HOLLYWOOD’S hottest leading man
Channing Tatum is sizzling as male stripper Magic Mike, but he’s had lots of practice in real life, says Susan Griffin
Summer might be a washout but there is something to brighten up these dreary days - the sight of Channing Tatum and crew in the new movie Magic Mike.
Set in the world of male strippers, the film features 32-year-old Tatum as Mike, a jack-of-all trades who has a dream of setting up his own business, and meanwhile works nights as the hot headliner in an all-male revue at Club Xqusite, run by Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas.
It’s a slick, sexy film, with a sun-drenched backdrop, and even if the promise of tear-away trousers isn’t enough to entice you to the cinema, the sight of Tatum’s sharp street-dance moves should.
The Alabama-born star whose life the film is loosely based on, says, “We had some incredible choreographers who’ve worked with Britney Spears, Madonna and Pink. They really did the heavy lifting. I was just there for technical support.”
The idea of making a movie set in the world of male stripping had been simmering with the actor for a while.
A former stripper himself, Tatum felt the subject matter had cinematic potential but it was a conversation with Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh, the man behind Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13, who Tatum worked with on Haywire, and will again in upcoming movie The Bitter Pill, that led to the film being made.
“I mentioned that I’d worked as a stripper for eight months when I was 18, 19 years old,” says Tatum, radiating a laid-back vibe that’s a world away from the ramped-up energy of his on-screen alter ego.
“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 [to me], ‘You should write it and I’ll direct it’.” A series of brain-storming sessions ensued, which formed the basis and inspiration of writer [and Tatum’s producing partner] Reid Carolin’s final script.
It was during these sessions that Soderbergh suggested giving the story a dual perspective, pairing the 19-year-old character Adam, aka ‘the Kid’, played by Alex Pettyfer, opposite Tatum’s mentor character.
Seeing the potential in Adam, Mike takes him under his wing and schools him in the art of stripping, partying, picking up women and pocketing lots of easy cash.
Events take a turn when Mike meets Adam’s older sister Brooke (Cody Horn), and believes he has a chance with her - until his lifestyle gets in the way and he is forced to take stock.
“Everyone wants to be respected, everyone wants to be successful,” says Tatum. “Mike has some ideas but he’s been reluctant to take a chance on them because it’s easier to stick with what he knows.
“In the end, this is a simple story about someone trying to find his way.”
Carolin has teasingly hinted that his friend Tatum’s own experiences were a lot crazier than those depicted on screen, saying: “If we put in the stuff that really happened, no-one would believe it!”
Despite having donned a thong or two in the past, Tatum admits he still felt nervous before shooting the stripping scenes.
“You’ve got to summon up that confidence when you’re about to go out and get butt-naked in front of about 350 people. You just have to hope it’s a warm room,” he deadpans.
Tatum spent his teenage years in Tampa, Florida and has described himself as a bit of an outsider, until he discovered football and street dance.
“When I was about 15, my sister was friends with the manager of this club and I remember going to deliver flyers,” he says.
“There were these guys in this circle who were flipping and doing all this crazy stuff. I was just like, ‘Oh, my god. I want to do that’.”
Later, Tatum heard a radio advert for guys who liked to dance, and he auditioned for the male revue.
“I thought, ‘Why not’? I could dance and it sounded like something I could do for fun for a while,” he says.
Soon he was making $150 for a couple of hours work - “a ton of money for me at the time”. I really enjoyed the performing aspect, although being in a thong can be a humbling experience,” Tatum admits, chuckling.
“The more you try to look sexy, the lamer it is, so you just have to commit to the comedy.
“But the women love it! They scream and laugh and stuff money into your underwear. It was wild. We thought we were rock stars.”But it was his role in the independent flick, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, in 2006 that got industry insiders talking.
Later that year, landing the lead in street dance movie Step Up confirmed Tatum’s commercial bankability.