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Last March, director Steven Soderbergh named off the last two films he would make before calling it quits in Hollywood. At the time, he had yet to film the spy thriller Haywire with Channing Tatum or hear about the actor’s brief stint as a male stripper. Their conversation on set became the springboard for Magic Mike, the star-studded – and completely fictional – comedy that closed the Los Angeles Film Festival on Sunday night with its world premiere at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live.
“I was like, OK, you really want to do this? You really want to make this into a film?” said Tatum on the red carpet. CSI: Miami’s Adam Rodriguez called the choreography “the scariest challenge that I’ve ever had,” while True Blood’s Joe Manganiello felt comfortable in what he called a comparable role: “Werewolves don’t wear underwear; strippers wear thongs.”
White Collar’s Matt Bomer accredited on-site research at a Hollywood strip spot for the ensemble’s camaraderie. “[The visit] was really informative and accessible and helped us out, not only in seeing what this world was like and the dance routines, but also what the backstage life was like – before you went onstage, when you came off. That was a big part of what we were responsible for creating. People were just talking about mundane things while scantily dressed, talking about everything except what they were about to do.”
The authenticity of the occupation was a priority throughout production. “It was about being as honest to the intentions as to why to make the movie as possible,” said Reid Carolin, who penned a first draft with Tatum in just a month. “We had studios come to us and say, ‘We want to make a romp-like Vegas Chippendale’s-type movie or a Rock of Ages-type thing; some people say, ‘We want to make this dark, twisted indie thing.’ We always thought it was a combination of those two, and at the end of the day, we decided, look, if we’re gonna do this, we have to do it ourselves. We didn’t sleep, and I certainly didn’t think about anything else for a month. When you do that, you put all your energy into something, it’s sort of like if you’re studying for a test in college – you’re just cramming and somehow you just pull it off.”
Filming itself took less than a month as well, leaving rehearsals “very sporadic because everybody’s schedule was so mixed up,” said Teresa Espinosa, who, assisting fellow Beat Freaks member Alison Faulk, choreographed group numbers and solo routines. “We’d get one hour with one person, another hour the next person. For one of the group numbers, we didn’t have everybody rehearsing together until the day of that shoot. But they all worked very hard individually that when it came together for the shoot day, they created magic.”
Some of the cast attributed the short schedule’s success to Soderbergh, who was described by each actor as a director they’ve always wanted to work with. “He’s very much a minimalist as far when he implements himself,” said Matthew McConaughey. “He hires people for a reason, so you better show up with your bags packed and ready to work, and know your man. That kind of schedule is great for an actor because as time suppresses, you don’t have time to over think stuff. Don’t talk about it; show me. Press ‘record’ is what I like to say.”
Others said Tatum’s pace was efficient but left room for “freedom and improvisation,” including his onscreen love interest Cody Horn. “As a producer, he set a really fun, professional tone on set that led to a lot of productivity, but still it was tongue and cheek. After all, we’re making a movie about strippers!” Betsy Brandt of Breaking Bad also said, “I constantly remembered that he was the writer because I kept asking about his life. He’s really invested in the project, but he’s also really laidback and fun. It was so much fun to shoot.”
The partnership between Tatum and Soderbergh seems to work, as the director of the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy turned away from retirement after making Contagion to triple cast the actor in Haywire, Magic Mike and The Bitter Pill, costarring Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones and due out next year.
“The greatest part is showing up and knowing that you’re gonna be looking across from a buddy; you’ve got 12 hours with a good friend, and you’re gonna turn on the cameras and just everything goes,” said Tatum of working with Soderbergh repeatedly. “One of his favorite things that he tells somebody is that you can’t do anything wrong. That frees you up to do so much, so much, just crazy stuff. Some of it turns in beautiful and some of it is completely not right, but that’s some of the stuff you take away as a personal experience with somebody.”
Fellow actors Alex Pettyfer, Kevin Nash and a very fashionably late Olivia Munn also attended the premiere, along with Cheryl Burke of Dancing with the Stars, DWTS winner Chelsea Kane, Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman of the upcoming Step Up Revolution. Sophia Bush was also spotted speeding through the red carpet to snag a seat in the theater.
Magic Mike opens in theaters on June 29.
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