LOS ANGELES — As a possible new measure of popular culture's deficit of shame, Channing Tatum of “Magic Mike” is being accused of stealing male stripper moves and character arcs by two of his old co-workers.
During a Saturday news conference at Los Angeles' Four Seasons Hotel, Tatum, 31, laughed about the accusations by Thomas “Awesome” Austin and London Steele, who knew Tatum during the actor's stint as a stripper in the late-1990s. Video of Tatum stripping surfaced three years ago, just as his movie career was stepping up from “Step Up” to “G.I. Joe.” But given that director Steven Soderbergh's “Magic Mike” is based loosely on Tatum's experiences as a clothing-optional dancer, the actor expected this new wave of pseudo-controversy.
“I was waiting for somebody to bring this up,” Tatum said. “Look, there's nothing that's factual in this whole movie other than I was an 18-year-old kid and went into this world and I dropped out of college, played football and was living on my sister's couch. There's not one character that I took from my real life. This is just the world that I went into and that I had a perspective on. We created everything from a fictional place.
“Those guys have been trying to make money off of me since I got into this business,” he said while sitting next to Soderbergh. “Literally, London was one of the guys that sold the video. Thank God that my friend here saw and liked it, and we made a movie from it. I don't want to say anything bad about them because they are part of the reason why I think their world is so interesting.”
That world was interesting enough to lure Soderbergh, who worked with Tatum and screenwriter Reid Carolin to craft the story of Magic Mike, a 30-year-old stripper in Tampa, Fla. who takes on directionless 19-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer) as his protégé. Thanks to Mike, Adam becomes a star in an all-male revue run by ringleader-manager Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), but the lifestyle moves quickly and in some unsavory directions, forcing Mike to re-evaluate whether his life of stripping at night, roofing during the day and feeding off dreams is going anywhere.
“Magic Mike” splits its time between daylight brushes with the reality and the garish fantasy of the characters' nights at Club Xquisite, an improvised club set up in a closed strip-mall restaurant. The actors, including Joe Manganiello of “True Blood” and professional wrestler Kevin “Diesel” Nash, dove into the cheesy routines. Tatum was the only player with any real dance experience.
“I was very nervous,” McConaughey said. “Before I had to go onstage to dance and in front everyone live, it was kind of nerve-wracking. And then having to strip down? Yeah, very nerve-wracking. But after I did it once, I kinda wanted to do it again.”
Soderbergh, a director whose recent willingness to step outside conventional filmmaking decisions include casting adult film actress Sasha Grey as the lead in 2009's “The Girlfriend Experience” and Mixed Martial Arts fighter Gina Carano in “Haywire,” voiced some joking embarrassment about these dance sequences.
“We have edited together the full-length versions of all the routines. They're, uh ... they're pretty disturbing,” Soderbergh said. “We sent them all to Sue Kroll at Warner Brothers, and she said, ‘I really like these a lot.' I just can't believe we're having a press conference for a stripper movie.”
But this “stripper movie” is not “The Channing Tatum Story,” Tatum said, nor is it “The London Steele Story,” no matter what his old comrades in spandex might say. Tatum took a stance of good-natured diplomacy in addressing Steele, whose predictably colorful online declarations seem timed for maximum exposure.
“They are very interesting, intriguing, bizarre characters, and I'm thankful for weird people out there, I guess,” Tatum said. “They are some of the most creative people. Watch his YouTube video — it is entertaining. ‘Whoo!'”
Travel and accommodations provided by Warner Bros.