Cast: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Running Time: 110 minutes
From incomparable director Steven Soderbergh, comes this generation's Saturday Night Fever, starring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey.
To a rebellious 19-year-old kid (Pettyfer) looking for independence from his family, Magic Mike (Tatum) seems like the perfect role model: he's got a nice car, a nice apartment, and a seemingly endless supply of women.
What's his secret?
He's a male stripper, and when the kid dives headlong into Magic Mike's world, his mad dancing skills and hunger for excitement make for an unforgettable summer
Sexy, funny and shocking, this film is a hedonistic thrill ride with a powerful undertow. A razor sharp cast - led by top liner Channing Tatum in a career-defining turn as the titular Magic Mike - devours the up-to-the moment freight train of a script, and the result will be relentlessly entertaining and sure to be one of the most talked about films of the year and let's not forget the price-of-admission dancing sequences
Release Date: July 26th, 2012
Money, women and a good time
The idea of making a movie set in the world of male strippers had been simmering with Channing Tatum for a long time. Having once been a part of that world, he felt it had real cinematic potential to be fun, unique, entertaining
and more than a little revealing. But it was a conversation he had with Steven Soderbergh that finally put Magic Mike on its path to the big screen.
Channing Tatum, who stars in the title role and is also a producer on the film, recalls, "I mentioned that I'd worked as a stripper for eight months when I was 18 and 19 years old. 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 Soderbergh said, "You should do it. Absolutely. You should write it and I'll direct it."
"I thought it was one of the best ideas I'd ever heard for a movie," says Steven Soderbergh. "It's sexy, funny and crazy, and a view into an interesting, exclusive environment most people never experience."
Adds producer Gregory Jacobs, "We both felt it was something we hadn't seen in a movie before. And Channing's approach was fearless."
Steven Soderbergh, Gregory Jacobs and producer Nick Wechsler joined Channing Tatum and his producing partner Reid Carolin for a series of lively brainstorming sessions that formed the basis and inspiration for Reid Carolin's final script. "I've never worked with anyone who is more collaborative," Channing Tatum says of Steven Soderbergh, who directed him in the thriller Haywire last year. "Not just collaborative but empowering, really, to the actors and the crew, to bring their own ideas into the process." It was during these sessions that the director suggested giving the story a dual perspective, pairing the 19-year-old character Adam, called the Kid, who best represented Channing Tatum's youthful point of view, with the 30-year-old mentor character, Mike, that he would be portraying now.
Rather than actual events, Channing Tatum says, "It was the atmosphere and energy of it I wanted to capture, and that feeling of being at a time in your life when you're trying things out, and up for anything. You might have a plan for the future, but for now it's about that next paycheck, that next party, and just having a good time."
"None of the characters are based on real people, not even my own," Channing Tatum confirms. "Everything that happens is fictional, and we did that purposely because we wanted the freedom to create our own scenarios and tell the best story."
"I think Channing Tatum's life was probably much crazier than this movie could portray anyway. If we put in the stuff that really happened, no one would believe it," quips Reid Carolin. At the same time, he notes, "We wanted it to be realistic enough to resonate with his experience as a guy struggling to stay afloat, but who also has these almost surreal moments on the weekends when he's tearing off his clothes and dancing for a room full of screaming women."
Truth is, as Channing Tatum can attest, it's not such an improbable choice. At 18, he was burning through a number of short-term jobs and trying to figure out what to do next when he heard a radio pitch for guys who liked to dance, and auditioned for an all-male revue. "I thought, 'Why not?' I could dance," he says. "It sounded like something I could do for fun for awhile."
"I'd show up for two hours and make $150, sometimes as much as $600 a week, all cash, which was a ton of money for me at the time," he continues. "I really enjoyed the performing aspect of it, although being in a thong can be a humbling experience. The more you try to look sexy the lamer it is, so you just have to commit to the comedy and the skit because that can be hilarious. Strippers are some of the corniest guys you'll ever meet. If it's a fireman skit, it has to be the corniest possible version of a fireman, but the women love it; they scream and laugh and stuff money into your underwear. It was wild. We thought we were rock stars."
In the film, star attraction Magic Mike packs the house for Club Xquisite's savvy stripper-turned-manager Dallas, played by Matthew McConaughey. Dallas discovered Mike six years earlier, dancing with friends, and invited him to hone his talents professionally.
"Dallas is a lot of things but primarily a businessman, and he's always on the lookout for the next big thing," says Matthew McConaughey. Similarly, when Mike spots Adam, aka the Kid, played by Alex Pettyfer, he offers the eager young recruit the chance to make some fast cash and find his bearings, and the Kid becomes the audience's all-access pass into the lives of the self-proclaimed Kings of Tampa.
"I wanted it to be all green lights for him, so you could see why he would find it so appealing and want to be a part of it, especially with someone like Mike guiding him through it; like a family where all your brothers are cool," Steven Soderbergh explains. "There's a lot of camaraderie and insider humor that's specific to a tight-knit group of people, where the comedy is in the characters and the situations. It's funny because of our recognition of how people are."
For the women who arrive in rowdy girlfriend-packs to let their hair down and cheer on these exaggerated models of masculinity - firemen, athletes, rebels, and men in uniform it's a chance to indulge their wildest romantic daydreams in a relatively guilt-free environment. But in some respects there's a fantasy playing out on both sides of the stage and this is one of the themes Magic Mike touches on.
Says Nick Wechsler, "Stripping offers a way of making a good living, meeting women, and hanging with the cool guys. Not bad. But it can be like a drug that blocks the reality receptors; you think you're pursuing your dreams but instead you're just taking that drug."
It's the Kid's sister, Brooke, played by newcomer Cody Horn, who's the first to see that, raising questions about Mike's life that he finds tough to answer. But as the story propels them through the steamy Tampa summer and Adam dives headlong into his new vocation, things happen that could send Mike and his protégé in different directions and turn Mike' focus toward the future.
"It's about him finally seeing what's really going on around him," says Steven Soderbergh. "And realising he wants something more."
The businesses I'm in they deal exclusively in cash.
"A Jack of all trades" is how Channing Tatum describes his character, Mike. "He's an honest, energetic, resourceful guy who believes the key to success is having many irons in the fire."
Toward that end, he's juggling a construction gig and an auto detailing business, and appearing weekend nights as Magic Mike. But the one venture dearest to his heart his dream job is the one not making him a cent: designing and building one-of-a-kind furniture he hopes one day to sell as soon as the market takes an upturn and he can swing a loan.
"Channing Tatum has such charisma and an engaging humanistic quality that comes through so no matter how dysfunctional things are for Mike, you can't help but root for him," states Gregory Jacobs.
Even so, there's only so much charm can do. "He thinks he has a lot going for him, but the reality is he's having a hard time paying his bills and he's essentially a 30-year-old stripper with a bunch of part-time jobs," says Reid Carolin.
So far his greatest success is being Magic. The customers know it, the other guys in the show know it, and Dallas certainly knows it. He's been counting on Mike's popularity for years as he builds the club's fan base with an eye toward conquering larger markets, and with the understanding that his number one dancer will share a cut of the profits. "If Mike is the captain of the team, Dallas is the coach," says Channing Tatum.
"We're never sure if he means to deal Mike in or not. He's not lying about it; he's just letting Mike believe whatever he's going to believe."
A former stripper who never lost his love for the stage or his touch for the hustle Dallas knows this scene inside and out. Having segued to the business side of things, he still courts audiences as the club's flamboyant emcee and keeps his crew in line with a ready smile and a hearty back-slap. Says Matthew McConaughey, "He was an exceptional performer and now he's running the show, always trying to improve the acts and create variety. In his mind he's a visionary. He thinks of the group as his boys, and Mike is his main man, but at the same time he's all about the bottom line. It's simple economics with Dallas: whoever brings in the most cash is the star."
Apart from Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey was the first person cast, Steven Soderbergh recalls. "He committed based on the idea of it. I just told him what the character was and he said, 'I know exactly what to do with that. I'm in.'"
Adds Channing Tatum, "He embraced all the eccentricities we imagined and took them to another level, but in a way that you could believe such a person exists. It's an amazing performance."
Likening Dallas to 'a carney,' Matthew McConaughey says, "The pragmatic side of him was on the page. The other side was more otherworldly, like he's working on his own frequency," a nuance the actor discussed with Steven Soderbergh to flesh out the complexities of the man, often to comedic effect, though Dallas is dead serious. The fact that he's leasing temporary space in a strip mall bar where his dancers suit up in the kitchen, or that they rehearse their routines alongside curious 9-to-5'ers at a local gym doesn't faze him or his big dreams in the least.
What Dallas knows is talent and he quickly sees promise in Adam, who Mike introduces one night for what he assumes will be a single shift of backstage help. The novice is then almost immediately thrust under the lights, impromptu, when another act bails. Says Reid Carolin, "He's a natural. Not the greatest dancer, but that's teachable. It's his confidence Dallas notices. He likes that the Kid is willing to go for it."
But how far?
British actor Alex Pettyfer, who takes on the role of the endearing but reckless Adam, says, "I think there's a period in many peoples' lives when they kind of jump off the deep end for a while. Adam's at that stage where he doesn't want to be at home anymore; school didn't work out and neither did the jobs his sister lined up for him. He's looking for something to excite him and that's when he meets Mike and falls into this crazy world. It's perfect, it's freedom, it's everything he wants. And he takes off with it at 120 miles an hour."
For a time, the two of them are inseparable, with the Kid emulating his mentor's moves both on stage and off, in the endless rounds of hanging out and hooking up that fill the bulk of Mike's downtime. He also starts to spend a lot of time with one of the club's inner circle, an intoxicating woman named Nora, played by Riley Keough.
"For Mike, being with Adam is like looking into a mirror," Nick Wechsler observes. "The Kid reminds him a lot of what he was like at nineteen-someone who needed a job and just wanted to have a good time." The difference is that almost from the beginning, Adam is willing to take more risks than Mike ever did. And no one is in a better position than Mike to know that's not something anyone else can control.
It's Raining Men!
While giving audiences a window into Mike's growing awareness, the film also puts them into the hot seat, front row center, as the Kings of Tampa storm the stage and Adam joins his newfound brothers-in-arms: six guys at the top of their game, representing a range of man-candy archetypes anyone will recognise, whether or not they've ever been to a strip club.
Joining Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer in the spotlight are Matt Bomer, starring as Ken, whose signature act is emerging from a toy box as every girl's perfect Ken Doll come to life; Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie, known for an act requiring no props apart from what he was born with; Kevin Nash as the wild man Tarzan, who swoops across the stage on a rope; and Adam Rodriguez as the suave Tito, who provides a Latin flavor to the show.
"All the guys were great and each one brought something specific. We wanted actors who could improv and be funny, not necessarily guys who could dance," says Steven Soderbergh. As it turned out, aside from Channing Tatum, none of the new recruits had that kind of dance experience but were all natural athletes who could draw on either stunt training or musical theater backgrounds, while Nash, portraying the veteran of the group, has more than 20 years of professional wrestling to his credit. Even so, nothing could fully prepare them for that moment when the pants fly off.
Adam Rodriguez, who packed an intensive cardio-and-weights regimen into his CSI: Miami schedule to prepare, confides with a laugh, "My first thought upon reading the script was that it sounded like a good time. I could relate to the humor and the camaraderie. My next thought was, 'Damn, I'm out of shape. I have a lot of work to do!'"
"I knew if I took this part I'd have to go to places that weren't comfortable, but it's one of those jobs where you just have to check your inhibitions at the door and dive in," Matt Bomer says.
It helped that everyone else was in the same boat. Indeed, standing around in thongs and robes, discussing waxing and tanning techniques, was a great equaliser. As Steven Soderbergh acknowledges, "There's nothing like shared potential humiliation to bond people, and they bonded quickly. They all came in to watch one another do their solo routines and lend support and they were so generous with each other, no competitiveness, no egos. Watching them go through those routines in front of 150 female extras and the entire film crew was awesome. They all jumped off that cliff."
Following each anxious debut, the actors found it got progressively easier until, as Joe Manganiello notes, they actually started looking forward to the next opportunity. "Even after working on our routines for weeks, that first take is a shock. You're concentrating on the choreography, trying to hit your marks, and then when it's over you want to go right back out there again. The only thing I can compare it to is skydiving: as soon as it's over you want to do it again because you realise you missed the first three seconds. And those women were going crazy. We'd go home at night still buzzing from the energy off that crowd."
The extras, armed with stacks of singles and a mandate to go nuts, were invaluable in getting the actors pumped for their big numbers. Nash, who has performed to arena crowds, understands how vital that interaction can be. "With the whole group participation aspect of a show like this, I think there's a collective chemistry that happens. There's an instant adrenalin rush you get from a live audience."
To choreograph the shows, the filmmakers enlisted Alison Faulk of The Beat Freaks, who worked on Magic Mike between supervising choreography for Britney Spears' and Madonna's world tours. Alison Faulk did her homework by going to lots of clubs and getting a feel not only for the dancing but for ?what works with the audiences. What do they respond to? What do they like?
"It's not just about the dance moves; it's about them looking sexy, feeling confident and creating a fantasy," she offers. "Each routine has a little romance behind it, a whole build-up. It's all in the tease. I think women know it's supposed to be fun and a little cheesy."
Starting the cast with basic moves like body rolls and hip circles, then graduating to staging and spacing, she ultimately prepared them for a series of comic skits tailored to each of their characters, as well as several group numbers, including the rousing crowd-pleaser 'It's Raining Men.' The goal was to make them look sharp and put on an exciting show, but not be so highly polished as to make it unrealistic.
Alex Pettyfer, admittedly the least practiced dancer of the bunch, cites how his relative inexperience helped define the character: "I was initially very shy and didn't want to move. But Alison Faulk came up with these great routines with only a few steps. It ended up being character building in that Adam thinks he's a better dancer than he really is, but it's his freshness and his willingness to give the audience what they want that works for him."
Adam's make-or-break moment, when he is unexpectedly thrown onto the stage to the opening beats of Madonna's 'Like a Virgin,' was more true to life than audiences would expect. "That was the one scene we purposely didn't block," says Alex Pettyfer. "They didn't even tell me the song they were going to play. They just said go out there and do it. After those first few moments, taking off my hoodie and feeling the crowd reacting, I thought, 'This is pretty cool.'"
Following his auspicious intro, the Kid later returns to the boards more confidently decked out as a boxer and then a cowboy. Matt Bomer's additional personas include not only the Ken Doll but a white-coated Dr. Love; Joe Manganiello does a silhouette dance as a suited businessman and also nails the ever-popular fireman routine, as well as a golden statue that springs to life; and Adam Rodriguez introduces a sly merengue in a Havana Nights routine and later appears in Navy whites as an officer and not-so-gentlemanly gentleman.
The most demanding and acrobatic sequences fell to Channing Tatum, including a show-stopping performance that has him spinning fast on a hand loop and executing a standing back-flip off the stage, a stunt he'd always loved. "It's doesn't matter exactly what you're doing out there if you're having fun," he states.
Proving that point, Matthew McConaughey threw his leather vest into the ring too, despite the fact that he'd never danced on stage before and even though, in the original script, Dallas didn't perform. Matthew McConaughey recounts with characteristic good humor, ?I couldn't be in this movie and not at least give it a shot. C'mon, I had to try it. If I never got out there and danced in a thong I would surely regret it.? He proved remarkably adept and creative in helping to develop his routine, and Dallas's surprise solo late in the film truly defines the striptease mindset by capitalising on an hour of will-he-or-won't-he speculation.
Am I Magic Mike right now, talking to you? I'm not my lifestyle.
But as much as Mike instinctively saw potential in the Kid, he sees something else in the Kid's sister, Brooke, who starts to take up more of the time he spends away from the club and its regulars. Unlike the women he's used to meeting, Brooke is strong, sharp, capable...and clearly interested, though not falling for him so easily. Most intriguing to him, Channing Tatum suggests, "She doesn't just roll over and say, 'Gee, Mike, you're awesome, you're such a great dancer.' She challenges him. She wants to know who he really is."
More to the point, she wants to know who he thinks he really is.
"I was looking for someone with the right combination of elements," says Steven Soderbergh, who cast Cody Horn as Brooke. "When I saw her audition I knew she was it. She has a certain blend of energy, sweetness and strength. She's very compelling."
First off, says Cody Horn, "Mike likes to say he's an entrepreneur. Okay then, Brooke wants to know, what are you doing about it? If you're serious, it's about taking chances on yourself and not just talking about it and getting stuck in excuses." At the same time, she concedes, "Mike's a great guy and when she's with him, it brings out Brooke's lighter side. She has fun, the barriers start breaking down and you feel the beginning of that friendship and connection. She could really fall in love with this guy if she lets it happen."
The one thing she can't get past is his job. Steven Soderbergh emphasises, "It's not just the job but the lifestyle associated with it. It's an interesting obstacle for two characters to confront, and figuring out ways to express that and then laying the groundwork for a possible leap of faith was really the core of their story. It's easy to see how the two of them could be together, but just as easy to understand why they're not."
Before Brooke, the closest thing Mike had to a girlfriend was Joanna. Played by Olivia Munn, Joanna is a psych student who dropped in on the club for research and found the nightlife and then private sessions with Mike addicting. But, says Olivia Munn, "When he wants to talk or take things to an emotional level, she's not interested. She likes him, and thinks he's fun, but that's clearly all she wants."
Brooke's reluctance to get involved first frustrates Mike and then makes him wonder what it is she knows that he doesn't. "Mike wants to be loved. He's a good, earnest person who wears his heart on his sleeve," says Reid Carolin. "But no matter how much he puts out there, he can't get people to perceive him that way. His life is filled with people who only see him as an object of what he represents, or what they see on stage."
So, you gonna come to the show tonight?
Helping to create that illusion for audiences was costume designer Christopher Peterson. As Alison Faulk crafted dance routines to showcase the guys' personalities and natural talents without pushing it over the top, Christopher Peterson made everyone look as good as possible while conceding the limitations their characters would naturally face. "Nearly all the clothing is found, especially with the boys," he says. "These are guys who carry their costumes around in plastic bins. They shop off the rack. Club owners might put something together for a special group number but for the most part the costumes are devised by the performers who wear them, so there's some variation on the themes. Steven Soderbergh's directive was to make it real."
Toward that end, the designer used an admittedly low-tech but effective method of simulating water on the umbrellas and raincoats for the 'It's Raining Men' sequence: spray glitter. For a patriotic military-themed ensemble piece he raided an Army Surplus store. But one essential element on which he did not compromise were the thongs, which were custom made in specific fabrics and colours, from a company called Pistol Pete.
Christopher Peterson's biggest challenge was putting the break-away into the break-away costumes, a process involving strategically placed Velcro strips. "It was a precipitous learning curve that was different for each actor, based on his movements," he explains. "If Alison Faulk choreographed some really vigorous dance moves the costume might tear away too soon, and other times not at all. At one point, I had a pile of maybe 25 pairs of pants in a corner of my office, trying to figure it out. It came down to me standing in front of the mirror, tugging and tearing, with my assistant laughing in the other room. The one time I got it right I was ecstatic, and then realised I was standing in front of my entire staff in my underwear and how can that possibly be appropriate? Let's just say we had more than our share of wardrobe malfunctions, on and off camera."
The final element was the music, for which Steven Soderbergh brought in music supervisor Frankie Pine, who worked with the director on his 'Ocean's' trilogy and earned a Grammy nomination for the Traffic soundtrack. "Frankie Pine pulled a lot of great music, from iconic songs that everyone knows to some indie stuff, and I'm really happy with the variety and veracity of what she found," says Steven Soderbergh.
"It feels like what they'd use for these routines."
On screen, it was comedian Gabriel Iglesias running the board in the role of Club Xquisite's DJ, Tobias, a laid-back dude with the gift of gab and a few entrepreneurial ventures of his own. "We wanted someone in that role with a lot of personality, and who was distinctly different from the dancers, representing another element of the club scene, and Gabriel was perfect," says Gregory Jacobs. "He brings a lot of wit and energy to Tobias."
Production began in September 2011 in Playa del Ray, California, and wrapped in October in Tampa, Florida. The filmmakers combined locations from both states to create the story's Tampa setting, established in a spectacular view of Tampa Bay from atop an oceanfront house where Mike and Adam first meet during a roofing job. Other Florida sites included restaurants in Ybor City, the Fort Desoto Bridge and a sandbar off the Dunedin coast, in the Gulf of Mexico.
Southern California provided the sites for Mike's condo, Dallas' house and the club.
Throughout, Steven Soderbergh employed a double straw camera filter, to create "a warm yellow-wash that feels like the sun," he says. "We used it during the whole film except for the interior of the Xquisite, because I wanted the colours in there to pop."
For Mike's beach condo, production designer Howard Cummings selected a 1970s-style home in Playa del Rey on the verge of renovation, not for an overtly retro look, but for its distinctive features that might have appealed to Mike's eye for structure and design.
Dallas' place, befitting his personality, had a more sprawling and theatrical vibe. Deciding that Dallas was the type of guy who would have a dramatic picture of himself on display at his home, Howard Cummings recounts, "I asked Matthew McConaughey if he was up for posing for a portrait with a live python. He said "Well, I can't repeat exactly what he said but he was enthusiastic. So we set it up." Additionally, Howard Cummings worked with the props department to cast a bust of the actor that graces the grand piano in Dallas' living room.
Howard Cummings's biggest opportunity to shine was in the club," says Steven Soderbergh, for which the production secured a vacant club space in Studio City, California, that had a bar and kitchen but no stage. This enabled Howard Cummings to design one from the ground up to accommodate the film's developing choreography. For the performers' dressing area, he focused on the kitchen.
"I wish I could take credit for suggesting the kitchen, but that idea was Steven Soderbergh's," says Howard Cummings, who marks his fifth collaboration with the director. "It worked perfectly because the Kings of Tampa don't have a lot of money and that lent an ad hoc quality to the set. The blocking is limited, but Steven Soderbergh takes that kind of limitation and makes a benefit out of it. He also likes reflective surfaces, and there was plenty of tile, a shiny ceiling and lots of stainless steel."
Noting that Xquisite only exists a couple of nights a week, renting space in an existing business with its own daytime identity, the designer put up a flimsy plastic banner bearing the club's name, which he calls their cheap solution to signage. "Overall, everything about the place had to be visually engaging and entertaining, but not too slick. I wanted it to have a real edge."
In many ways the club is the focal point of Mike's life emotionally, socially, and financially so the fact that it hasn't quite hit the big time yet is telling. The temporary nature of its success, the transitory nature of its clientele and some of the relationships he has formed there represent a part of Mike's life that may be nearing its expiration date.
"A lot of the story, to me, is about the way in which we misplace our emotions, pick the wrong things and the wrong people to invest in," says Steven Soderbergh. "There are signals, but Mike hasn't been picking up on them until now. He wasn't paying attention to the bigger picture."
"Everyone wants to be respected, everyone wants to be successful," Channing Tatum concludes. "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. But does he want to do that for the rest of his life? In the end, this is a simple story about someone trying to find his way. It's also a window into a world that most people never see, and I hope audiences get into the spirit of it and have some fun."
Image credit: Images feature Adam Rodriguez as Tito, Kevin Nash as Tarzan, Channing Tatum as Mike, Matt Bomer as Ken, Alex Pettyfer as Adam, Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, Cody Horn as Brooke, Gabriel Iglesias as Tobias and Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie.
Photography by Claudette Barius