In Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to the surprise worldwide hit Magic Mike, it’s been three years since Mike (Channing Tatum) bowed out of the stripper life. But after reuniting with the remaining Kings of Tampa – including Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) – who are headed to Myrtle Beach for one last blow-out performance at the annual stripper convention, he convinces them to learn some new moves and go out bigger and better than ever.
At the film’s press day, director/producer Greg Jacobs spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about why he wanted to be a part of telling this story, having worked with Steven Soderbergh for 24 years, his first cut being about 20 minutes longer, the handful of deleted scenes he’d like to include on the DVD/Blu-ray, the most challenging scene to shoot, and making the final dance sequence a celebration instead of a competition. He also talked about his Amazon TV series Red Oaks and how happy he is with Season 2 of The Knick, returning to Cinemax in October.
Collider: You’ve talked about how you haven’t directed a movie in awhile, but Channing Tatum has said that this movie wouldn’t have happened without you. So, how did you come to take over directing duties from Steven Soderbergh?
GREG JACOBS: After the first one came out and it did what it did, we started thinking about, “Hey, maybe we could do a second one.” This road trip idea was something that Channing had talked to us about when we were developing the first one, and we started thinking, “We should do the road trip movie with the guys.” At that point, Steven Soderbergh said that he didn’t want to direct it. Channing was really great. He was the one who said, “Look, I think it should be you.” And Steven, as well, said, “It’s gotta be you. You’ve directed before, you know the guys, and you have a relationship.” I had an idea of what I thought the story should be, and they were great. They rallied behind me. I hadn’t directed in awhile because there hadn’t been anything I really wanted to do. And I like being a producer. I like doing it all. I don’t have to direct. I like being a creative producer, too. But with this, I wanted to get to know the guys more. I knew there was another movie to be made, and I had a sense of what it could be. There’s a story about friendship in here that can be really interesting, that also involves a road trip. Thematically, there was something interesting about that to me. So, they were great. They were all really supportive of it.
That level of trust must have been so important with something like this.
JACOBS: Asking them to do what they do, yeah. I knew it would be fun. It makes me happy to hear that people think it’s fun because that was the intention.
The one complaint about the first movie was not enough dancing, and when there was dancing, only getting to see glimpses of some of the dance numbers.
JACOBS: And I think we realized that, too. But I think you needed the first one, in order to have this one. You needed a little bit of a sense of the darkness of that world, and then it helps you understand why he wanted to get out of it and move on. That’s how it came about.
What it like to have Steven Soderbergh as your D.P.? Is that really intimidating, or is it just really reassuring?
JACOBS: He and I have been working together for 24 years, since I was in my early 20s. I was his assistant director, and then I became his producer. He’s one of my best friends, so it’s great to have one of your best pals around and there with you. I was really thrilled that he wanted to do it. He let us go off and develop the movie and figure out what the story was going to be, and then came back into it, as a producer and cinematographer and editor. It was great. We’d shoot during the day, and then he and I would go edit at night. He was great, in that it was a role reversal from our normal. He was completely supportive of the vision, and of the tonal shift that the movie was going to take, and what we all felt it needed to be. I certainly didn’t want to make the same movie. It was going to be tricky enough to follow him, as a director, anyway, so I wanted to do something different, and he really supported that the direction we were going to go in was the right direction.
How long was your first cut of the film, compared to what we see now?
JACOBS: It was about 18 or 20 minutes longer.
Were there any storylines taken out, or was it just little bits of stuff that was removed?
JACOBS: There was no major storyline cut. It was more just character stuff, and pieces of scenes or scenes that were removed in their entirety.
Will that be stuff you put on the DVD/Blu-ray?
JACOBS: Yeah, there are a couple things I want to do, that I think we’re going to put on the DVD/Blu-ray. There are a couple of scenes that I think could be fun. There’s an extended tWitch dance, at Jada’s club, which I think is really cool. That dance he did is twice as long as what you see now. And then, there are a couple other scenes with the guys that are really funny and fun that, due to time, just couldn’t get in.
This movie would be challenging with the dance numbers alone, but you have so many big ensemble scenes. Was there one that was most challenging to do?
JACOBS: Because we made the movie for very little money, in Hollywood terms, and we shot it in 28 days, which is really fast, everything had to be really rehearsed beforehand. I had a week in the food truck with the guys, to figure out how we were going to do that. We did that all practically, on the road with the thing driving. And the dance sequences, I would see in different stages, to figure out how we were going to shoot them because, y the time we actually came to shoot them, we had to move really quickly. Funny enough, one of the hardest scenes to shoot was the scene in Andie MacDowell’s house, with all those people. Because there were so many people to shoot, I had to figure out how I was covering it, who I was on at what time, and which side of the room I was on. That was the only time I had to clear everybody off the site and scratch my head, thinking about how to do it with all the people in that scene, that were either talking or reacting. That whole sequence in her house was just a long, extended sequence of people talking in a stripper movie, so I had to keep it interesting, but it was all important character stuff that you wanted. So, from a pure directing standpoint, that sequence was the hardest one to do. With the dancing stuff, there’s a real math to that. As they move around, the math of it all becomes clear. I shot the dance sequences in order. I’d shoot the beginning of the dance and know where my cut point was, and cover it enough to protect myself, whereas the scene with 13 people in a room talking was actually the harder one.
Most movies that are working up to the big dance scene at the end are always about the final battle, but this was such a celebration. Was that the vibe you always wanted to achieve with that?
JACOBS: Two and a half or three years ago, when we started thinking about it, we were like, “Do we need a competition?” In my mind, there was no way that I was shooting a competition. I just didn’t want that. It felt like a different kind of movie. And then, it became clearer that we really didn’t need that. It was more of just that the theme didn’t require that. The idea of them coming up with these new dances was the win. Could they pull them off and the reveal of them was the win. And I just wanted to stay with our guys. I didn’t want to cut to the competing teams. From a pure point of view aspect, I felt like it just didn’t seem right.
What is your perspective on why a male stripper movie like Magic Mike can have this level of success and create its own franchise, where a female stripper movie like Showgirls gets made fun of? Is it the tone and the comedy of it that helps?
JACOBS: Yeah. Look, I don’t know why a movie works or doesn’t work. I wouldn’t even pretend to know that. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw. It’s always tricky to make anything an avid turn-out, having been on both sides of it. But, I think a lot of it is Channing and the guys’ humanity. Channing is such a movie star and he’s so relatable, and he genuinely is a great guy. I think who he is, as a person, really comes across, on screen. The movies didn’t pitch themselves so seriously, and there’s an element of being self-deprecating. Even though the guys look how they do, they’re very relatable, in a way. For me, and for us, I feel like we waned there to be a humanity, and to have this aspect of friendship and kindness to be something that came across. I don’t know. I hope that’s what makes it relatable. Even in the first one, the dancing is amazing, but especially in the first one, it’s really that Chan’s performance is so strong and so captivating.
Where do you go from here? Are you looking to direct again?
JACOBS: I don’t know yet, what I’m going to do. I’d love to direct, if it’s the right thing. But all aspects of it are interesting to me, whether I’m the producer, director or writer. I have a show that I wrote, called Red Oaks, that’s on Amazon now. David Gordon Green directed the pilot, and we have some really cool directors. Hal Hartley is doing an episode of it, and some other really interesting filmmakers. [Steven] Soderbergh is executive producer of it with me.
And you have The Knick coming back.
JACOBS: Yes, we have Season 2 of The Knick. Season 2 is really great. I’m so happy with how Season 2 turned out. I’m really, really, really happy. We had fun making it.
Magic Mike XXL is now in theaters.