LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh's new movie "Magic Mike," inspired by actor Channing Tatum's real-life experiences as a teenager, takes the wraps off the world of male stripping and humanizes it through a chain of relationships.
Opening in the United States on Friday, the film features 32-year-old Tatum, Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer. Tatum plays Mike, who juggles several jobs by day and dances by night at Club Xquisite. Mike falls for Brooke (Cody Horn), sister of a 19-year-old nicknamed "the Kid" (Pettyfer) whom he recruits to work at the club. Mike, who charms women in his audiences, can't work his magic on Brooke because she doesn't like his lifestyle.
Soderbergh sat down with Reuters to talk about the movie, wardrobe malfunctions on the set and how 'Magic Mike' may have some commonality with erotica novel, "Fifty Shades of Grey."
Q: What made you decide that male stripping could be a viable idea for a film?
A: "As Channing described it to me, it felt like a really good movie idea. I'm always on the lookout for a world that I haven't seen before or been immersed in. So this was definitely that. It seemed ready-made."
Q: You worked with Channing on last year's action film "Haywire" and just finished working with him on "The Bitter Pill." What do you like about him?
A: "He really impressed me on 'Haywire.' He had good ideas and gave a great performance. I liked his attitude. He seemed like he had his act together and was smart about the business. During that experience we started talking about 'Magic Mike.' It felt like a no-brainer to hitch my wagon to the Channing Tatum train because I felt like he knows what he's doing. And it may not be any more complicated than I like the guy."
Q: Did you personally dive into the male stripper world in order to prepare for the shoot?
A: "In this case, no. Channing was my filter for all of that in terms of what's real and what's accurate. I did watch a lot of video and there's some very out of control stuff."
Q: Like what?
A: "Some of the routines devolve into some very explicit sexual activity involving women. All you can think is, 'Are they not aware that there are camera phones all over the place and this is going to be posted?' It was shocking to see how much mob mentality takes over the brain for them not to be aware that somebody is going to see this stuff."
Q: Was there much mob mentality with the female extras during the performance scenes?
A: "They went right into it. For scenes like that, you have to give them a document that says there's going to be material of sexual content and if you're uncomfortable with that, then you shouldn't be here. They didn't have a problem with that. They even tried to rip Matthew's (McConaughey) thong off!"
A: "You see it in the movie. His thong is drooping down. Matthew grabs himself and does a roll because he was trying to get away when a woman snapped his thong and was trying to tear it off his body. I told him, 'You were pushing it.' He went right out into the sea of women, and I can't blame them for crossing the line. And I had no desire to control them!"
Q: "Fifty Shades of Grey" is all the rage now and has become a pop cultural reference. Do you think "Magic Mike" taps into that same audience?
A: "It certainly helps, there's no question. 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is about female fantasy - what are these fantasies like? How powerful are they? Do women want them to come true? So this whole conversation has started. There is no question that we've landed at a moment in which that's in the air."
Q: "Magic Mike" calls to mind the 1977 film "Saturday Night Fever" in some ways. Did you rewatch that film before shooting?
A: "I did. I hadn't seen it in a long time. What was interesting is when we were screening our movie and doing tests, some people had an issue with the fact that it becomes a little dark because of things the Kid has gotten in to. People were bothered by that.
"John Travolta does things in 'Saturday Night Fever' that you wouldn't get away with today. He uses racist language. He drives a car around knowing a girl is being gang banged in the back seat. So when people were making these comments, I was thinking, my movie is not that dark. Nobody gets killed."
(This story was refiled to add dropped word in third question)
(Reporting By Zorianna Kit; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)