15 Surprising Secrets About Step Up Revealed

Fifteen years and a million lifetimes ago, Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan met on the set of little film called Step Up, which went on to spawn five sequels, a TV series and one marriage.

By Tierney Bricker Aug 11, 2021 1:00 PMTags
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15 years ago, Channing Tatum danced his way into our hearts and never left.

Can you believe Step Up was released August 11, 2006 and is almost old enough to get its learner's permit? Starring Tatum and Jenna Dewan, the dance flick told the story of disadvantaged street dancer Tyler and privileged modern ballerina Nora, who unexpectedly find themselves paired together for a showcase that could determine their futures. Obviously, sparks fly. 

While notable choreographer Anne Fletcher had never directed a movie before and its budget was just $12 million, Step Up became a surprise hit, grossing $115 million worldwide and going on to become a successful franchise with some five sequels and one enduring TV series.

But ultimately, Step Up was a love story, both on screen and off, with its two leads falling for each other on-set and becoming one of Hollywood's most beloved couples before their 2018 split. Sigh, at least we'll always have that lift in the final dance scene. 

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Channing Tatum's Best Roles

In honor of Step Up's 15th anniversary, we're revealing 15 secrets about the film, including how Tatum and Dewan were cast, why they held off on pursuing a relationship and the surprising reason Tatum never takes his shirt off in the movie...

1. The movie's original title was Music High.

2. Anne Fletcher made her directorial debut with Step Up, previously working as a choreographer on films such as Boogie Nights and Hairspray. Aside from Tyler's movements in the film, which were done by Jamal Sims, Fletcher choreographed all the dance routines.

"I got to go back to my roots—ballet, tap, modern, jazz," Fletcher told Cosmopolitan in 2016. "Everything I grew up learning in a school environment. I didn't actually go to one of those fancy dance schools, that wasn't something we could afford, but my mom still got me to classes."

3. The cast went through four weeks of intense dance training before production began to learn the choreography and the various styles of dance showcased in the movie, including ballet and hip-hop. 

4. Finding a leading man who can dance, but wasn't formally trained, and could also act was one of the production team's earliest challenges. Fortunately, there was a young actor named Channing Tatum who read the script and identified with the character so much that he asked his agent to get him an audition.

"The immediate response to that was, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure.' You hear that stuff all the time," Fletcher told Cosmopolitan. "But we took the meeting, and when we met with him, he started doing some arm hip-hop choreography, literally at the table, and at that moment, I was like, 'We're done. We've found our guy.' We had no idea if he could act. But he was super handsome, super charming, and he could dance. He'd trained himself, so it was messy and sloppy and of the street. He was perfect. Thank God he came out of nowhere. Literally, thank God." 

5. Jenna Dewan worked as a backup dancer for Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott and Kelly Clarkson before landing her first acting role as determined ballerina Nora in Step Up

6. Still, her casting was far from an easy process. "Finding Jenna for the part was the hardest thing—I thought that would've been the easiest!" Fletcher admitted to Cosmo, explaining that the issue was a lot of the actresses who auditioned couldn't learn the choreography. 

"I wanted the girl to do all of her own dancing," she continued. "I was worried I'd have to compromise that. But then Miss Jenna walked in and danced exactly the way I would've wanted her to dance. It was like a dream come true."

7. While their chemistry was "instantaneous," Fletcher revealed Tatum and Dewan waited until after filming ended to start dating. (Check out their flirtatious audition tape here.)

"They were very professional. They didn't act on it. They did absolutely nothing. They were there to get a job done," Fletcher told Cosmo. "I never said anything to them, they just chose on their own to get the movie done first. They took it very seriously. Once the movie was over—go for it! It was such a wonderful and romantic courting period, even though they didn't act on it. It was very sweet."

8. But the pair didn't exactly hide their feelings for one another onset, with one of their co-stars telling E! News he wasn't shocked that Tatum and Dewan ended up dating.

"From them meeting, they were just so good together," Josh Henderson, who played Nora's boyfriend Brett, said in 2017. "They had so much fun together and there's no surprise. I saw it coming."

9. Nearly a decade after getting married, Tatum and Dewan, who share daughter Everly, 8, announced their split in April 2018, finalizing their divorce the following year.

"We started out as friends and I would say it was an instant recognition," Dewan told Vegas Magazine in 2018.  "When we met, it felt like we had known each other for many years...ultimately, no matter what Chan and I are doing, we're really great friends. I think that will never change, no matter what."

10. While there was a push from the studio for Tatum to appear shirtless in the movie, Fletcher declined their request. 

"I was like, 'You're not going to take your shirt off. You're just not. I'm not going to exploit you in that way. I think you have so much more to offer than your abs, so we'll keep you in a tank top!'" she explained to Cosmo. "He's still my baby. It was asked for Channing to take his shirt off in some of the scenes, but I was just like, 'I can't. I can't.' I was trying to honor, as much as I could, this character who's a real-life guy from Baltimore, in a real situation. We can put him in a tank top and get the same effect."

11. One thing Fletcher wasn't able to control, however, was Tatum doing a toe-flip in the movie's big dance number, with the director expressing concern over her star breaking his neck.

"But Jamal and Channing just went off and did it," she said. "And one time, Channing fell. I'm at the back of the stage, doing something, and I hear the loudest crash. And I just froze, thinking, 'Great, he's lying there right now with a broken neck.' But he knew how to fall. His abilities coming into the project were completely his own."

12. Though her part was initially supposed to be a young Black boy, Alyson Stoner was cast as Tyler's foster sister Camille after working with producer Adam Shankman on Cheaper By the Dozen 2 and infamously showing off her dancing skills in Missy Elliott's "Work It" music video in 2002.  

"[I] had no idea what it was, didn't meet Channing until I showed up to set," Stoner told Cosmo in 2016. "It was almost like a fun, spontaneous favor instead of this professional-sounding gig. Anne Fletcher, the director, was like, "'All right, do whatever you feel like doing here, you're great as you are.'" We didn't even have a strict script on our scenes."

13. But the onscreen foster siblings formed a close bond offscreen, with Tatum and Stoner hanging out at ESPN Zone and playing basketball after her first day on set.

"He told my mom after we wrapped that he'd babysit if we ever needed," Stoner recalled. "So one night he took me to basketball practice and watched from the bleachers, and I swear the whole school about had heart attack...he could've showed up and been on his phone and done it just to have the reputation, but he really is genuinely present with people. He's cheering for me on the sidelines."

14. Stoner would go on to reprise her role in two more films in the franchise, which contains six movies overall and a TV show. Tatum returned to make a small appearance in 2008's Step Up 2: The Streets.

15. Fletcher makes a cameo in the movie as one of Nora's dance teachers, while director of photography Michael Seresin briefly appears as the janitor who hands Tatum a mop and bucket. 

Step Up is streaming on Disney+.

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