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.
During a conference at the film’s press day, returning co-stars Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Adam Rodriguez and Kevin Nash were joined by Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Donald Glover, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Andie MacDowell to talk about their most special memories from the shoot, why it was so important for them to showcase such a deep bromance between these characters, why this is such a great date movie, performing and shooting for the huge final dance sequence, and mishaps on set.
Question: What is your most special memory or anecdote from this shoot?
ANDIE MacDOWELL: Well, we were shooting nights, and they had been shooting for quite awhile when I came in. I was terrified, but pretending that I wasn’t. And I came in acting in the role of this crazy woman, and I think that Amber Heard felt that that really was who I was.
AMBER HEARD: I learned yesterday that she actually wasn’t a crazy person. I thought Andie was out of her mind, but as a testament to how great she is. This movie is funny because the energy between everybody is palpable, both in the room and on set, and you can also see it on the screen. There’s a strange truth represented in the characters, and I’ve picked up on everyone’s personality coming through, in amazing ways, despite the fact that we’re acting and it’s scripted.
JADA PINKETT-SMITH: During rehearsal time, I got to get a special lap dance from Matt [Bomer]. I think I got set up because I just wanted to watch his rehearsal. I found out how well he sings, and I was like, “Oh, I want to stay. Gregory, is it okay if I stay? I just want to see Matt.” And they were like, “Yeah, come over here and sit in this chair.” So I was sitting there, and he came up and he started his routine. He came over to me, and we had a little special moment. It was awesome.
JOE MANGANIELLO: Yeah, that was a set-up.
STEPHEN “tWitch” BOSS: It was just an incredible time. I think the culmination of it all was always that, no matter how many incredible, bad-ass performance situations were going on, you knew there was a moment that you would have to stand there in nothing. It was in that moment that it all came together. You feel good. You’re dancing. We were doing the mirror routing, and this and that. And then, when you have to stand there with your ass cheeks in the wind, that’s when you look around the room and catch eye contact with everybody, and you say, “This is what we’re here for. This is it.”
ADAM RODRIGUEZ: It’s really hard to pick just one moment, of course, because the whole ride, from start to finish, was one of the most fun times I’ve had in my life, never mind in just my career. But I can’t get Michael Strahan out of my head. Michael Strahan, in baby oil from head to toe and a tight pair of gold shorts. He’s a Hall of Fame NFL player, jumping six feet in the air over a woman on a table that he’s massaging. I can’t get that image out of my head.
CHANNING TATUM: I see him in my sleep sometimes. I worry that he’s going to come for me in the night, and just be like, “You did this to me!”
MATT BOMER: One of the fun things about doing a road trip movie is that every day was a new adventure. We never stayed in one place too long. One day, we were at Rome’s club and I was seeing Donald [Glover] freestyle. Then, you’re getting to dance with Jada [Pinkett-Smith]. And then, you’re with a bunch of drag queens. It was all a new adventure. But for me in particular, seeing the mini-mart scene with Joe [Manganiello], who I’ve known since we were 18, was seeing the culmination of all those years just come to fruition, in that moment. It was so mind-blowing and epic. I literally stood behind the camera, just wanting popcorn, or really any carbohydrate to eat, with my jaw on the ground, just thanking God.
DONALD GLOVER: We were in Savannah, so there was a lot of very unhealthy, but delicious food that we could not have. The first thing that happened when we were on set was that everybody was like, “Don’t eat that protein bar. This is the good one. You can’t have the same greens two days in a row. That’s crazy!” On the first day, there was a silver thong in my dressing room, and I was like, “This is it. This is the moment.” I put it on and did my scene. I went all day and I got back and realized that no one ever saw it. They were like, “This is a solidarity thong.” That was a big moment. I was like, “Wow, I’m really in this movie!”
MANGANIELLO: I’ve known Matt since he was 18. We did come up through drama school together, doing Chekhov, Shakespeare, Ibsen, and all of that. And now, we’re at this moment in our careers where, in scene one for take one it was like, “Joe, you’re going to get naked and cannonball Channing into a pool.” That education really paid off. Matt is such a humble guy, and I feel like sometimes I’m Matt’s agent, letting people know that he can sing. We were on Part 1 and we were filming in Tampa, and Matt and I went out to this karaoke bar. I dared Matt to sing Jon Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory.” He sang it so well and so hard, and nailed every note, which is really, really difficult. A lot of people crash on the rocks of Bon Jovi songs in karaoke bars, all over the world. And Matt killed it so bad that he got a free bottle of water afterward. I remember coming back the next day and talking to Channing, or whoever, and I was like, “You’ve got to get Matt to sing. You’ve got to make Matt sing.” So, I’m so happy that the world will now know, or at least the audience who hasn’t seen him sing on Glee is now going to know that he killed that D’Angelo song, which is not an easy target.
KEVIN NASH: When I got the call that we were going to do the second one, being the only guy in the dance crew that was currently reading the AARP magazine, and staying in touch with everybody and getting a chance to read Joe’s book and seeing the shape that he was in, I was going, “Oh, geez, here we go again.” Even though we had the experience of the first one, I think everybody, at some point in their life, has that dream where they’re at school or they’re at a function, and they’re naked. The great thing about signing up for this, a second time, is that you get to not only have that dream, but actually live it. You know it’s coming, and it doesn’t make it any different than it was the first time. It had been a couple years, and a couple years on my body. It was like, “I’m not an alcoholic, but I might be.”
Let’s just say that the California vineyards will not go out of business, as long as I’m alive. When I did my prep for this, I was doing your diet, cutting carbs out and processed food. I just kept waiting and thinking, “This will be the last bottle of wine I drink.” We were nine weeks out, and I was like, “Okay, this is the last bottle of wine.” Then, when we got to Savannah, I purposefully went to Whole Foods and got two really good bottles of wine. I set them on the counter and said to myself, “I’m really going to see if I’m an alcoholic or not. Anybody can go to jail and not drink. But, if you’ve got the bottles in the cell with you and you don’t drink them, you’re all right.” So, if nothing else, I realized that I just like the taste of wine. I don’t have a drinking problem.
TATUM: I don’t know what I’m going to say after that. I can look around to all of these lovely and talented people up here, and just thank them. This is a crazy movie, and this is a crazy part of my life. Now, I can always look around, through the years, and say, “Hey, remember that time when we all got naked together?” We have that, and I just want to thank them all for being in the film. I love you, all. And I’d like to quickly thank Greg [Jacobs] because this movie wouldn’t be made without him. There’s no one else that we could have done the film with, really. Steven [Soderbergh] had sort of retired, and the torch wasn’t going anywhere until Greg picked it up. So thank you, man, and you killed this movie.
The movie says a lot about male friendship and there are some great moments between you guys. Why was that important for you to show?
RODRIGUEZ: I think that’s just a natural byproduct of how we all felt about each other. You got a glimpse of it in the first movie, and it was probably part of why there was a story there to be had, for a second one. If you get a group of people in a room and let them play and get a chance to get to know each other, sometimes magic just comes out of that. And that’s what happened on the first movie. We all made friends that we’ll have for the rest of our lives. Through blowing each other up, as Channing says, there was a whole lot of gold to be mined there. That came through, in the movie, very naturally. It’s the skin that get you into the movie, and it’s the humanity of these characters and their friendships that you actually end up falling in love with.
MANGANIELLO: I think you have to give a lot of credit to Greg [Jacobs]. I know that, early on, Greg said, “We’re going to get to the end of this movie and people are going to have tears in their eyes when we say goodbye to these guys.” I was like, “We’re making a male stripper movie and people are going to be crying?!” But, I put it in the back of my head and just kept it in mind. And sure enough, when we got towards the end, our last day was really hard. It was hard to say goodbye to my friends. I think the ending was smart, too. They changed the ending. There was a different ending written that was more definitive. I think that to go out in this Diner-esque way, where you don’t know what’s going to happen on Monday morning with these guys, but you care about them and you’re rooting for them, that’s really just a tribute to Greg and the heart that he brought, as a director, to this project. It’s such a perfection direction and evolution from the first movie.
TATUM: That last scene was the last scene that we actually shot for the movie. It was the last day, last thing up, so it was pretty nostalgic.
For all of the bromance in this movie, there’s obviously a component that’s there as eye candy for women. How do you feel about being the ladies’ movie among all of the guys’ movies, this summer?
TATUM: We’re going to get all the guys, trust me.
MacDOWELL: First of all, there are a lot of really sexy, hot women in this movie. Also, I think it’s a great date movie because the guys are going to go with their ladies and be inspired. Hopefully, they have it all set up at home with their costume because the tone is already set. I was slightly embarrassed when I went to see the movie with my manager and a bunch of strangers because I found it a little arousing. I think the best thing to do is to take a woman to go see this, and have some plans because it’s already warmed up. Guys can go watch things explode, or . . .
TATUM: . . . or they can go create their own explosions. July 1st is now National Give Your Partner a Lap Dance Day.
Who gets the credit for bringing in Jada Pinkett-Smith for this?
TATUM: The Gods. The Goddesses. And she came in and really created that character. We were just a bunch of dudes trying to figure it out. Basically, we just wrote placeholders for all the female parts, and then wanted to cast the women and have them tell us how they wanted to do it because they’re brilliant and amazing creators, in their own right. They really all killed it. We wanted to give her the pages [at the last minute], so she couldn’t quit and she’d feel really guilty, if she didn’t like them.
Jada, did you practice any of your lines with Big Willy?
PINKETT-SMITH: Any of my lines from this movie?! Oh, no, that won’t work on him. Mama has to use a whole different technique with Big Daddy! I’ll leave that there.
Channing, how did this sequel ultimately happen? Was it after opening weekend for the first one, or did it take awhile?
TATUM: People have to go to the first one to really even merit making a second one. We couldn’t have had any idea that the first one was going to do what it did. That’s why we made it for so little money. We were just making a little independent movie. And then, we won the lottery with it, somehow. After that, the only thing we knew that was left on the table, creatively, was the convention and a few other stories that I don’t even know if they actually made it in. And we knew Matt [Bomer] was going to sing. That was about it. The rest of it, we had to start filling in. Greg really took the lead on that.
How long did you guys have to practice the choreography before you started shooting the dance performances?
TATUM: We had a big CGI budget, and that’s actually tWitch with my face on his body. We had a good amount of time on this one. I don’t know exactly the amount of days, but everybody showed up. Everybody came and everybody was like, “We’re doing it, this time.” I think it was a little bit of an oversight on the first one that we couldn’t fit all of the dance routines in the movie. So, we designed the way that we filmed the dancing a little bit better, so we could show them all. After you see one person go on stage and take their clothes off, the next one gets a little less interesting because they all end the same. As far as the dance goes, I just wanted to blow it out of the box. The first one was tethered to reality, and the real world male revues are not all that interesting. They kind of suck, to be honest. I was like “If we’re gonna do another one, let’s just go. I don’t want them ever to be able to do a fireman routine on any stage, ever, ever again.” I think all these guys brought their own thing to it. It was cool. It was fun to craft what they were really interested in doing.
How did you choose the everyday women who got to be there for the dance numbers?
TATUM: They were wildly well-behaved. In the first film, they ripped Matthew McConaughey’s thong off of his body, and that was not even a hundred of them. I thought that a thousand women was going to be uncontrollable almost. But everybody was just really, really well behaved. I wish I had an anecdote that was really crazy. We just loved that they were there. I think they were just really enjoying it. We didn’t rehearse on stage, so they didn’t get to see what was coming. They got to see it for the first time, every time. With the way we shot it, we piecemealed it out. We didn’t do the whole thing all at once. We just had fun, and we had fun with them.
Amber, what was it like to shoot that number, at the end?
HEARD: I wish I could take credit [for my reactions], like it’s my skill. When I first talked to Channing on the phone about this, he was so apologetic. His voice was very cautionary and polite. He was like, “Would you be okay with a lap dance?” I said, “So, I’m not taking my top off?” “No, no, no, you don’t strip. We’re strippers.” “So, I don’t do any stripping?” “No, no, no.” “So, I’m just sitting there?” “Well, yeah, you’re kind of sitting there.” A lot of the interaction was genuine. I couldn’t stop laughing. I laughed the entire time. When I wasn’t scared to death, it was fun. It was all in good fun.
TATUM: I think we filmed her reaction, the first time we showed her what the dance was gonna be, with the choreographer. We have it somewhere.
HEARD: And that was the polite, half-speed version of that dance. I didn’t see it for real until I was in hair and make-up with a thousand screaming extras surrounding us.
BOSS: That was actually the first time that I met [her]. We were going through the routine, and there’s a part where she leans over the chair. I was standing behind her, and it was slow enough for me to be like, “Hey, I’m tWitch.”
What was the vibe like on set, between takes and scenes?
TATUM: The reason to do the second one was really that you wouldn’t even have to write anything. You could just turn the cameras on. I know a lot of people say, “Oh, we just loved each other! We really liked hanging out!” I don’t know. I haven’t been on a movie where people would show up on their days off to watch and support their friends. That doesn’t happen on other movies. It just doesn’t. And ultimately, that’s what happened every day, on this thing.
Did you have any mishaps with any of the dance performances?
MANGANIELLO: Yes, on take one of my finale routine, which we rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed, my dance partner did something unrehearsed, and the result was me hearing a loud rip and a pop. It was my bicep. We want into the back and we had our karate tournament Miyagi moment. Normally when a bicep snaps, it rolls up into your shoulder, and the arm turns black and caves in, but that didn’t happen, so I thought it was a dislocated bone in my arm.
BOMER: Only if you’re Joe Manganiello, do your biceps have biceps.
TATUM: They’re so well trained, that they’re like, “I’ve got you, sir!”
MANGANIELLO: The masseuse was trying to work what we thought was a bone, back into my arm. And Channing said, “You know, I can move my routine up and do it today.” I just thought, “There’s no way. I’m not gonna make it tomorrow. Tomorrow, my arm’s not going to be able to move. If we can go, we’ve gotta go now.”
TATUM: It was right out of Rocky. I was like, “Dude, I’ll go on!” And he was like, “No, I’ve got it! Just pop it back in! Just go! I can do it!”
MANGANIELLO: I came back out and, for the next four and a half hours, I did the routine, which involves this sex swing with these monkey bars on top that I had to run and jump on top of. My brain wouldn’t allow me to visualize landing on it because it knew that it would try to stop me, but we made it through. Sofia [Vergara] was there, that day. We got back to my trailer and, as soon as the door closed, she said, “If I see you at the fucking gym tomorrow, we’re done! I’m going to leave you! That’s it!”
TATUM: And he hasn’t been in a gym since.
MANGANIELLO: I don’t even think about gyms.
This film is a wonderful homage to women because the guys love women and the women are very strong, intelligent and beautiful. What did you guys learn, through the process of making these two films, about what women want in a man?
GLOVER: I remember I wondered if doing a freestyle rap would be smooth to a girl. But at the end of the day, after asking friends whether it was cool, I found out that everybody just wants it to be a conversation. One thing my dad said to me while I was doing this was, “You either want to be right, or you want to be happy. To be happy, there’s gotta be a conversation.” And that’s everything that happens in the film. We’re dancing together. It’s not like I’m telling you, or you’re telling me. It’s always something that’s going back and forth. We were all having fun, and it was really cool. There was one scene where I was dancing with a girl and her dress came up, and I was like, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” And she was like, “No, that was awesome! Keep going!” We’re friends. We still hang out and I talk to her, all the time.
TATUM: I’m friends with every one of those girls, too. They come over and hang out with the fam.
Magic Mike XXL opens in theaters on July 1st.