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LOS ANGELES - Yes, as I sit down to do my interviews for "Magic Mike," I notice Matthew McConaughey has a bundle of $1 bills on his chair. Why? I'm not entirely sure. My guess is that it's a fun bit both McConaughey and Tatum have been having with the national press rotating through their TV room on this Friday afternoon. But, as entertaining as Steven Soderbergh's latest film is, I have no intention of spending my short time with the gents waxing about, er, male waxing, picking the right thongs and what their favorite stripping number was.*
*I can't say I won't go down that road with their co-stars Adam Rodriguez and Matt Boomer in a future interview, however.
One of the most shocking, non-shocking things about "Magic Mike" is that it's a Steven Soderbergh movie. Y'know, the Academy Award winning filmmaker who directed "Traffic," "Che," "Solaris," "The Limey," "Out of Sight" and "Erin Brokovich"? Sure, Soderbergh's dropped the serious act and had fun in the "Ocean's Eleven" series, "The Informant!" and, more recently, with "Haywire," but he's not going to make a movie about male strippers in the vein of "Striptease" or "Coyote Ugly." And, trust me, this is a very good thing. Somehow, every moviegoer has been sold on Warner Bros. smart, sexy marketing campaign which has made the film the biggest girl's night out since the first "Sex and the City."
As you can see in the video embedded above, our conversation started with something of a first - McConaughey asked me if I was gay or straight. Honestly, I wasn't offended. Considering how few male interviewers were at the press day it was a legitimate question and he wanted it in context of my opinion of the film. I then shared that a younger gay friend of mine who attended the screening loved it, but precisely for everything but the male stripping.
Tatum noted, "It was the same with my straight friends, 'I forgot it was a stripper movie.' By the end they were like, 'Right, I completely forgot that that was happening in the movie' because it's done in a Soderbergh way. He's too stylish to fall down the pitfalls of pandering in that way."
And that tied into the question I was most curious about: Would either of them made this movie without a director of Soderbergh's caliber attached? Tatum, who saw the cinematic potential in this years ago, make it clear he couldn't have made a B-movie version of this story.
"I have to be honest, I told this [movie idea] to Nicolas Winding Refn ["Drive"]," Tatum reveals. "There was a quick second when he was like 'I want to do this' because we were going to do another movie together, but that movie kind of fell apart. So, we were constantly always trying to figure out if he was going to be available for it and then I did 'Haywire' and Soderbergh was like, 'I am down for this.'"
The question seemed to stump McConaughey though. After thinking about if for a few seconds he noted, "Sometimes you get material where you're like. I can fly and take this guy and take care of this man and it doesn't matter what the director does. The fact that Soderbergh called in 10 min and I said 'yes'? I mean, I've said yes on the phone twice in my life."
Who was the other director?
"Richard Linklater," McConaughey says. "But I have that relationship with him because I worked with him three times. Because it could go all wrong. You can work with people and they go, 'Yeah, yeah, you're doing that' and then you go see the film and [that's clearly not the case]."
The conversation ended with both actors reflecting on how they are each at memorable points in their careers. Tatum is coming off the back-to-back successes of "The Vow" and "21 Jump Street." McConaughey just returned from Cannes where he earned rave reviews for Jeff Nichols' "Mud" and starred in the buzzworthy "The Paperboy" (he's also very excited about the release of "Killer Joe," by the way). You can hear both actors wax on their current successes in the interview embedded above.
So, no, there are no funny stories about body grooming, tanning, tight underwear or overly rambunctious extras in our discussion. But, if you want to hear two gutsy and underappreciated actors reflect on trying to make something different and unexpected, this interview and "Magic Mike" are for you.
"Magic Mike" opens nationwide Friday.