10 Tantalizing Facts About ‘Magic Mike’

Channing Tatum takes center stage in 'Magic Mike' (2012).
Channing Tatum takes center stage in 'Magic Mike' (2012). / Claudette Barius - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The shimmering torsos of the Club Xquisite dancers from Magic Mike (2012) might be indelibly burned into your consciousness, but how well do you really know the movie? Steven Soderbergh’s dance dramedy—which sold tickets, burnished careers, and elevated male stripping to an art form—was originally released 10 years ago, on June 29, 2012. With a third installment, Magic Mike's Last Dance, coming soon, it’s time to dig a little deeper into the surprise hit of the summer of 2012.

1. The movie was conceived at a hot dog restaurant and written in just a few weeks.

Cody Horn and Channing Tatum in 'Magic Mike' (2012).
Cody Horn and Channing Tatum in 'Magic Mike' (2012). / Claudette Barius - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Channing Tatum’s short-lived stripping career was far behind him by the time he met Steven Soderbergh on the set of 2011's Haywire. Tatum casually mentioned the possibility of a drama based on his days as a dancer in Tampa, then thought nothing more of the conversation. So when the acclaimed director cited the male-stripping story as a potential new project at a press junket the following year, Tatum had to get back in touch. While dining at Carney’s, a famous Sunset Strip hot dog spot, Soderbergh agreed to direct the film if Tatum and his producing partner, Reid Carolin, could provide a script before the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.

Speaking to Grantland in 2015, Carolin recalled that after he had mined every stripping anecdote from Tatum, the script was outlined and drafted in less than a month.

2. The movie was a gamble—but it paid off.

Studios were reluctant to invest in Magic Mike, a film with untested subject matter and a leading man who wasn’t quite a bankable star. To circumvent traditional financing, Soderbergh talked Tatum into splitting the relatively modest $7 million budget—a move which almost bankrupted Tatum, but subtracted some of the risk for studios, which would only have to distribute the film, according to The New Yorker. This was on the proviso that Soderbergh and Tatum would recoup their investment on the back end. It was a stunning gamble, but one that Forbes reported netted both of them a very generous payday of about $60 million apiece.

3. It could have been much darker.

It seems unthinkable that anyone but Soderbergh could helm the offbeat ensemble piece set in sepia-fevered Florida, but the Ocean's Eleven director was not Tatum’s first choice to tell his story. According to IndieWire, Nicolas Winding Refn was approached as early as 2010, when the Step Up star worked with the Danish director during pre-production for the Paul Schrader-penned Dying of the Light. After initial interest, Refn turned down the job to direct the ultra-violent neon thrillers Drive and Only God Forgives, hardly a laidback good-time vibe.

4. It contains a subtle homage to the New Hollywood era of the 1970s.

Soderbergh channeled classic 1970s movies like Shampoo and Saturday Night Fever while shooting Magic Mike. He wanted to evoke what he described as the “beautiful, shaggy quality” of that era of Hollywood cinema, drawing tonally from greats like Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Being There). Soderbergh telegraphed his intentions in the pre-credit sequence with his use of the Saul Bass-designed red, black, and white Warner Bros. logo, which was familiar to '70s moviegoers. For Soderbergh, this evocation of a certain time and place would inform audiences that they were about to see something unlike anything else in cinemas at that moment. 

5. All dances were performed by the cast.

While Tatum was the most experienced dancer on set, the rest of the ensemble were eager to learn. As BlackTree TV found out by talking to Joe Manganiello and Matthew Bomer, over the course of several weeks of pre-production, the stars undertook a rigorous dance bootcamp, headed up by famous Hollywood choreographer Alison Faulk, who had previously designed routines for Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez. The results speak for themselves; the myriad dance moves and stripping scenes were wholly performed by the main cast, who quickly mastered staple stripping moves like the body roll, hip grind, and turnaround booty shake. 

6. The cast "ate like rabbits."

A high level of discipline was required from the actors throughout pre-production to get their bodies adequately shredded. As Matthew McConaughey explained in a Moviefone interview, it came down to a mixture of cardio and, more importantly, diet. While appearing on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Tatum shared that preparation for the Magic Mike films meant starvation and rigid nutritional strictures, with even salt being out of the question. In an interview with Collider, Soderbergh said that the cast "ate like rabbits. It was lettuce with lemon juice on it ... I’ve never seen this kind of diligence. Maybe it was just fear. But, I didn’t sense any competition because the fear of doing it bonded them really quickly. They were all jumping out of the plane together. As soon as I saw the routines for the first time, I knew we were going to be fine because they were funny. They weren’t dirty, they were fun."

7. The extras were fired up.

Many women extras were required to fill out the audience during the Xquisite club scenes, some of whom got very into their roles. At a cast roundtable, the actors traded stories about their excitable faux audience. McConaughey shared that during his character Dallas’s final solo dance, while wearing nothing other than a thin G-string, he descended the Xquisite runway and was met with dollar bills, $5 bills, and a flurry of hands. McConaughey recalled feeling a pop on one side of the thong mid-dance and seeing an extra attempting to lodge the garment loose. McConaughey, the consummate professional, finished the dance using one hand to protect his dignity, and the other to roll on out of there—a shot that made the final cut of the film.

8. No stunt penises were used.

Joe Manganiello in 'Magic Mike' (2012).
Joe Manganiello in 'Magic Mike' (2012). / Glen Wilson - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

When Big Dick Richie (Manganiello) administered a penis pump to, ahem, prepare to take the stage, Manganiello admitted to MTV that the appendage seen in the foreground of the scene in the Xquisite backroom is not a fake or a body double’s. Tatum remembers Manganiello being so meticulously Method that he was almost “blacking out” from constantly using the pump. When he was asked whether or not the device did its job, Manganiello was clear: "Oh ... it works!”

9. Magic Mike marked a turning point in the McConnaisance.

Magic Mike: Oscar winner was never likely to happen. Still, critics were so taken with the film’s complex portrayal of male stripping that awards speculation hummed away, especially around McConaughey. Hot from supporting roles in well regarded yet underseen indie darlings like Richard Linklater's Bernie, William Friedkin's Killer Joe, and Jeff Nichols's Mud, McConaughey was propelled back to the mainstream with his depiction of lascivious strip club owner Dallas, a role that cemented the McConnaisance as a traceable cultural trend. The ultimately unfulfilled Oscar momentum he accumulated for Magic Mike would culminate in a Best Actor statue for Dallas Buyers Club one year later, at the peak of the actor's revival. 

10. It should have been one of Soderbergh’s last films.

Steven Soderbergh, Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum and Steven Soderbergh / Rick Diamond/GettyImages

Soderbergh wanted out of Hollywood. As early as 2009, the Oscar-winning director had been flirting with retirement. Before he’d even signed on to direct Magic Mike, the threats became more concrete. In 2013, the director told Vulture that he was “at the end of this version of [himself]” and if relieving that state meant “annihilating everything that came before and starting from scratch,” he’d do it. Despite the success of what were supposed to be his final two films, Magic Mike and Side Effects (which also starred Tatum), the director hung it up in 2013 and left filmmaking to work on television and painting. It didn’t take. Three years later, following his work on the TV show The Knick and directing on Broadway, Soderbergh returned to movie directing with Logan Lucky, which again reunited him with Tatum.