Channing Tatum is Hollywood's hottest new star, but he used to strip to pay the bills. His experiences have sparked Steven Soderbergh's upcoming film ''Magic Mike.'' Over drinks, Tatum and his magnetic costars — Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, and Joe Manganiello — talk about finding their characters and losing their pants

Channing Tatum digs in to a meal of pizza, steak salad, and spaghetti at a restaurant in New York’s West Village. ”This is the post-photo-shoot diet,” he says with a smile. (His drink of choice: a plastic cup of Jack Daniel’s that he brought from the shoot across the street.) The feast is a mini-reunion for Tatum and his Magic Mike costars Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, and Joe Manganiello, who settle into backslapping like old pals. ”Sorry, we’ll get around to actually answering questions in a minute,” says Tatum, 32. ”We’re just catching up.”

They cover a lot of ground — Johnny Cash, college football, celebrity chefs. It takes a while before anyone even brings up how Tatum’s career has changed since shooting wrapped on Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike last fall. The actor, who’s married to his Step Up costar Jenna Dewan-Tatum, has officially landed on the A list thanks to a pair of hits: the romantic drama The Vow, which opened to $41.2 million in February, and the March action comedy 21 Jump Street. Even McConaughey is impressed. ”The $41 Million Man,” he says, pointing at Tatum. ”I’ve never been that.” The praise rolls right off Tatum. ”You go at it just as hard on every film,” he says. ”Some of them work, and some of them don’t.”

Hoping to nudge Magic Mike (out June 29) into the former category, the guys want to make one thing very clear: Their movie is not a male Showgirls. Yes, it’s an R-rated story about a handsome kid (Alex Pettyfer) who gets recruited by a stripper (Tatum) to join an all-male revue comprising dancers with names like Dallas (McConaughey), Ken (Bomer), and Big D— Richie (Manganiello). And yes, it has some of the wildest, campiest stripping scenes ever seen in a studio film, making good use of body paint, rip-away policeman uniforms, and skimpy thongs. But Tatum, who worked as a stripper in his teens and pitched his story to Soderbergh, says the movie is less about naked ambition than about ”that feeling of ‘I had a plan, the plan went to s—, now I don’t know what to do.”’ Besides, unlike Showgirls, ”this movie is intentionally funny,” says Manganiello with a laugh. ”In one scene, I’m painted gold with a fig leaf over my d—, dry-humping 200 women.” And on that note…

EW Channing, this whole movie was your idea. How did the rest of you react when you got a call about playing a stripper?

Joe Manganiello I heard that Matt [Bomer] had also gotten the offer. We were drama school classmates at Carnegie Mellon, so I called him and I was like, ”Dude, are you going to do this male-stripper movie or what?” And then the next question was ”Are you seriously going to go waxing, too?”

Matt Bomer And my answers were yes, and yes.

EW They told you to wax for the movie?

Channing Tatum Yeah, you can’t be a hairy stripper.

Manganiello I have no [body] hair.

Tatum I actually don’t have any hair either, but I mean, you can’t really even have hair down there. [To Manganiello] Do you have hair down there? Or are you like a baby?

Manganiello I…you know…I…I adhere to proper grooming techniques.

Tatum You manscape?

[Manganiello nods.]

Matthew McConaughey You did? Before this movie?

Manganiello Yeah, man. I’m Sicilian and Armenian, okay? You gotta do something. [Laughs]

EW Channing, people are going to assume the movie is a kind of autobiography for you.

Tatum This isn’t a movie about my life. [The plot] has nothing to do with me other than that there’s an 18, 19-year-old kid coming into this world. That’s it. [But] I think the world is pretty damn accurate. Everything you see in the movie is stuff that I saw.

EW You play a veteran stripper who ropes a young kid into your act. Is that not how you really got started?

Tatum No. Actually, my buddy Adam and I both heard the same radio ad that was saying they were looking for dancers. We showed up the same night, auditioned, and got the job. And that’s how we originally wrote the movie. Eventually, it kind of morphed.

EW When that video of you stripping leaked online in 2009, it surprised a lot of people. Do you know how it got out?

Tatum The guy who owned my [club] taped one night and ended up selling the clip. I didn’t know they were taping it, but it wouldn’t have mattered. At that time, I didn’t think I was going to be an actor.

EW Hollywood seems to be okay with the fact that you used to be a stripper. Do you think the reaction would’ve been the same if you were a woman?

Tatum That’s a good question. I think it would depend on how good an actress I was. I think if it turned out that Meryl Streep used to be a stripper, nobody would care.

EW Did anyone try to tell any of you guys not to do a stripper movie?

Manganiello I was shooting [What to Expect When You’re Expecting] in Atlanta with Chris Rock when this script came in. And I was like, ”Should I do it?” And he’s like, ”Ooh…male strippers, I don’t know.” And I was like, ”If I do this movie, guys are going to hate my guts.” And Chris Rock is like, ”Motherf—er, guys are gonna hate your guts anyway. Brad Pitt spent 15 years with his shirt off, he’s doing just fine. Who’s directing?” And I go, ”Soderbergh.” And he goes, ”Who’s in it?” And I go, ”Channing, McConaughey…” He goes, ”Do the f—ing movie!” And I was like, ”All right!”

Tatum [To McConaughey] What did your mom think?

McConaughey Mom thought it was a hoot right off the bat. She was like, ”This one I gotta see!” I didn’t really seek anyone’s advice. This is one of the few times I’ve ever said yes to a part over the phone. It was [because of] who was talking to me. Soderbergh. He pitched this story and I was on two knees laughin’ my ass off.

Tatum I think Soderbergh really wanted your character to be kind of dark and kind of evil. There were a bunch of names being thrown around. Billy Bob Thornton came up, Clooney came up. But as soon as I said your name, everyone was just like, ”Yup! That’s it! Done.”

EW Matthew, a lot of photographers have probably sent their kids to college with the money they made selling photos of you shirtless at the beach. Were you worried about playing into that image?

McConaughey [Deadpans] This was a new challenge. I had to be pantless.

[Tatum chokes on his food laughing.]

Tatum I didn’t look at it like that till now.

McConaughey Look, I was running around with no shirt on long before anyone was taking pictures of me. And I’ll keep running around with no shirt on long after.

Manganiello You were the pioneer. The trailblazer for us to come behind.

McConaughey The movie just sounded fun. And it was something that was scary. For me, the character was a mix of Jim Morrison and Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

Manganiello In a thong.

McConaughey With the leathers on. [Laughs] Soderbergh said, ”It’s not in the script now, but it would be great if Dallas dances at the end.” And that’s a scary thing. You’re going to go up there and dance on screen, and you’re gonna be 40 feet tall for the rest of all time? Well, that was a scary proposition. And it was a big, fun part of saying yes to the role. Because I was like, if I’m in a stripping movie and I don’t try it, I’m gonna regret that.

EW The rest of you guys must have thought about that too — being almost naked on a movie screen for eternity.

Bomer The whole idea terrified me. That’s part of why I wanted to do it — not just to work with these great actors and Steven. It pushed the envelope and made my family go, ”What?” [Laughs]

Manganiello When I came in for a meeting with the casting director, she hadn’t seen True Blood. So she said, ”Are you going to be comfortable with partial nudity?” And I go, ”Have you seen my show? I’m the poster child for that.”… [Now] I have the footage that I want played at the Oscars’ ”In Memoriam” when I die: either the scene where I was painted gold, or the penis pump [scene].

EW You’re talking about that shot in the movie where we actually see a stripper putting his penis into some kind of pump, but we can’t see who it is? Are you saying it’s you?

Manganiello [Smiling] People are going to have to go to the theater to find out.

EW You all show a lot of skin in this movie. What did your significant others think of that?

Tatum My wife knew this was my life. She loves the movie. She’s like, ”That’s hilarious, that’s hot.”

McConaughey From the get-go, Camila was like, ”Go for it, baby!” She was on the set.

Bomer Simon was totally cool with it. He’s totally supportive of me as an artist. He’s like, ”Go do your thing, and let me know how it goes when you get back home.”

Manganiello I was single when I signed on, so it was more about ”How is this going to affect my dating life?”

EW And how has playing Big D—Richie affected your social life?

Manganiello I think there’s a lot of curiosity floating around about my character’s name. [Laughs]

EW What was it like dancing almost naked?

Manganiello There’s that moment where you come off the stage for the first time and you’re sitting alone backstage in your thong, sweating, basically coming out of a trance, thinking, ”What did I just do?” It’s like waking up out of a blackout covered in blood. You’re like, ”What just happened? Can I go to jail for this?”

Bomer I’ll definitely never forget the time Channing came up to me when I was doing [my routine] Dr. Love. And I was like, ”What should I do different?” And you were just like, ”Grind your junk in her face.” And I’m like, ”All right, I’m gonna do it!” And she started [getting intimate]. She would not just sit by and be passive. She was like, ”Oh, I’ll tango with you.”

Manganiello And apparently she went back to her table and turned to her girlfriend — it turned out she was a lesbian — and she says, ”My mother would be so proud of me right now!”

[Everyone bursts out laughing.]

Tatum [Tears in his eyes] Oh my God, bro.

McConaughey I did not know that.

EW You all clearly get along well. I imagine this movie was a good bonding experience.

Tatum Actors, generally, if we finish our scenes early one day, we go home. It wasn’t like that on this set. Especially during the dances — we were there cheering everybody on.

McConaughey Everybody was there.

Manganiello You didn’t want to miss anything. You didn’t want to miss the party.

Tatum And that is the stripper world. It is a camaraderie of guys doing wild stuff. You want everyone to succeed and bring down the house, and you get excited when they do.

EW Girls will see this movie. Gay guys will see this movie. Will straight guys?

Tatum I’m not going to be the guy who sits here and says, ”Yeah, they’re all totally gonna go see it!” I think I’m smarter than that. But I challenge them to go see it and not have a good time. It’s not some chick flick. We didn’t make it specifically for the gay community or the chick community…. This is supposed to be hilarious. And if guys don’t get that, they’re just insecure. Boogie Nights is one of my favorite movies of all time. Did I have a problem going in and seeing Marky Mark’s penis down to his knee? No. Not at all. I was like, ”That’s awesome. Good for you, buddy.” If you can’t get the joke, then you’re missing out.

McConaughey The challenge will be guys going the first weekend. Because I one-hundred-percent feel that any guys who see it are going to go, ”Aww, f— yeah!” But we need to get them there the first weekend.

Manganiello There is a lot of male wish fulfillment. What guy wouldn’t want to show up to work, drink their face off with a bunch of bros, have women scream and grope them and stuff money in their pants, and then repeat? You get up there and the women are crazy. I mean, there are husbands who are going to divorce their wives when they see what their wives were doing as extras on this movie. [Points at McConaughey] They ripped his thong off!

EW Really? Unscripted during a scene?

Manganiello We have it on film.

Tatum It was a collection of women being like, ”I have to tip him,” and then the weight of all the dollar bills in their hands just took it off.

EW What do you do when that happens? Do you just throw your hands up?

McConaughey You don’t throw your hands up. [Laughs] Actually, I stayed in sequence. I went for the tuck. [Mimes covering his manhood] I went for the roll. [Mimes doing a forward roll] And I finished the dance.

EW On film sets there are always makeup and costume people fussing over every inch of the actors. So I have to ask, was somebody on crotch duty when you guys were in thongs?

McConaughey Every man was in charge of his own c–k.

Bomer We were rarely even powdered on our face. Once we were out on set, we were pretty much left to our own devices.

McConaughey All that stuff you do to get ready before you go out, whether it was makeup, tanning, or getting your junk right, that’s what our characters really would’ve been doing before the show. [For us] the wall between what was behind the camera and what was in front of the camera became invisible. You never knew: ”Is [Soderbergh] shooting me while I’m back there getting ready?” So if he was, you had to be doing what your character would be doing anyway.

Bomer After the first day, I was like, ”I’m just going to pretend I’m in a documentary. Because I don’t know what’s going to get [filmed].”

Tatum What I love about Soderbergh is that he’s not trying to micromanage anything. He hires the best actors he can find and gives them full rein. If you show up and you haven’t done the [preparation], it’s over for you.

Bomer You’re toast.

Tatum You’re probably going to get cut out of the movie.

EW Did that make it hard to get out of character at the end of the day?

Bomer I was in my sister’s wedding right after we finished filming. And on the dance floor at the reception, I was like [starts doing a sexy dance move]. And I was like, ”Whoa! I’m not on the set of Magic Mike anymore. I can’t take it down low there like that at my sister’s wedding.” [Laughs] It took me a couple months to shake this movie off.

EW Did any of you keep souvenirs?

Bomer I kept the cat’s-eye necklace Ken wore. It’s just a reminder of a fun time.

Tatum Yeah, I kept everything. I definitely have all my thongs.

McConaughey I kept all of my wardrobe.

EW All of it? Do you think you’ll ever use any of it again?

McConaughey [Grinning] I already have.

They All Started Somewhere

Magic Mike is based on an early chapter in Channing Tatum’s life. We asked his costars if they had any pre-fame experiences that would make a great Soderbergh movie. Here’s what they had to say.

Joe Manganiello was once hired to dress up as Captain Morgan at Pittsburgh-area bars. ”They gave me this backpack filled with rum and said, ‘Go get everybody drunk.”’

”I worked on a [gas] pipeline. It was definitely blue-collar,” jokes Matt Bomer, who now stars on USA’s White Collar. ”Folks weren’t afraid to chew tobacco and smoke cigarettes at the same time.”

Matthew McConaughey says a script about his teenage sojourn in Australia is in the works. ”I showed up at Warnervale, population 305, and that was home for the year.”

21 Jump Street
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