Steven Soderbergh Talks MAGIC MIKE, Hazardous Stripping Conditions, “Disturbing” Full-Length Dance Numbers on the DVD and More

     June 26, 2012


Magic Mike tells the story of an entrepreneur named Mike (Channing Tatum), who is a man of many talents and seemingly endless charm.  When he’s not roofing houses, detailing cars and designing his own furniture, he’s headlining an all-male revue in Tampa.  He sees potential in a 19-year-old co-worker who he calls the Kid (Alex Pettyfer) and takes him under his wing to teach him how to make easy money while taking full advantage of the lifestyle, but quickly realizes that he’s really looking for something more in his own life.  For more on the film, here’s twelve clips.

At the film’s press day, Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh talked about the celebratory feel that comes from women at male strip shows, how some of the women got a little too over-zealous during filming (especially with Matthew McConaughey), how weird it was to direct his cast while they were wearing nothing but a thong, the aesthetic of the film, the process of preparation, choosing the actors’ thongs, and that there are full-length versions of the dance numbers edited together that could make it to the DVD.  Check out what he said after the jump.

Director STEVEN SODERBERGH and CHANNING TATUM Magic MikeQuestion: When you were shooting this, was there something you felt that enabled this kind of celebratory feel that comes from women at male strip shows?

STEVEN SODERBERGH:  I just can’t believe we’re having a press conference for a stripper movie.  It’s really hard to be serious.  I think there might have been a concern for men who have to see the film, and that the movie was so driven toward the female audience that there would be nothing in it for them to latch onto.  Of course, I knew that that wasn’t what I wanted to do.  In point of fact, some of the issues that the male characters are going through are issues that all men confront.  Men tend to define themselves by what they do.  If you’re dealing with the characters, trying to figure that out, then there’s something there for guys, too.  When we tested the film, the female scores were not significantly bigger than the male scores.  Guys liked it.  The trick is getting them to come.  We’ll see what happens.

Did any of the women get a little too over-zealous?

SODERBERGH:  Somebody tore the string of Matthew McConaughey’s thong and, to get out of that situation, Matthew did a tuck and roll because of that.  But, he was daring them to do something.

MATTHEW-McCONAUGHEY-magic-mikeHow weird was it to shoot the scenes in your club with all of your male cast in thongs?

SODERBERGH: One of the appeals of it to me was that, if everybody is dressed like that, every conversation is funny.  There’s just no wrong answer.  Anybody who starts having a serious conversation while they’re wearing a thong, it’s going to be funny.  When Channing first got into it, his mantra was, “It’s only weird, if you make it weird.”  So, that was the attitude that everybody took.  It doesn’t have to be weird, if you don’t want it to be weird.

So much of this film plays without dialogue and instead makes use of a lot of music.  How did that aesthetic happen?

SODERBERGH:  A lot of people that make movies forget that 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.  Your job is 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 being 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 ‘cause the shot is going to be up there for awhile and 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.  Their sense of having to dance a little bit with the camera needs to be pretty pronounced.  In this case, everybody fell into that very quickly and understood what I was trying to do.

Magic-Mike-image CHANNING TATUMWhat was the process of preparation like for this?

SODERBERGH:  I can tell you that this cast was so disciplined.  They ate like rabbits.  It was lettuce with lemon juice on it.  Honestly, I’ve worked on movies with a lot of women who look great and take care of themselves, but I’ve never seen this kind of diligence.  Maybe it was just fear.  But, I didn’t sense any competition because the fear of doing it bonded them really quickly.  They were all 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.  They weren’t dirty, they were fun.

Did you have a process for choosing the thongs for each character?

SODERBERGH:  As you can imagine, it was a very personal process.  I know what I like, so it didn’t take long, at all.  When you go in the thong shop, you do have to make decisions about which ones you’re going to pick, but it’s pretty easy to eliminate 99% of what’s hanging on these racks ‘cause they’re just silly or ugly.  I think we were trying to find this balance.  There’s a very dark version of this movie to be made, but at the end of the day, we wanted this to be fun.  Whether it was the costumes or the routines or just the way that people were interacting with each other, we wanted to find this line where you were smiling, as opposed to being disgusted.  We were constantly surfing that.

CHANNING TATUM and MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY magic mike imageThis is a movie about entertainers caught in the struggle between art and commerce.  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.  We were always looking for ways to bring that conversation into the film.  The most obvious example is when Chan goes to the bank to try to get a loan.  I think this issue of what you’re willing to do to be paid is interesting.  At a certain point, Mike starts to feel that what he’s doing is undervalued and he has to make a decision about whether he can accept that, and I think everybody has been in a situation where they have felt undervalued, at a certain point, and they have to make a decision about how they’re going to express that or whether they’re going to express it.  I think it’s a very relatable issue.

There are a lot of dance montages in the movie.  Will the full numbers be on the DVD?

SODERBERGH:  We have edited together the full-length versions of all the routines.  Honestly, they’re that pretty disturbing!  We sent them all to Sue Kroll at Warner Bros. and she said, “I really like these a lot!”  I think it’s not for men.  It made me really uncomfortable to watch them.  We did 10 or 12, and to watch them all, back-to-back, was really disturbing.


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