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Steven Soderbergh & The Cast Of 'Magic Mike' Talk "Disturbing" Dance Sequences, Objectifying Men, Trusting The Thong & More

The Playlist By Todd Gilchrist | The Playlist June 27, 2012 at 11:01AM

At the recent Los Angeles press day for “Magic Mike,” which tells the story of a successful stripper who takes a newcomer under his wing, there were a lot of questions about thongs – certainly more than are usually asked at a press conference. But with director Steven Soderbergh at the helm of the film and the center of the panel of contributors who brought it to life, much more was ultimately discussed than just where the cast purchased their undergarments, and how they chose the ones that they felt best represented their characters’ personalities.
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Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
So much of the film plays without dialogue, maybe just some music tracking over a scene. Is there an additional push the actors need to do to capture a scene in relative silence?
Soderbergh: Well, one of the things that people forget, I think, even a lot of people that make movies forget is that, in my mind, a movie should work with the sound off. You should be able to watch a movie without the sound and understand what's going on. That's your job, to build a series of chronological images that tell the story. I'm frustrated when I see movies in which I feel like the plot is being told to me instead of shown to me. I also like to stage scenes in which you see a lot of people in the frame at once. So, physicality becomes a really important part of that aesthetic. I need actors who understand how to use their bodies because the shot is going to be up there for a while. You're going to see them, if not full length, probably down to the thigh. So, all of that stuff becomes really important. Sometimes I'm choreographing moves with the camera with moves that they're doing. So, they're sense of having to dance a little bit with the camera needs to be pretty pronounced. In this case, everybody, I think, fell into that very quickly and understood what I was trying to do.

Was there any sense of competition among the dancers when you were performing on stage?
Tatum: Steven was very competitive, yeah. Steven got up there and he gave it all, he gave it all up.

McConaughey: Let me say this on the competition side. We all got to see Channing dance for the first time so it was obvious. We were like, 'Okay, the best I can do is get second place.”

Joe Manganiello: A very, very distant, distant second place. Chan is in a dancing movie. We're in a dry humping movie.

Alex Pettyfer, Channing Tatum, Magic Mike
How many hours did each of you spend in the gym, dieting and working on the choreography?
Soderbergh: I can only tell you that these guys were so disciplined. They ate like rabbits -- it was lettuce with, like, lemon juice on it. It was nothing. Really, honestly, I've worked on movies with a lot of women who look great and take care of themselves. I've never seen this kind of diligence. Look, maybe it was just fear, but also, I didn't sense any competition because I think the fear of doing it bonded you guys really quickly. They're all sort of jumping out of the plane together. As soon as I saw the routines for the first time I knew we were going to be fine, because they were funny. Like, Joe, was saying, they were fun. They weren't dirty. They were fun.

Tatum: It really was that thing where – I've said this before, but I'll say it again – most movies, when you're done with your scene you go home. You go home, you’re like, "That’s it. I'm good. I'm going to go home for the day." 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 high fived them and told them what really worked, and you’re just like, "You murdered that." It really became a weird team, in a way, like a very weird, strange team. I want to do strip competitions, guys. Can we do that? Can we enter some competitions, strip offs?

Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
On some level this is a movie about entertainers caught between art and commerce. How do each of you deal with that theme, and Steven, how deliberate was that theme and how much would you like the audience to think about that?
Soderbergh: I wanted to make sure that there were a lot of conversations in the movie about money and work because I feel like for most people these are issues that dominate their lives, especially lately. So, we were always looking for ways to sort of bring that conversation into the film. The most obvious example, obviously, is when Chan goes to the bank to try and get a loan, but I think this issue of what you're willing to do to be paid is interesting. At a certain point, when Mike starts to feel that what he's doing is undervalued and he has to make a decision about whether he can accept that, I think everyone in this room has been in a situation where they have felt a certain point undervalued and has to make a decision about how they’re going to express that or whether they're going to express it. So, I think it's a very relatable issue.

Bomer: Are you asking how we straddle the line between art and commerce? I think you work on the roles that draw you in and the stories that you want to tell, and if you're lucky enough to get to work with a director like Steven, all the better, but I think this was one of those movies that I felt was kind of the best of both worlds.

Manganiello: I think we all signed on to this one coming from the independent spirit. This was filmed as this little indie movie expose and I think we all signed on to work with who we got to work with, on the script that we got to work on, in the world that we got to work in. We're sitting here now, and I mean, the big shock to me was when all the studio executives were coming to filming everyday. I went, 'Wait a minute, this little tiny art house movie…wait, everyone is going to see what I just did to that girl?' Then we all came in with this great spirit and I think the fact that it's snowballed into what's snowballed into is exactly what you hope for. I mean, that's it. You work on this project to make the artists happy and you wind up, hopefully, making the bill payer happy, too.

This article is related to: Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh, Channing Tatum, Matthew Bomer, Matthew McConaughey, Reid Carolin, Joe Manganiello


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