One film journalist’s stream-of-consciousness cinematic journey through the pandemic, Part 117
By Laurence Lerman / New York City
In November, 2021, it was announced that there would be a third film in the Magic Mike series, with star Channing Tatum returning as the likable and ambitious nightclub stripper Mike Laine. Steven Soderbergh, who helmed the first film in the series, 2012’s Magic Mike, would also return to direct.
A year and change later, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is set to open wide on February 9 (right before Valentine’s Day, lovers!), and as the pre-release buzz builds, stories that popped up during the production are resurfacing. The most repeated one involved the difficulties of pulling off a production during those months, led by the trickiness of shooting a physically demanding film featuring sweaty, heavy-breathing, scantily-clad dancers during Covid. Also making some noise was the departure of co-star Thandiwe Newton in mid-production (for “personal reasons”) and being quickly replaced by Salma Hayek Pinault.
What’s most fascinating and much less discussed when it comes to Magic Mike is the surprising success of the first two films and how this latest and final film in the series (at least, at this point) came about.
Don’t get me wrong—I understand that hit movies always have the potential to generate long-lasting franchises. But Magic Mike is not a effects-filled sci-fier or comicbook conception or action juggernaut. Even with the first film grossing $167 million worldwide on a $7 million budget and Magic Mike XXL, directed by Gregory Jacobs, bringing in a healthy $117 million at a cost of $14 million, it doesn’t seem like the kind of sexy comedy-drama double-shot that would prompt a return dance.
According to director Soderbergh, Magic Mike’s Last Dance was not what he, co-producer/star Tatum or either of their teams had in mind at the outset. In fact, for at least a couple of years following the second film, Soderbergh was developing a Broadway-styled stage version of the story, just as Tatum, screenwriter Reid Carolin and their choreography team were developing their own! Months into development, Soderbergh saw a finished version of Tatum and Reid’s show in London and was convinced it could also play as a movie.
“I was so captivated by it that I got on the phone and said ‘I think we should abandon the Broadway idea, and I would like to make a movie that is a fictionalized version of how Mike comes up with the idea for the live show,” Soderbergh told the website Total Film earlier this month.
The Magic Mike Live show, meanwhile, opened in London in November, 2018 and is still playing there (following a Covid hiatus). It’s also yielded a production in Vegas and a touring roadshow.
As for the new film, Last Dance (the trailer of which feature’s Donna Summer’s 1978 hit) once again follows the adventures of Mike Lane, who is now bartending in a Florida after a bad business deal has emptied his bank account. There he meets Hayek’s sexily-monikered socialite Maxandra Mendoza (trying saying it lustily!), who offers him a chance to put on a Magic Mike-styled male revue in London.
Mikey and Maxy boogie across the pond and make it happen—while also checking out the city’s postcard-perfect sites and partaking in a romantic interlude or two, in the grand Hollywood tradition of the musically inclined when they set down in Europe. (Mamma Mia or An American in Paris, anyone?)
Distributor Warner Bros. Discovery's publicity department has been very tight-lipped when it comes to any plot specifics, but Soderbergh has confirmed that the movie will end with 30 minutes of straight dancing.
That’s right: 30 minutes, a half-hour of dancing.
“We have this dance number with Channing and Salma right up front. And then the last 30-plus minutes of the movie are just this giant dance sequence,” offered Soderbergh to Empire Magazine a couple of months back. “My job is, how do I make each one of these distinct? I can't shoot them all the same way, I have to come up with a different approach for each dance. And that was really the challenge.”
Channing Tatum appears to be having a good time in the run-up to what is sure to be a deluge of promotion for the film. (Get ready for him and Ms. Hayek to be doing the circuit of morning chat klatches and nighttime talk shows.) In his cover story in the February issue of Vanity Fair, Tatum has a lot of fun trumpeting his skills as an exotic dancer, a talent he developed during his well-known early days as a stripper in a Tampa, Fla. nightclub. His stint on the stage began when he was 18, a gig that he abandoned soon after to pursue a career in modeling and acting.
But it was that brief period in Tatum’s life and his confident interest in making a movie about it that sparked the attention of Soderbergh and original screenwriter Carolin and thus got the ball rolling. Both Tatum and Carolin served as producers on all three Magic Mike movies.
On the lighter side, when it came to his thoughts on who he could defeat in a “strip-off” against Hollywood’s other onscreen exotic dancers, Tatum proudly proclaimed he could hold his own.
“I would go harder, if I was stripping against her,” Tatum offered to Vanity Fair when asked how he thinks he would fare against Jennifer Lopez, who did the deed in 2019’s Hustlers. “I’m just saying, I’m gonna take it to J.Lo’s front door. I don’t know if I’m gonna win, but I like my chances, depending on who the audience is.”
Tatum had similar opinion of his Magic Mike co-star Joe Maganiello, though he was quick to acknowledge Joe’s formidable physique.
“When you look in the dictionary next to, like, the perfect specimen of a man, probably Joe Manganiello is one of the bodies that like pops up,” said Tatum. “He’s kind of weirdly flawless.”
“But as far as stripping goes, I would put myself, I would put myself above him dance-wise,” he added.
Like the dancer he once was and the one he’s portrayed onscreen for the past decade, Channing Tatum knows how to work it.
Laurence Lerman is a film journalist, former editor of Video Business--Variety's DVD trade publication--and husband to The Insider's own Gwen Cooper. Over the course of his career he has conducted one-on-one interviews with just about every major director working today, including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Walter Hill, Spike Lee, and Werner Herzog, among numerous others. Once James Cameron specifically requested an interview with Laurence by name, which his wife still likes to brag about. Most recently, he is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online review site DiscDish.com.