The ’Xquisite’ Men of ’Magic Mike’
Magic Mike may be the most anticipated movie of the year (at least amongst single women in their 30s and gay men of all ages). It’s fair to say they’re excited to see Hollywood’s A-list beefcakes bare all.
And the critics are already pleased: David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter wrote: "In ’Magic Mike,’ Channing Tatum’s pre-Hollywood experience as a male stripper has inspired not only one of his better roles but also arguably the raunchiest, funniest and most enjoyably nonjudgmental American movie about selling sex since ’Boogie Nights,’ its obvious if considerably darker precursor. Delivering what feels like a young director’s work and not that of a guy nudging 50, Steven Soderbergh taps into the jazzy erotic energy that put him on the map more than 20 years ago with ’Sex, Lies, and Videotape.’"
Tatum stars as the title character, a headlining stripper at Club Xquisite. Also on the roster are owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), human Ken doll Ken (Matt Bomer) and newcomer The Kid (Alex Pettyfer.)
The film came about when director Steven Soderbergh saw a video of Tatum stripping online, and thought it would make a great idea for a movie. Now 31, it has been 13 years since Tatum stripped.
"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," Tatum said. "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 three hundred people. It’s very, very nerve-racking."
’Okay, I feel dirty now’
For all the costumes and themes that set apart each individual dance, Tatum pointed out that it’s not that complicated. "I don’t think that people get that they all end the exact same way," Tatum said. "That’s it. They all start clothed and end naked, and there’s no really cool editing happening to miss the really gory parts."
One of Tatum’s standout moments in the film actually involves wearing clothes. They just happen to be the clothes of Marilyn Monroe and a wig to go with it. "I did that to a buddy of mine on his birthday," Tatum said. "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."
"Magic Mike" is not just hot oily bodies gyrating on stage. It has that, but there’s also a story. Mike brings The Kid into the club as an opportunity, but realizes The Kid is using the opportunity to get into trouble instead of save up a nest egg. Meanwhile, Mike himself struggles to get his legitimate business going.
"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," Tatum said. "This was probably the most palatable version of this movie. Otherwise, you wouldn’t want to see it twice, you’d just be like, ’Okay, I feel dirty now.’"
So Tatum and Soderbergh stuck to mainly the fun parts about performing naked for screaming ladies. In real life, Tatum had enough by age 18.
"Look, I was 18-years-old and I worked three jobs," Tatum said. "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 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 on in the back that we didn’t get naked in."
A little too autobiographical?
Some people from Tatum’s stripping days say the movie is a little too autobiographical. Thomas "Awesome" Austin and London Steele are claiming that Tatum owes them credit and should have hired them as consultants on the film. Tatum graciously denied their allegations.
"I was waiting for someone to bring this up," Tatum said. "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 [Soderbergh] 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."
Bomer lets go
The recently out Bomer said he took to the dancing really well. It actually bled into his personal life after he finished filming.
"I think this whole experience opened all of us up in some way," Bomer said. "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.’"
He wasn’t that enthusiastic on day one, at least not on the inside. Bomer may have felt reserved, but as soon as he got to set he had to go all out. "It was also an exercise in complete commitment," Bomer said. "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% to. You have to go all the way or you’re going to be in real trouble."
A real strip club
On the set, it might as well have been a real strip club. The actors playing attendees at a bachelorette parties and regular customers at Xquisite got genuinely enthusiastic. Some of their natural reactions made it into the film.
"I think those were all happy accidents when those happened," Bomer said. "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."
Some of Bomer’s signature dances include the Ken Doll, and a group routine set to a remix of "It’s Raining Men."
"I liked them all," Bomer said. "The Ken Doll was really fun, but I really liked the group numbers that we got to do as well."
Bomer did bring a little piece of Ken home with him, "Ken was kind of a hippie, so he had this tiger’s eye necklace and I took that," Bomer admitted.
About the thong
Matthew McConaughey got a little stage fright at first. He got over that quickly, like as soon as his first crowd of ladies threw tips at the stage.
"I was very nervous before going out on the stage," McConaughey said. "To dance for everyone life, even if you’re not taking your clothes off, 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."
The film’s R-rating allows McConaughey to strip all the way down to a thong. Even the skimpy thong was a careful negotiation for McConaughey.
"It is one of the larger leaps of faith to trust a thong," McConaughey said. "It weighs like what a dollar bill weighs. It weighs nothing, and you’re going, ’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 gotta check to see if it’s really covered, everything is covered.’ 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."
’Hanging out, man’
The thong became natural by sheer force of will of the actors. McConaughey tried his thong out casually to get accustomed to it, and Tatum would handle behind the scenes work in nothing but a thong.
"I had to put on the thong and kind of walk around and try to have normal conversations," McConaughey said.
"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 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 producer-work."
A big thinker
As if thongs weren’t far enough outside his comfort zone, the character of Dallas was on the wilder extreme of the spectrum McConaughey’s played. As owner of Xquisite, Dallas has big plans for expanding.
"When I first talked to Steven, he called to offer the role of Dallas to me," McConaughey said. "He said, ’Well, this guy Dallas is pretty connected with UFO’s, 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 and that was really fun to play someone so committed in many ways. 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 review on the planet earth. He wants to control the solar system. Dubai is a start. We start with 4000 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."
Externally, it only took McConaughey one piece of wardrobe to understand Dallas. "As soon as we found the leather pants on the first day with Christopher, the costume designer, we were like, ’Okay, that’s Dallas’s staple.’"
Magic Mike opens Friday.
Watch the trailer to Magic Mike: