Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mike and Friends' XXL-ent Adventure

As published in Issue #66 of F*** Magazine















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MIKE AND FRIENDS’ XXL-ENT ADVENTURE
F*** gets the low-down on the sexy sequel from the hunks of Magic Mike XXL 

By Jedd Jong

2012’s Magic Mike, a comedy-drama set in the Florida male revue scene, was a box office hit and received largely positive notices from critics. Naturally, most of the audience was there to admire the sculpted bods on display, and those that say they weren’t probably were as well. Drawing inspiration from the real life experiences of star Channing Tatum, Magic Mike was directed by Steven Soderbergh and saw Tatum revisit his early career as an exotic dancer.

This July, audiences can look forward to an upsized serving of eye candy courtesy of Tatum and his co-stars, many returning from the first film. Gregory Jacobs, who was the first assistant director on Magic Mike, takes over the directorial reins from Soderbergh. Writer/producer Reid Carolin also returns, sharing screenwriting credit with Tatum himself. This time, our loveable band of male strippers embarks on a voyage from Tampa to Myrtle Beach to attend a massive stripper convention.
F*** speaks exclusively to Tatum, Carolin, Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer over the phone from Los Angeles. The different time zones mean the telephone conversations take place at around 5:40 am in the morning on our end, but we really can’t complain.

CHANNING TATUM AND REID CAROLIN

“XXL” is a good way to describe Channing Tatum’s career – the actor is rapidly climbing the A-list ladder and is bigger than ever, with successes like the smash hit action-comedy 21 Jump Street and its sequel 22 Jump Street under his belt. He’s also secured a place in the X-Men pantheon, possibly appearing in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse before getting to headline a solo spin-off film as Gambit a.k.a. Remy LeBeau. Tatum garnered critical acclaim for his portrayal of wrestler Mark Schultz in the dark sports drama Foxcatcher and will be seen in Quentin Tarantino’s next film, The Hateful Eight.

Tatum speaks to us alongside Reid Carolin, co-writer and producer on Magic Mike XXL and a close friend of his. Tatum and Carolin first worked together on 2008’s Stop-Loss and they have since become producing partners. Tatum and Carolin discuss whether the sequel will tie up some dangling plot threads from the first film, what it was like with Jacobs at the helm instead of Soderbergh, how the sequel is more of a road trip while also grander in scale and how the stage musical adaptation of Magic Mike is progressing. 

The first Magic Mike ended on a cliffhanger with the fates of Adam “The Kid” and Brooke up in the air. The sequel takes place three years later and it seems that storyline isn’t being continued. What was the reason behind that decision?

Channing: Well no, it is being continued. We pick up three years later and certain things happen that you have to see the movie to be able to get those cliffhanger answers [laughs].

Reid: One of the things that’s fun about this movie is that a lot can happen to somebody’s life in three years between one movie and another. And so, I think part of the movie when you go see it, is dealing with exactly what your question is suggesting.

What is it like having Gregory Jacobs directing but having Steven Soderbergh remaining on board as cinematographer and editor?

Channing: You know, to be honest, it was a lot like the first movie [chuckles]. They really do work in such a way that…they’ve made movies together for over 20-25 years or something, it’s really close to that. It’s been for a very long time and Greg was always Steven’s line producer, he was the first AD (Assistant Director) and his producer. And Steven has always been his own camera operator and his own DP (Director of Photography), his own editor and obviously the director. And the only hat Steven didn’t wear [on this film] was pretty much the directing hat and Greg put that one on and it really kind of works seamlessly. You know, if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but it really just did. Those guys, they just love each other and they’ve been doing it so long, they just speak the same language, they really do.

Reid: Yeah, I think movies are signatures of their directors and you’ll notice the distinct difference between the two movies – not in terms of the style or the way that the camera’s moving and the aesthetic vibe of the movie, but tonally and in the shape of the movie, you’ll notice a pretty big difference between the two films which I think is really exciting for us to be a part of because sometimes when you make sequels, they’re just sort of obligatory. They exist because the first movie was a success and they don’t necessarily feel like stories that are new explorations and deserve to be told in and of themselves.

The great thing is that I think we got to tell a story that is maybe much different from what people were expecting, and that was interesting to us not just because it’s a sequel but because we like the story. And also, you get to tell it through the eyes of a new person who wants to put a new stamp on the story. And what we got, like Chan said, was even surprising to us. It was awesome watching them work together and figuring out this new collaboration.

There have been many sequels that try to up the ante and go as big as possible and in the process lose the essence of what made the first film enjoyable; 22 Jump Street parodied that type of sequel. How does Magic Mike XXL retain what audiences liked about the first movie while changing it up just enough?

Channing: Well basically, when we read the message boards for the first movie, they were like “the only thing we really liked about the first movie was the guys getting naked, so do less of the story and less of everything else that wasn’t nakedness.” We just basically followed that. [Laughs] No. [Laughs] Don’t think we didn’t think about it. We really did have a unique opportunity to completely…and I actually said this in the press for the first movie, I said “I just want to, like, do a completely different film.” And I think it is such a uniquely different film in so many ways, even having a different director but a same sort of vision and understanding of the movie, just with a different heart and a different soul in a way, but with the same characters and the same spirit, but I think when you watch the second one, it’s way more of an adventure than it is, I don’t know, a cautionary tale or…the first one was very “slice of life”, to give you a window into the very weird subculture of that world. We had to really prove that we know what that world was, it is a real world with danger and very illicit sort of fun but ultimately with a real person in it that wanted more than that and that’s why I got out. This one is more of a…it’s a road trip. I think these guys realise that this life, Mike is kind of realising that his run is over. His time was over doing this. They’re realising it now.

Reid: I was just going to add to that, I think if you look at 21 and 22 Jump Street, obviously 22 did a good job satirising what it means to make a sequel but the actual essence of the story was obviously the same as the first one. It was about two people trying to navigate this relationship that they have and grow together and stay with each other through all these obstacles that present themselves. And so, while the second movie was making fun of itself, it was still basing itself off the same story paradigm. And I think when you look at our movie, obviously we’re not taking this bigger satirical, more meta approach, but the story’s changing a lot.

In the first one, it’s a lot about a guy who feels unfulfilled by his work in the world of stripping and he’s looking at all the things that stripping represents that are dark or negative or reasons for him to feel like he’s not growing as a person so of course, he leaves. And the second one, is a lot about the embracing of the other side of this world because after you’ve stepped away for a few years and you let that go and you move on with your life, you’re starting to feel fulfilled, then you start looking at some of the things in that world that were really fun, that you could celebrate, that you were really good at. And so, when he goes back into it in the journey of this movie, it’s a lot about “what are the great things about this world? What are the ways that these guys can represent women freeing themselves to have a great time and to open up?” And that’s why I really love this movie and I’ve always wanted to make it because it’s a complete and total departure from the first one into the absolute other side of this world.

Channing, the first Magic Mike can be described as “semi-autobiographical”. Did you continue to draw from your own life experiences for the sequel?

Channing: You know, the first movie…you know, look: the only real thing other than that I know what the world is like and kind of what these guys are like, the only thing that was really, I guess I could call mine or say was my story was I was 19, I had a sister, and I entered the stripping world. There wasn’t an older figure that ushered me in or anything like that, it was another story altogether. This thing, the only thing that was actually factual was I went to a stripping convention twice during my year of stripping.

Reid: You just danced in a wood shop to “Pony”?

Channing: [Laughs] in my infinite time dancing around the garages and stuff in Florida, for sure factual. [Laughs] but…sorry. So yeah, really it’s just we took the set piece of this convention that these guys go to, it’s just a destination for them to go on this…it’s an Odyssey, it’s Greek [laughs]. We go on this long journey and like learn stuff and use that to better themselves.

Reid: We took the narrative of Chan’s real story of driving up to this convention with a bunch of crazy guys doing a bunch of crazy stuff and tried to turn it into our own little stripper road trip odyssey. Stripper Easy Rider.

How is the progress going on the stage musical adaptation of Magic Mike, which I think Reid, you are writing?

Reid: I’m not writing it, actually, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is writing it and we’re going to see a full reading of it with all the musical numbers and stuff later this month. We don’t know where it’s at, we’re going to discover pretty soon.

Channing: Yeah, I mean that specifically is just not…not our world [laughs]. Look, I mean man, I’ve probably only seen in my life, God, maybe three musicals? So we’re really looking to them for this thing and kind of leaning on them, you know? I just wouldn’t even know to begin [laughs]. What’s odd is I know they’ve done a lot of work on this first concept we’ve presented them with, but I kind of think this second movie really suits itself better to an actual musical. We’re going to, again, let them do the hard work [laughs]. 


JOE MANGANIELLO

The actor best-known as the often-shirtless werewolf Alcide Herveaux on TV’s True Blood is back to send women (and many men) everywhere into a frenzy. He looked considerably different then than he did now, but the first thing most audiences saw Manganiello in was probably 2002’s Spider-Man, in which he played school bully Flash Thompson. He recently became a published author, writing the bodybuilding manual Evolution. Manganiello’s personal fitness regimen has been called “Hollywood’s hardest workout”, and the results are evident. Manganiello is reprising his role as “Big Dick Richie” – he’s probably very pleased with the character’s nickname and is just shy about admitting it out loud. Manganiello shares about a rather painful mishap he experienced on set, the similarities between a stripper convention and Comic-Con and the responses men in general have had to the first Magic Mike movie.

You’ve done action-oriented films and TV shows. Which is more physically challenging, dancing or action sequences?

[Laughs] Um, well, they’re very similar actually. They’re both somewhat choreographed routines... they’re very similar, I guess is the answer. I don’t know what’s more challenging, [but] I do know that I’ve shot a million action sequences, fight scenes, and never been injured but during my finale routine in Magic Mike XXL, the first take there was an accident and because of the accident, my bicep was torn and I had to have surgery to repair it.

I hope you’re feeling much better now!

Yeah, after about ten…you know, seven weeks in a cast and brace, three months of not being able to put weight on it, it’s starting to get better.

While promoting the first Magic Mike film, you mentioned how your True Blood contract prevented you from taking the role of Superman in Man of Steel. Are you continuing to pursue comic book movie parts can you comment on the Suicide Squad Deathstroke rumour?

No, um…there’s a lot of rumours that float around about me. I can’t uh, I don’t know. There’s a lot of rumours. None of them are rooted in anything real.

Do fans see you on the street and yell “yo, Big Dick Richie!”?
Uh, yeah. That happens, sure.

You famously rocked a firefighter get-up in the first movie. Are there any particularly interesting costumes this time around?
Uh, yes, very much. I think for this film, for the characters, was about taking stripping to the next level. It was about evolving past the archetypical “fireman, cop, cowboy” routines and really, really getting to the heart of what makes women happy and what is sexy for women. That’s really the arc of the characters and their journey as we’re going on this crazy trip together where we all come to our own individual conclusions about how to take male stripping to the next level.

What was the camaraderie like between you guys, especially with the new cast members for the sequel?

Oh man…I mean, first of all, the guys, all of us from the original movie, are best friends. We just love each other, love spending time with each other, so that was a pleasure. The new cast members, they fit right in, but it was really fun for all of us, the veterans, to watch the new rookies do their new routines on camera [laughs], a lot of fun. We got to watch them go through the emotional roller coaster that we all go through doing our first routines, so it was fun.

Like an initiation?

Yes, very much, it was like a fraternity.

You’ve been to Comic-Con several times and in this movie, the characters go to a stripper convention. They’re inherently different but can you compare what both types of conventions are like?

They are similar in many ways. I think any sort of convention or fan gathering, people want an excuse to get excited. And…this is…I would say a male stripper convention is a lot louder, a lot rowdier, than say your average Comic-Con. We were performing in front of more than 900 women a night during our finale routines and uh, it was *phew*, I mean it was the loudest noise I’ve ever heard or ever been witness to, 900 women screaming and throwing dollar bills.

Were the 900 women paid extras? I’m pretty sure they volunteered and would turn up anyway!

Yeah, they got paid for it, I think [laughs]. It was an experience, like none I’ve ever had.

Have there been guys who’ve come up to you and said “my wife/girlfriend dragged me to see Magic Mike but I ended up really liking it”?
Every guy I’ve ever met. Every guy, every guy. There’s not a guy that I met who saw Magic Mike who didn’t like it. Every guy who’s seen it gets it. It’s really funny, and it’s about men. It’s a story about men. I think guys get scared away from it because they think it only appeals to women but we are men’s men. We’re a bunch of dudes and it does appeal to guys because we’re guys. Any guy that saw Magic Mike 1 that I’ve met, thought it was great thought it was hilarious, and I think they’ll find it even more so this time around.

They are very different films, but both have very high testosterone levels; can you compare working with the ensemble in Magic Mike XXL and the ensemble in Sabotage?

Um, wow! That’s interesting. In Sabotage, I met my childhood idol who’s now become one of my best friends, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was incredibly fortunate for that because I’ve met a friend for life in him. With Magic Mike, I’ve been friends with Matt Bomer since we were both 18 years old, freshmen in drama school, so I kind of came into this film with a best friend already in the cast and certainly all the other guys in the cast have become best friends as well. I consider them all my best friends. You know, honestly I think with Sabotage it was more dramatic, more serious, whereas with Magic Mike we just laugh all day, every day. Arnold Schwarzenegger really worked out hard in the gym, Arnold and I have worked out, the entire cast of Magic Mike, we all go to the gym. Long day of filming, 16 hour day, it doesn’t matter, we all head to that gym afterwards. We all push each other to be the best versions, to put in the best performance.

If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one of your male co-stars, who would it be?

You know, Matt Bomer and I, like I said, we’ve been friends since he was 18 and I was 19 and we were freshmen in drama school. Matt is like a brother to me and he’s just become one of my best friends over the years. [Chuckles] he and I share so much history so I’m gonna have to go with Matt.  

MATT BOMER

The dashing Matt Bomer, with that chiselled jawline and baby blue eyes, was unfailingly charming during his five-year run on the TV series White Collar, in which he played the lead role of conman Neal Caffrey. Bomer is also a charming interview subject, expressing friendly concern for the early hour for this writer at which the phoner is taking place. Besides his good looks, Bomer boasts considerable acting chops, bagging a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination for the HBO television movie The Normal Heart. Bomer returns in Magic Mike XXL as stripper Ken, who got to perform a memorable routine as, what else, a Ken doll in the first film. He discusses the camaraderie and competition between the cast members, whether he will keep his focus on feature films or return to the small screen and what it was like filming a routine in front of nearly 2000 screaming women.

What’s been going on in the life of your character Ken in the three years between Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL?

Like a couple of the other guys, Ken is at kind of a crossroads…figuring out what I’m allowed to say and what I’m not [chuckles]…he knows that a certain chapter of his life is closing and he’s figuring out what he’s going to do next. He’s a part-time actor and right now he’s stripping to pay the bills and he knows that that sort of security he has in the job is going away. His marriage has sort of not worked out the way he thought it was going to and he has to figure out what the next chapter of his life is going to be. Thankfully, he has Mike to help him out.

Assistant choreographer Teresa Espinosa said that of the cast in the first film, you picked up the choreography the quickest. Did that remain the case on the sequel, now that tWitch is in the cast?

[Lauhgs] I paid her to say that. A small fee. I don’t know if that was true or not. I love Teresa and [lead choreographer] Alison [Faulk] and what makes them so amazing is not just the amazing choreography they give everybody but that they were really good at finding the choreography for everyone that showed them in their best light. By no means am I the best dancer in this movie, so maybe they gave me simpler choreography in this movie and I learned it fast. I know that they have a pretty amazing work ethic on this movie and I like to work pretty hard too, so one of the most fun things about working on the film was getting to do rehearsals with them so early on. We were in dance rehearsal spaces about a month, a month and a half before we started filming, just practising every day. That was such an incredible learning experience, it also prepares you for that moment when suddenly, there are 2000 people there, cameras rolling. You obviously want a lot of spontaneity to stay in there but you feel like you’re prepared for whatever’s gonna happen.

In the first film, you had the memorable Ken Doll routine. Without giving too much away, do you have a big set piece routine in Magic Mike XXL?

I wouldn’t say it’s a “set-piece” routine but there’s definitely a big surprise routine coming from Ken, what that I don’t think people would expect.

When discussing the first film, you told The Hollywood Reporter that “Steven’s not gonna do a movie that doesn’t have some substance to it, outside of just a bunch of guys taking their clothes off.” Where do you feel the substance in the sequel lies?

I think it’s a different movie – the first one was much more a meditation on business ethics, does your choice of career define your destiny. This really is a stripper Odyssey, it’s a road trip movie where these guys who were thrown out of their usual element when they go out on the road, they find out things about themselves that are going to serve them later in life when their life changes direction. For me, it was much more of a road trip movie in the vein of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert or The Last Detail.

Channing and Reid referred to it as “Stripper Easy Rider

I like that too. [Laughs]

Was it a relaxed set with everyone joking around and at ease or was it more focused and intense because of the choreography involved?

I think it was a little bit of both. Just depending on what the substance was on any given day. But mostly one of the really fun things and I think one of the reasons why everyone came back into the sequel was because we had so much fun working together and we had a really fun group dynamic where everybody got along well and we fell back into that really easily. There was always an inherent sense of fun underneath everything but there were days where you had to take it a little more seriously. The nice thing was, even though we’re all really competitive guys, we were very supportive of each other and it’s one of the few film’s I’ve been on where somebody would stay after their work day was done to watch somebody else’s routine and support them. It was a little bit of everything, but underneath it all, a real sense of fun.

So there was a sense of camaraderie that carried over from the first film?

Absolutely. I think all the guys are really great guys but so much of it stems from Channing. Even when it wasn’t an ensemble movie per se in the first one, he made everybody feel so important and special and valued, so in a movie like this, where the ensemble is so important, it just kind of carried over.

In what way did the competitive nature of the cast manifest itself? Were there spontaneous push-up contests?

[Chuckles] Well, it’s more a team dynamic, it’s not “me vs. you”, it’s us as a team being the best we can be. I would compare it to locker room jokes and humour. At the same time, we really held each other accountable in terms of what we were allowed to eat, how often we worked out, what we were doing to stay in shape. We were really supporting each other; it was kind of a group competitive dynamic, I guess.

What was the vibe in Myrtle Beach like compared to that in Tampa?

Um, they’re different towns, that’s for sure. A lot of the exteriors we did in Tampa were beach-oriented, like the sandbar party, whereas in Myrtle Beach, a lot of it were the exteriors leading up to the convention. I think if you’re talking about the events that transpire as opposed to the actual location, all I can say is one of the reasons it’s called “XXL” is definitely because of the convention that takes place in Myrtle Beach. On the first movie, we had close to 200 extras, maybe 300? I know it was a small club. But in this film, I think there were literally 2000 women in the room when you did a number. It just magnified the energy of the room when you did the performance, just electrified.
 
Joe said it was the loudest noise he’d ever heard in his life.

[Laughs] I don’t know about that, I’ve been to some pretty big concerts. But I understand what he’s saying, it’s a really kind of intense exchange of energy that’s going on between the performer and the audience. I’ve heard some louder concerts in my lifetime, but it really was mind-blowing. It took me a take or two to remember what my name was, to be able to do my thing [laughs].

The first film has really struck a chord with the gay community. Have people come up to you to say how they were affected by the movie?

Um, I wouldn’t say specifically from that community. I think what’s great about the movie is I hear things from all different kinds of communities: men, women, straight men, gay men, gay women, straight women…it really runs the gamut. The immediate response was from straight women and gay men, probably, but I think one of the interesting things about the movie having a life on cable, I think it was picked up by HBO where a lot of straight guys had the chance to see it, and I hear from them and they go “you know man, that was actually a really cool movie!” [Chuckles] I don’t know what it was that they were expecting, but when they watched it from the safety of their home, they realised it wasn’t just a bunch of dudes getting naked the whole time. So I hope those guys who saw it on HBO will come out and support it this time as well, because there’s definitely a lot of fun to this movie and hopefully there’s something for everyone.

Joe said something along those lines; that a lot of straight men have come up to him to say they enjoyed the film in spite of their expectations of it.

Yeah, like I said, I don’t think people knew what to expect. The first film dealt a lot with the world of business, with profession and destiny, and I think that’s something any men can related to. And obviously, there were things in there for women as well. I think the sort of group male dynamic in this is something guys can relate to and there’s obviously a lot for the women as well, so I hope that carries over.

White Collar concluded a little while ago. After Magic Mike XXL, would you take up a lead role in a TV series again or are you choosing to focus more on feature films?

Well, I’m playing opposite Lady Gaga in American Horror Story. I don’t discriminate between mediums. I think the notion that “film is best” or whatever it is, I think that’s kind of an antiquated notion. I think now people just go where the story and the writing is the richest, and sometimes that’s in a film if you’re lucky, and sometimes that’s on cable TV or regular TV. It’s really about the story. That’s what has always interested me as an artist, the story, not “how is this going to be marketed” or “how many people are going to see this”. When I sat down to do the first Magic Mike, it was a very small independent film. I just thought “wow, this is such an interesting world, this is a filmmaker I’ve always wanted to work with.” I was a big fan of Channing and Matthew’s [McConaughey] work and thankfully it became something bigger. To me, I’m always interested in the story. So whatever the medium that the story I’m interested in is on, I can be there.

You provided the voice of Superman in the animated film Superman: Unbound – after playing the character in a Japanese car commercial. As an actor, what is it like using only your voice compared to, well, using mostly your body, as you do in the Magic Mike movies?

[Laughs] You know, it’s a really unique challenge and I hope it’s something I get to continue to do, because there’s something really free about it. I get crazy man, in the recording booth. I’ll begin to do it physically as well, in any way I can. I think it reminds you as an actor how important it is to use your voice. It’s definitely a different kind of challenge, I’ve learnt so much from doing it and I hope I get to continue to do it.

If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one of your male co-stars, who would it be?

[Laughs] Oh my goodness, gosh! From both films or just this one?

From both films.

I would say…probably Joe, because I’ve known him since we were 18, we went to college together. We’ve known each other for so long that there’s no bulls***, we’re pretty direct with each other, we can tell it like it is. He’s also a really solid guy who I think would remain sane under the crazy-ass circumstances of being stranded on an island [laughs]. And he’s yoked enough that he could take down any wild animal who would attack. I would say Joe.

You’d be pleased to know that Joe said you as well.

Yay! 

Magic Mike XXL opens 9 July 2015.



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