Channing Tatum On His “Magic Mike” Co-Stars: “It Really Became A Weird Team”

Magic Mike co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum

It’s not everyday that you hear some of the hottest actors in Hollywood talk about being nearly naked and having their bodies licked. But then again, it’s not everyday you’re at a press junket for a film like Magic Mike. The Steven Soderbergh-directed male stripper opus opens this Friday and stars Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Cody Horn, Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriguez.

Now, what about that licking?

In the case of the filming of Magic Mike, Bomer, who plays Ken, explained that the patrons in the fictional strip club in the movie were more than a little enthusiastic. “It was part of the world,” he said during the film’s press conference last weekend in Beverly Hills, “and if they wanted to lick you in certain places or touch you or whatever it was welcomed. It was just part of the world we were creating.”

The film may be loosely based on Tatum’s real-life experiences prior to breaking into film but his co-stars agreed that it all came down to one thing – the thong. “It is one of the larger leaps of faith to trust a thong,” said McConaughey, who plays veteran dancer Dallas. “It weighs what a dollar bill weighs. It weighs nothing. At the end of this performance, this is the only protection I have. So the first time putting it on you’re going ‘what is every possible angle I can be in so I can check to make sure everything is covered?’” Tatum, with a grin, added about the tiny garment, “sometimes they completely betray you.”

McConaughey, who regularly appears sans much clothing in his films, wasn’t as comfortable as one might predict in a thong. “I was very nervous. Going out on stage to dance and taking your clothes off for everyone live is nerve-wracking.” However, that feeling didn’t last long for the hunky actor. “After doing it once I kinda wanted to get up there and do it again!”

Nobody was more impressed with his costars commitment to going from dressed-to-thong than Tatum. “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 thought, ‘Maybe I should go first’ [but] he just jumped in. Everybody just committed…it’s a humbling thing when you’re left very little to the imagination in front of almost 300 people. It’s very, very nerve wracking.”

One of the things that wasn’t nerve wracking for the stripping novices but, ironically, helped get into the art of stripping was the group of eager patrons playing the audience in the nightclub. Adam Rodriguez, who plays Tito, admitted, “We’re very grateful to them for that…you need that and you’re going out there and you want that audience screaming so you know you’re doing the right thing and they did that for us.”

Another thing that McConaughey said helped get comfortable in the thong is to “kinda walk around and try to have normal conversations. You’ve got to talk about football or what you ate last night and that’s what funny.” He added that “the first time you put it on your body kinda contorts and you go ‘Gotta straighten up.’ It is somewhat unnatural. Channing would be talking about what’s going on in the scene with Soderbergh and he’s in his red thong just working it out.”

In fact, knowing Tatum already had a past as a stripper helped keep competition from brewing amongst the men. “We all got to see Channing dance for the first time so it was obvious,” said McConaughey. “‘Okay, best I can do is get second place.’”

Instead of competition, though, camaraderie grew between the group of sexy men because of their respective diets and workouts as well as the element of fear. “These guys were so disciplined. They ate like rabbits,” said Soderbergh. “I’ve never seen this kind of diligence. Maybe it was just fear but, also, I didn’t sense any competition because I think the fear of doing it bonded [them]. They’re all jumping out of the plane together.”

In fact, Tatum said that all the actors supported each other even when they weren’t in a particular scene that was shooting. “Most movies,” he said, “when you’re done with your scene, you go home. You go home, you go ‘that’s it. I’m good. I’m going to go home for the day.’ And 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 you high-fived them and told them what really worked and ‘you murdered that.’ And it really became a weird team. Like, a really weird, strange team.”

And while there is more than a little bit of jaw-dropping stripping in the film, there is also a current of a deeper story running through Magic Mike that Tatum predicted audiences would able to relate to. “You have the dreams that you want to do and then you kind of have to do other jobs until you can get to that dream,” he explained. “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. All of a sudden, you’re like ‘wow, it’s like 7 years later and I don’t have really very much to show for it. I’m not any closer to my dream.’ At some point the party just got in the way and became your life. I think that’s happened to a lot of people. They just get sidetracked.”

The experience of making the film, however, has had a lasting impression on the guys. Bomer, for example, took some of his stripper moves to a recent family event. “I remember being at my sister’s wedding reception a month after we wrapped,” he said, “and I’d had a few drinks and all of a sudden I was doing body rolls on the dance floor.”

One of the biggest questions about the film from a business perspective is who exactly is the film geared towards? The assumption would be women and gay men, but Soderbergh said, “some of the issues that the male characters are going through are issues that all men confront.” He added, “men tend to define themselves by what they do, and so if you’re dealing with the characters trying to figure that out or multiple characters then three’s something there for guys, too.”

In fact, if audience testing of the film told Soderbergh and the studio anything it was that this is a film anyone can enjoy. “The female scores were not significantly bigger than the male scores. The guys like it,” the director stated. “The trick is, I think, getting them to come.”

The good news for those already wishing they had a DVD or Blu-ray version for, um, private, at-home viewing, Soderbergh promised that he’d deliver with the extra features. “We have edited together the full-length versions of all the routines.” However, the director warned that watching them one after the other had an interesting effect on him. “They’re pretty disturbing…it made me really uncomfortable to watch them. We did 10 or 12, and to watch them all back to back was really disturbing.”

For some reason, it seems unlikely that AfterElton readers will share that sentiment.

Magic Mike opens in theaters this Friday. For more, visit the film’s website.

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