Stripping Down the Steamiest Secrets of Magic Mike

It's been 10 years since Channing Tatum and the rest of Tampa's most glistening strippers gyrated into pop culture infamy in Magic Mike—and here's the naked truth about how the movie got made.

By Natalie Finn Jun 29, 2022 4:00 PMTags
Watch: George Clooney Newest Stripper Joining "Magic Mike 3"?

It seems as if it was just yesterday that a red-thong-clad Channing Tatum was steaming up our screens.

But it's actually been 10 years since the release of Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh's slick (literally, due to all the oil) tale about the titular charismatic stripper who dreams of opening his own business and takes an aimless college dropout under his wing.

Of course, even the bromantic plot was a distant second to the eye candy, moviegoers not exactly flocking to theaters in 2012 to see the title character's custom furniture. (Surely if this film was made now Mike would just have an Etsy store.) Rather, Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez and Kevin Nash offered their bodies up for cult-classic posterity in a twist on the usual male gaze trope and made it rain, raking in $168 million on a $7 million budget.

Watching those fellows bare almost all caused "a kaleidoscope of emotions," Cody Horn, who played Pettyfer's sister and Tatum's love interest, joked to E! News back in 2012. While her character, Brooke, was supposed to look visibly put off by her brother's new profession while unavoidably intrigued by Tatum's skills, she admitted, "If it was me up there, I would've been like, 'Ah, look at this unbelievable guy.'"

Stars Playing Strippers

The screaming ladies on hand to enjoy the "C--k-Rocking Kings of Tampa" had no such inhibitions.

"Based on our experiences dancing with the extras," Bomer told E!, "these girls were not afraid to cross boundaries, to cross lines, to touch you in special places."

Manganiello agreed, recalling in a studio featurette, "They went wild, man. At one point they ripped McConaughey's thong off." (Subsequently, improvisational crotch-cupping by the future Oscar winner was required.)

Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

By popular demand, Magic Mike has since spawned an XXL sequel and an HBO reality competition, plus Tatum has confirmed that they're going to make Mike's journey a trilogy. But you never forget your first dance.

So in honor of the all-beef original's 10th anniversary, we've got your behind-the-scenes secrets right here:

Been There, Done That

Magic Mike was famously inspired by Channing Tatum's own brief stint working as a stripper before his acting career took off. When he told Steven Soderbergh about his past, the director—who first worked with Tatum on 2011's Haywire—thought it would make for an amazing movie.  

So the pair sat down over hot dogs—"Which is hilarious, 'cause it was a hot dog," Tatum quipped in a studio featurette—and decided to dive right in.

Screenwriter Reid Carolin said Tatum's life "was a jumping-off point" but otherwise the story was purely fictional.

In the Flesh

While it was no secret to Step Up fans that Tatum was a seriously skilled dancer, his character Mike Lane does some high-flying tricks on stage, prompting the question of whether a double was employed for at least some of his moves. But the answer was no, choreographer Alison Faulk assuring in the studio featurette that "every flip and twist" was the actor himself. "There's no doubling of anything, ever," she said. "It's him."

Co-star Matt Bomer was certainly impressed. "It defies the laws of physics that someone his size can move the way he does," he said of the 6-foot-tall Tatum, "and with the sense of rhythm that he has, it's really confounding."

Or as Joe Manganiello told E! News, "Channing Tatum is a dancer. We are dry-humpers."

Feels Like the First Time

Indeed, aside from Tatum, none of the film's stars had any dancing experience (or at least nothing resembling what they were called upon to do). So, Faulk held a three-week boot camp to teach them the basics, such as body rolls and hip isolation, as well as "just knowing how to take your clothes off to make it look sexy," she said, before they moved on to more complicated routines.

Alex Pettyfer, who plays newbie Adam—aka "The Kid" on stage—told E! News in 2012 that his character's first awkward dance (to "Like a Virgin," naturally) was also his first time performing on a stage in front of a live audience, in this case dozens of rowdy women. "I'd always been able to hide behind a camera," the British actor said. "And all the reactions you get are genuinely the same reactions you see in the movie...It's a really nerve-wracking experience. It's the biggest adrenaline rush, by the way, it's like a drug, that's I guess why these guys do it day in and day out."

Hot Spots

The exterior shots of Xquisite, the Tampa club where the fellas ply their trade, were filmed outside Wilson's Bar in St. Petersburg, Fla., while Platinum Live—a since-closed nightspot in Studio City, Calif.—was used for the interior.

Some Pig

We couldn't help but be completely distracted by Herman, the tiny pet pig toted around by party-girl-of-few-words Nora, played by Riley Keough.

According to Humane Hollywood, which keeps track of animal appearances in movies, the porcine scene-stealer responded to hand and verbal cues and puppy pens were placed around the set to keep him safe and away from any hazardous objects.

And for his big scene, when Mike and Brooke find Herman licking up Adam's vomit, that was a mixture of rice cereal and piglet formula.

Odd Man Out

While most of the stars were going on about how all the uninhibited dancing and walking around in thongs created a certain camaraderie on set, Pettyfer said that he wasn't feeling the brotherly love.

According to the actor, Tatum—who also served as a producer—was wary about casting him in the first place "because he looked upon me as a risk, and rightfully so," the Beastly star said in 2015 on Bret Easton Ellis' B.E.E. podcast. Pettyfer pointed to his "very negative past relating to the things that I had done on movies and promotion of movies."

So lest he risk rocking the boat, Pettyfer hardly talked to anyone at all. "I actually did my work and I sat in the corner and listened to music," he recalled, "because I had been told that anything I do is wrong by reps...I was very insecure as a human being and that also gave me a bad rep because they said, 'Oh, Alex thinks he's f---ing better than everyone else because he doesn't speak to anyone,' and that's not true. I was just genuinely nervous and scared to be myself."

The bad blood boiled over a few months after they wrapped when Pettyfer and then-fiancée Keough rented a New York apartment that belonged to friends of Tatum, but then moved out after only four months. According to Pettyfer, his allergies were flaring up due to alleged dust and mold in the unit.

Afterward, he continued, he got a "very negative" email from Tatum saying, "'Don't f--k my friends. You owe money. Pay the f--king money. Don't be a clown.'"

At the same time, Pettyfer said, his cousin had just died and he took Tatum "the wrong way, which I shouldn't have, and emailed him back saying, 'I'm in a negative headspace, can you respect me for a moment, and blah blah blah.' And I just got hounded through this time of grieving for money, and by the end of it I just basically said, 'F--k them. What is money when life is so much more? I'm not dealing with this and I'm not paying.' And I should have just paid."

This remains a one-sided story, as Tatum has never said a public word about it.

"I was never difficult," Pettyfer reflected to Variety in 2018. "I was always on time and knew my lines. But I think it's the aura you put out in the world that people can sense. I probably did not have the appreciation I should have had for the position that I was in."

If You Say So

Bomer said he didn't remember any issue between Tatum and Pettyfer at all, though he admittedly may have been distracted by the never-ending task of keeping his junk bottled up in his G-string.

"Channing is one of the most fun people I've ever worked with," the White Collar star said in 2017 on Watch What Happens Live. "He set a great tone. They both came to work on time, did great work, and there was never any undercurrent of tension that I witnessed."

"I was a little nervous about what I was wearing at the time," Bomer added, "so maybe I wasn't noticing these undercurrents."

Bomer put on a reported 15 pounds of muscle to play dancer Ken, and shed many years' worth of angst.

"I, like most human beings, have issues with my body," he said with a laugh in the studio featurette. "I was raised in a very conservative home. The idea of celebrating your body in that way was very foreign to me, so I knew I was going to have to dig down deep if I was going to pull it off and go to some places that weren't comfortable. And I think that's what you have to do as an artist every now and then."

Least Surprising Improvisation Ever

It was Matthew McConaughey's idea to have club owner Dallas play the bongos. (And they're the actor's own bongos, too.)

"Well, I'm introducing this guy, played by Kevin Nash, a WWF wrestler, and he's Tarzan, he's one of my guys and he plays Tarzan," the actor explained to the San Francisco Chronicle, "so it's a jungle theme that he comes out to. So I said, 'I wanna get the djembes and really make a jungle beat and call him out.' Now it's a pretty good scene but it probably won't be as well remembered as my October-1999, get-arrested-for-playing-the-congas-in-the-birthday-suit scene." 

He didn't originally mean to poke fun at himself like that, but he leaned into it once he realized it was all anyone was thinking about. "Funny how that was my most public session," he quipped to Backstage of his naked-bongos arrest, "even though I was all alone. But my thought was that Dallas had to give these guys entrances and exits, I have to be this host with sounds and lights and music. It was never. 'Oh, that would be funny for me to do that in a movie.' What I said was. 'That is what Dallas would do.' Five steps later, I thought, 'Oh, guess what? Because of that incident, it makes this even funnier.'" 

McConaughey's all-in performance certainly wowed his co-stars, Tatum telling E! News in 2012, "I didn't think anybody could come in and beat what we wrote on the page, and boy were we wrong. On the first day, he was doing stuff we couldn't even imagine."

Cinema Vérité

Soderbergh, a Best Director Oscar winner for 2000's Traffic (the same year he was also nominated for Erin Brockovich), hearkened back to his early Sex, Lies, and Videotape-style of indie filmmaking for Magic Mike, which dance numbers aside has a very laid-back, real-dudes-talking sort of flow to it.

Talking to E! News in 2012, Tatum compared Soderbergh's approach to documentary filmmaking, saying he "has a point of view and then he opens the playing field up for everybody to come in and go nuts."

"You sort of just talk all the time on set," the actor explained, "and then next thing you know there's a camera setting up over there and he's going [thumbs up], 'Good job, just keep it going.' You go as you go, and you make it as you go."

Cut Out for This Line of Work

Thinking about the diet and exercise involved, Tatum almost didn't agree to a third film (which, currently titled Magic Mike's Last Dance, is said to be in pre-production).

"It's hard to look like that, even if you do work out, to be that kind of in shape is not natural," he said on The Kelly Clarkson Show in February. "That's not even healthy. You have to starve yourself. I don't think when you're that lean, it's actually healthy. I don't know how people who work a 9-to-5 actually stay in shape because it's my full-time job, and I can barely do it."

And even worse, he added, "Why, when it takes like, I don't know, two months to get really lean, in three days you can lose it? It's gone. I was like, 'What happened?'"