Owning your past
Tatum began his acting career the usual way, with bit parts on TV shows that led to independent films. His breakthrough role came in 2006’s Step Up, in which he played a white kid from the slums who was built like a linebacker but could move like Tony Manero. He used that success to explore various genres, including big-scale action ( G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), comedy ( The Dilemma) and melodrama ( Dear John). Two earlier films released this year – The Vow and 21 Jump Street – have grossed more than $385 million worldwide.
But despite his snowballing popularity, the actor decided to revisit a chapter in his past many others might deem too embarrassing.
“Channing’s attitude was you gotta own it — and use it. That’s the smart play,” Soderbergh says. “I had a great experience with him on Haywire, and he immediately became one of those actors in my repertory who I can call upon to do stuff. I became a fan.
“He’s interested in a lot of different things, and he’s well aware of the difference between taking yourself seriously and taking your work seriously. I like his attitude, and I think he’s really got it together. We’ve already shot another movie together [ Bitter Pill] that will be out in the spring.”
Tatum had originally been in talks with Nicolas Winding Refn ( Drive) to direct Magic Mike. When the deal fell through, the actor immediately called Soderbergh to see if he was interested.
“Steven is one of the two or three directors who made me want to make films,” says Reid Carolin, a longtime friend and business partner of Tatum’s who wrote the screenplay for Magic Mike. “I was awestruck at getting the chance to work with him. And he’s truly a mentor. There’s a culture of respect. He doesn’t care who you are; he values your ideas, listens to them, gives you the feedback that you need, and you construct the story along with him. I think that’s why his movies are so distinct: He’s in every frame and every line of dialogue.”
Magic Mike is being released on 3,000 screens by the same studio that is distributing The Dark Knight Rises in July. The film is getting the usual blockbuster treatment: Magazine covers, primetime TV spots, media attention and an online viral campaign featuring racier, naughtier clips. But the movie turns out to be far different than the typical summer multiplex fare: The film is subtle, funny, focused, earnest and a little weird, never quite heading in the direction you’d expect.
Even the first few seconds of the film — the red and black Warner Bros. logo designed by Saul Bass and used in all of the studio’s movie from 1972 to 1984 — tip you off that the picture you’re about to see is not just more of the same-old.
“It’s cool, right?” Soderbergh says, sounding pleased. “The association for me was very powerful because of all the great movies that used that logo. I convinced Warner to let us use it on the film. They didn’t want to confuse people with regular advertising and trailers and TV spots, but they let us have it for the movie. I told them it was good karma.
“ Magic Mike is so clearly a child of movies from that era. When we were writing the script, we talked a lot about Shampoo and Hal Ashby, because he had such an incredible run during the 1970s. He literally didn’t make a bad movie through the entire decade. He gave his performers so much freedom, and he was such a great editor, obviously, that you never felt there wasn’t a purpose to what you were looking at. His movies had this beautiful, shaggy quality that we really wanted to capture.”