station that we’re all in that has become our life. We thought that it was a pit stop on the way to achieving some bigger dreams, because all of the guys in the movie have bigger dreams, whether it’s Dallas or any of the characters.
Manganiello: Big Dick Richie doesn’t have bigger dreams.
Bomer: That’s true. He knows what his big dream is.
Tatum: It’s less about the male dream than about the female dream for Big Dick Richie.
Manganiello: This is the best place for him. The safest place for the rest of the world. “Ma, I made it!” But I think it’s about club life. It’s about being trapped in this life. It’s a very attractive, shiny place to be and I think that people get stuck in it and years go by.
I think the Kevin Nash character is the perfect example. He’s kind of the Keith Richards of male strippers. He’s figured out the chemistry. He’s a lifer. He’s in his 50s.
He’s still there. He’s going to OD every other day, get that straight, but that’s it. You go in there as this fresh-faced kid, probably underage and you wake up 20 years later going, “What the hell did I do?” I think that’s what’s at the heart of it.”
Tatum: I think everybody either knows somebody or has experienced it themselves, whether they did or didn’t graduate college, afterwards you’re like, “OK, what do I do now?” You have the dreams that you want to do and then you have to do other jobs until you can get to that dream.
Mike, and I think a lot of these guys, just sort of fell into this thing and it was fun and years just sort of ticked on as the party was happening. Then all of a sudden you’re like, “Wow, it’s seven years later and I don’t really have very much to show for it. I’m not any closer to my dream.” At some point the party had just gotten away and it became your life. I think that’s happened to a lot of people. They just get sidetracked.
Channing and Matthew, you both had some great solo dances. Did you have any reservations about the lack of clothes? And are your wives lucky enough to get some private dances?
Tatum: My wife married a stripper and so she knew what she was getting into and she made that a prerequisite for the marriage. Look, I just respect these guys for jumping into the thong with both feet and out onto the stage because I’ve done it before and it was still nerve-wracking for me. I can’t imagine what these guys had to go through.
Bomer had to go first. I felt so bad for that. I was like, “Maybe I should go first.” Everybody just committed. Every single person up here just went for it, and I wish we had time in the movie to show everybody’s dance because everyone worked so hard on them. It’s a humbling thing to get up there and you’re left with very little to the imagination in front of almost 300 people. It’s very, very nerve-wracking.
McConaughey: As far as trusting wardrobe, it is one of the larger leaps of faith to trust a thong. It weighs…
Tatum: And sometimes they completely betray you.
McConaughey: It weighs like what a dollar bill weighs. It weighs nothing, and you’re going, “This is the only protection. At the end of this performance, this is the only protection that I have.” So the first time you put it on you’re going, “What is every possible angle I can be in and I’ve got to check to see if it’s really covered, everything is covered.” You don’t understand how it is and for the most part it is.
Tatum: The most part.
McConaughey: I said this yesterday, but I had to put on the thong and kind of walk around and try to have normal conversations. You have to talk about football or what you ate last night, something. Then that’s what’s funny, and then you lean against a wall, like, “Now I’m just hanging out, man,” to get comfortable with it because the first time you put it on your body kind of contorts and you’re like, “I need straighten up, my shoulders back or something, hips out.”
It is somewhat unnatural. Channing would be there just talking about what’s going on in the scene with Soderbergh. He’s in his red thong, just working it out, behind the scenes producerial work.
Soderbergh: Channing had a great phrase about all of that because I felt, one of the appeals of it to me was if everybody is dressed like that every conversation is funny. There’s no wrong answer. Anybody who starts having a serious conversation while they’re wearing a thong, it’s going to be funny. But you said also, when you first got into it, you’re mantra was, “It’s only weird if you make it weird.”
Tatum: It’s true, very, very true.
Soderbergh: So that was the attitude that everybody took, which is it doesn’t have to be weird if you don’t want it to be weird.
McConaughey: There’s nothing weird about Kevin Nash in a thong, talking to you about Picasso’s cubism years.
Tatum: What’s weird about that?
So much of “Magic Mike” plays without dialogue, maybe just some music tracking over a scene. Is there an additional push the actors need to do to capture a scene in relative silence?
Soderbergh: Well, one of the things that people forget, I think, even a lot of people that make movies forget is that, in my mind, a movie should work with the sound off. You should be able to watch a movie without the sound and understand what’s going on. That’s your job, to build a series of chronological images that tell the story. I’m frustrated when I see movies in which I feel like the plot is being told to me instead of shown to me. I also like to stage scenes in which you see a lot of people in the frame at once.
So physicality becomes a really important part of that aesthetic. I need actors who understand how to use their bodies because the shot is going to be up there for a while. You’re going to see them, if not full length, probably down to the thigh. So all of that stuff becomes really important.
Sometimes I’m choreographing moves with the camera with moves that they’re doing. So their sense of having to dance a little bit with the camera needs to be pretty pronounced. In this case, everybody, I think, fell into that very quickly and understood what I was trying to do.
What did you learn about living the life as a stripper? Were there any surprises?
Tatum: I was a male stripper. How did you guys liken to the world?
Rodriguez: The waxing was an interesting experience. Not quite as painful as I expected.
Pettyfer: By the way, me, Kevin Nash, we actually practiced together this one day. Adam and Kevin had walked in after just being waxed and we’re obviously not dancers and we’re trying to get to somewhat the level where we can entertain, and all I see is Kevin Nash and Adam — I didn’t actually wax, I shave in the film — having these moves being very airy because they feel so…yeah, anyway.
Bomer: I think this whole experience opened all of us up in some way. I remember being at my sister’s wedding reception a month after we wrapped, and I’d had a few drinks and all of a sudden I was doing body rolls on the dance floor. I realized, “Matt, it’s time to let go. You can’t take this with you. It’s already been captured on film.”
Manganiello: I think the sense of humor about it is what surprised me a lot. At a female strip club things are very serious. You get that archetypal guy that Channing demonstrated, that guy in the trench coat, the serial killer guy with his dollar bills. You don’t really get that at the male strip club.
It’s really hard to take yourself seriously with an American flag thong on, with a strategically placed sparkler. There’s just a whole level to it that’s about fun, and I think that’s really the one big thing that I took away was how much fun it was. The hardest thing I think about shooting this movie was biting the inside of my mouth, trying not to laugh as McConaughey is in a yellow spandex halter top with bike shorts, riding on Alex’s hips with a mirror. I mean, come on!
Bomer: It was also an exercise in complete commitment. Steven said to us early on, “Jump off the cliff and I’ll catch you.” He’s the kind of director that you believe when he says something like that to you. We were all completely terrified, but it’s not the kind of movie that you can only commit 75 percent to. You have to go all the way or you’re going to be in real trouble.
Was there any competition with all of the dancing?
Tatum: Steven was very competitive, yeah. Steven got up there and he gave it all, he gave it all up.
McConaughey: Let me say this on the competition side. We all got to see Channing dance for the first time so it was obvious. We were like, “OK, the best I can do is get second place.”
Manganiello: A very, very distant, distant second place. Chan is in a dancing movie. We’re in a dry humping movie.
How many hours did you spend in the gym, dieting and working on the choreography?
Soderbergh: I can only tell you that these guys were so disciplined. They ate like rabbits for six … It was lettuce with, like, lemon juice on it. It was nothing. Really, honestly, I’ve worked on movies with a lot of women who look great and take care of themselves. I’ve never seen this kind of diligence.
Look, maybe it was just fear, but also I didn’t sense any competition because I think the fear of doing it bonded you guys really quickly. They’re all sort of jumping out of the plane together. As soon as I saw the routines for the first time I knew we were going to be fine, because they were funny. Like Joe was saying, they were fun. They weren’t dirty. They were fun.
Tatum: It really was that thing where — I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again — most movies, when you’re done with your scene you go home. You go home, you’re like, “That’s it. I’m good. I’m going to go home for the day.”
That’s not what happened with everybody. You wanted to see them do their routine and do it well and kill it. Every time that Bomer or anybody came off stage you went back and high-fived them and told them what really worked, and you’re just like, “You murdered that.”
It really became a weird team, in a way, like a very weird, strange team. I want to do strip competitions, guys. Can we do that? Can we enter some competitions, strip-offs? Starting now?
What were some of the most memorable moments on set? Were there any wardrobe malfunctions or pranks that were pulled?
Pettyfer: I just want to say one thing. Going back to the thing about how the people watching us were so great and gave us so much, I guess, support. Channing is one of the best dancers I’ve seen, but then there’s another level where Matthew McConaughey comes on stage and from the girls point of view, they don’t sit anymore. They just go like that and rip off Matthew’s thong and leave him in a pit of women, naked.
McConaughey: No. I snuck out of there. I even stayed somewhat on beat.
Tatum: He did, actually.
Is that in the movie?
Soderbergh: You can see that someone tore the string of the thong, and what happened is Matthew, to sort of get out of that situation, did a tuck and roll because of that. You were…come on…he was daring them to do something.
Tatum: It was so bad that I felt like, “Man, did I not bring it because they didn’t run at the stage like that.” I mean, these women lost their minds. We didn’t instruct them to. If anything, we were instructing them to do that on the other dances, like, “Come on, girls, liven up.”
We didn’t have to do that on Matthew’s. He brought them right in, as he says when he’s talking to Alex in the mirror. He’s like, “You’ve got to bring them in. You’ve got to connect to every single one of them.” He connected right.
Soderbergh: I think it was the song that warmed them up.
Did any of you guys have a favorite costume or a least favorite, and did you take any costumes home with you?
Tatum: I loved all my costumes. I have all mine.
McConaughey: I kept all mine. As soon as we found the leather pants on the first day with Christopher, the costume designer, we were like, “OK, that’s Dallas’ staple.”
Manganiello: I’ve had many requests for the fireman’s suit.
Bomer: I liked them all, too. The Ken Doll was really fun, but I really liked the group numbers that we got to do as well. The only thing that we took home was … Ken was kind of a hippie. So he had this tiger’s eye necklace and I took that.
Manganiello: When I die, I want my “In Memoriam” at the Oscars to be in the gold man. I’m calling it right now.
On some level this is a movie about entertainers caught between art and commerce. How do each of you deal with that theme? Steven, how often deliberate was it and how much would you like the audience to think about that thing? Finally, Channing, why did you stop stripping?
Soderbergh: I wanted to make sure that there were a lot of conversations in the movie about money and work because I feel like for most people these are issues that dominate their lives, especially lately. So we were always looking for ways to sort of bring that conversation into the film. The most obvious example, obviously, is when Chan goes to the bank to try and get a loan, but I think this issue of what you’re willing to do to be paid is interesting.
At a certain point, when Mike starts to feel that what he’s doing is undervalued and he has to make a decision about whether he can accept that, I think everyone in this room has been in a situation where they have felt a certain point undervalued and has to make a decision about how they’re going to express that or whether they’re going to express it. So, I think it’s a very relatable issue.
Tatum: I feel very undervalued …
Soderbergh: Especially this year.
McConaughey: The $42 million man.
Bomer: Are you asking how we straddle the line between art and commerce? I think you work on the roles that draw you in and the stories that you want to tell, and if you’re lucky enough to get to work with a director like Steven, all the better. But I think this was one of those movies that I felt was kind of the best of both worlds.
Manganiello: I think we all signed on to this one coming from the independent spirit. This was filmed as this little indie movie expose and I think we all signed on to work with who we got to work with, on the script that we got to work on, in the world that we got to work in. We’re sitting here now, and I mean, the big shock to me was when all the studio executives were coming to filming every day.
I went, “Wait a minute, this little tiny art house movie … Wait, everyone is going to see what I just did to that girl?” Then we all came in with this great spirit and I think the fact that it’s snowballed into what it’s snowballed into is exactly what you hope for. I mean, that’s it. You work on this project to make the artists happy and you wind up, hopefully, making the bill payer happy, too.
And Channing, that last question?
Tatum: I was undervalued so I stopped stripping. No. Look, I was 18 years old and I worked three jobs. This was just one of them, and I really enjoyed performing. It was probably my first performing job ever. I really like to dance, obviously, but then I didn’t really love taking the clothes off at the end, but the world in itself was just a very dark world, in a way.
I don’t think we even scratch the surface of really how dark that place can get and how slippery of a slope it can actually be. This was probably the most palatable version of this movie. Otherwise, you wouldn’t want to see it twice. You’d just be like, “OK, I feel dirty now.”
I think we ran that topic, but just really got out and then I basically kept working in the clubs but I just went with some of boys that danced as well and we’d just put on shows at this one nightclub. It’s actually in the movie. Amphitheater. We put on these crazy shows in the back that we didn’t get naked in.
What was the most challenging: getting into character, getting into wardrobe or learning your routines?
Rodriguez: It’s all kind of part of the same thing.
Tatum: I’d say, yeah, they’re all pretty equal. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t so much hard. The routines, you wanted to stick them and do well and perform them well, but it wasn’t hard. They were all fun and hilarious. I remember the first day that they were like, “All right, guys, we’ve learned these routines and now it’s time to get naked now, boys. It’s got to happen sooner or later.”
And everyone was like, “Woo!” and just went out and did it. You were just like, “OK, never mind. This isn’t going to be as hard as I thought it was going to be. It’s going to be pretty easy.” Everybody just went nuts.
When it came to the thongs, what was the process of picking the thongs? Was it according to taste or color preference or size?
Soderbergh: Well, as you can imagine it was a very personal process. I know what I like and it didn’t take long at all. Honestly, when shooting in the thong shop, when you go in there, you do have to make decisions about which ones they’re going to pick. It’s pretty easy to eliminate 99 percent of what’s hanging on these racks because they’re just either silly or ugly, like the elephant. Who’s going to wear that?
Tatum: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Don’t judge.
Soderbergh: Again, I think we were trying to find a balance. As Chan was saying, there’s a very dark version of that movie to be made, but at the end of the day we wanted it to be fun, whether it was the costumes or the routines or just the way that people were acting with each other. We wanted to find this line where you were smiling as opposed to being disgusted. We were constantly surfing that.
“Magic Mike” is based on your real life, Channing. What do you have to say about the two male strippers in Florida who claim you didn’t give them credit for this?
Tatum: OK, I can’t wait. I was waiting for someone to bring this up. Look, there’s nothing that’s factual in this whole movie other than I was an 18-year-old kid and went into this world and I dropped out of college and playing football and was living on my sister’s couch. There’s not one character that I took from my real life. This is just a world that I went into and that I had a perspective on, and we created everything from a fictional place.
Those guys have been trying to make money off of me since I’ve gotten into this business. Literally, London was one of the guys that sold the video that essentially, thank God, my friend here saw and liked it and then we made a movie of it. They’re just very interesting people. I don’t want to say anything bad about them because they’re part of the reason why I think this world is so interesting.
They’re very interesting, intriguing, bizarre characters and I’m thankful for the weird people out there because they’re some of the most creative people. I mean, watch his YouTube video. It is really, really entertaining. I mean, that’s how he starts every one, and you’re just like, “Oh, we’re back, baby. We’re back!
What do you miss the most about this stripper world?
Tatum: I don’t miss anything about this world.
For more info: “Magic Mike” website