True Blood star Joe Manganiello never thought he’d be making a documentary about male strippers. But after his turn as the firefighter-suit-clad dancer Big Dick Richie in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, he found himself wanting to know more about the club scene.
“I had zero interest in male stripping prior to Magic Mike. As a straight male, I had a lot of misperceptions about the industry,” Manganiello tells EW. “I had a really good friend who once mumbled under his breath that he’d been a male dancer in the 90s. I just let that one go, I didn’t pry at all, I didn’t want to know anything. But when I got the offer from Steven to do Magic Mike, he was my first phone call. When I sat down with him, the stories that he told were nothing of what I expected, and really just mind-blowing. It was sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. It was the rock star lifestyle.”
Following Magic Mike, Manganiello and his brother Nick, who’s also his producing partner, decided to shoot some footage at Dallas male strip club La Bare and created a sizzle reel for what they thought was going to be a reality TV show. But urged by Soderbergh to tell a deeper story about the iconic Dallas dance club, they turned it into a documentary, La Bare, which premieres at the Slamdance Festival in Park City, Utah this week.
“People would walk out of Magic Mike saying ‘I loved it but I wish there was more of the guys. I wish I knew more about them, where they live, who they go out with, what their lives are like.’ So I knew there was a lot left on the table,” Manganiello says of his inspiration for the documentary, which he funded with his own money.
For a taste of the film and the dancers Manganiello met in Dallas, check out the exclusive trailer premiere for La Bare, below.
But the film isn’t all focused on the fun side of the industry. Just weeks before filming, a tragic shooting of a performer named Angelo changed the overall story of La Bare to one that showed a darker side of the strip club world. “The tragedy was fresh. Some of the guys had trouble talking about it,” Manganiello says. “But when we came back months later they came around and opened up about the shooting on camera. We realized there was going to be a tonal shift.”
La Bare premieres at Slamdance on Sunday, Jan. 19. And yes, Manganiello says, the club’s famed performers will be in Park City in attendance. “We’re going to have a blast. I’m going to be rolling 10 to 16 deep with our posse of La Bare dancers!”