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MAGIC MIKE

About The Production (Continued)
It's Raining Men!

While giving audiences a window into Mike's growing awareness, the film also puts them into the hot seat-front row center-as the Kings of Tampa storm the stage and Adam joins his newfound brothers-in-arms: six guys at the top of their game, representing a range of mancandy archetypes anyone will recognize, whether or not they've ever been to a strip club.

Joining Tatum and Pettyfer in the spotlight are Matt Bomer, starring as Ken, whose signature act is emerging from a toy box as every girl's perfect Ken Doll come to life; Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie, known for an act requiring no props apart from what he was born with; Kevin Nash as the wild man Tarzan, who swoops across the stage on a rope; and Adam Rodriguez as the suave Tito, who provides a Latin flavor to the show.

"All the guys were great and each one brought something specific. We wanted actors who could improv and be funny, not necessarily guys who could dance," says Soderbergh. As it turned out, aside from Tatum, none of the new recruits had that kind of dance experience but were all natural athletes who could draw on either stunt training or musical theater backgrounds, while Nash, portraying the veteran of the group, has more than 20 years of professional wrestling to his credit. Even so, nothing could fully prepare them for that moment when the pants fly off.

Rodriguez, who packed an intensive cardio-and-weights regimen into his "CSI: Miami" schedule to prepare, confides with a laugh, "My first thought upon reading the script was that it sounded like a good time. I could relate to the humor and the camaraderie. My next thought was, 'Damn, I'm out of shape. I have a lot of work to do!'"

"I knew if I took this part I'd have to go to places that weren't comfortable, but it's one of those jobs where you just have to check your inhibitions at the door and dive in," Bomer says. It helped that everyone else was in the same boat. Indeed, standing around in thongs and robes, discussing waxing and tanning techniques, was a great equalizer. As Soderbergh acknowledges, "There's nothing like shared potential humiliation to bond people, and they bonded quickly. They all came in to watch one another do their solo routines and lend support and they were so generous with each other-no competitiveness, no egos. Watching them go through those routines in front of 150 female extras and the entire film crew was awesome. They all jumped off that cliff."

Following each anxious debut, the actors found it got progressively easier until, as Manganiello notes, they actually started looking forward to the next opportunity. "Even after working on our routines for weeks, that first take is a shock. You're concentrating on the choreography, trying to hit your marks, and then when it's over you want to go right back out there again. The only thing I can compare it to is skydiving: as soon as it's over you want to do it again because you realize you missed the first three seconds. And those women were going crazy. We'd go home at night still buzzing from the energy off that crowd."

The extras, armed with stacks of singles and a mandate to go nuts, were invaluable in getting the actors pumped for their big numbers. Nash, who has performed to arena crowds, understands how vital that interaction can be. "With the whole group participation aspect of a show like this, I think there's a collective chemistry that happens. There's an instant adrenalin rush you get from a live audience."

To choreograph the shows, the filmmakers enlisted Alison Faulk of The Beat Freaks, who worked on "Magic Mike" between supervising choreography for Britney Spears' and Madonna's world tours. Faulk did her homework by going to lots of clubs and getting a feel not only for the dancing but for "what works with the audiences. What do they respond to? What do they like?"

"It's not just about the dance moves; it's about them looking sexy, feeling confident and creating a fantasy," she offers. "Each routine has a little romance behind it, a whole build-up. It's all in the tease. I think women know it's supposed to be fun and a little cheesy."

Starting the cast with basic moves like body rolls and hip circles, then graduating to staging and spacing, she ultimately prepared them for a series of comic skits tailored to each of their characters, as well as several group numbers, including the rousing crowd-pleaser "It's Raining Men." The goal was to make them look sharp and put on an exciting show, but not be so highly polished as to make it unrealistic.

Pettyfer, admittedly the least practiced dancer of the bunch, cites how his relative inexperience helped define the character: "I was initially very shy and didn't want to move. But Alison came up with these great routines with only a few steps. It ended up being character building in that Adam thinks he's a better dancer than he really is, but it's his freshness and his willingness to give the audience what they want that works for him."

Adam's make-or-break moment, when he is unexpectedly thrown onto the stage to the opening beats of Madonna's "Like a Virgin," was more true to life than audiences would expect. "That was the one scene we purposely didn't block," says Pettyfer. "They didn't even tell me the song they were going to play. They just said go out there and do it. After those first few moments, taking off my hoodie and feeling the crowd reacting, I thought, "This is pretty cool.'"

Following his auspicious intro, the Kid later returns to the boards more confidently decked out as a boxer and then a cowboy. Matt Bomer's additional personas include not only the Ken Doll but a white-coated Dr. Love; Joe Manganiello does a silhouette dance as a suited businessman and also nails the ever-popular fireman routine, as well as a golden statue that springs to life; and Adam Rodriguez introduces a sly merengue in a Havana Nights routine and later appears in Navy whites as an officer and not-so-gentlemanly gentleman.

The most demanding and acrobatic sequences fell to Tatum, including a show-stopping performance that has him spinning fast on a hand loop and executing a standing back-flip off the stage, a stunt he'd always loved. "It's doesn't matter exactly what you're doing out there if you're having fun," he states.

Proving that point, Matthew McConaughey threw his leather vest into the ring too, despite the fact that he'd never danced on stage before and even though, in the original script, Dallas didn't perform. McConaughey recounts with characteristic good humor, "I couldn't be in this movie and not at least give it a shot. C'mon, I had to try it. If I never got out there and danced in a thong I would surely regret it." He proved remarkably adept and creative in helping to develop his routine, and Dallas's surprise solo late in the film truly defines the striptease mindset by capitalizing on an hour of will-he-or-won't-he speculation. Am I Magic Mike right now, talking to you? I'm not my lifestyle.

As much as Mike instinctively saw potential in the Kid, he sees something else in the Kid's sister, Brooke, who starts to take up more of the time he spends away from the club and its regulars. Unlike the women he's used to meeting, Brooke is strong, sharp, capable...and clearly interested, though not falling for him so easily. Most intriguing to him, Tatum suggests, "She doesn't just roll over and say, 'Gee, Mike, you're awesome, you're such a great dancer.' She challenges him. She wants to know who he really is."

Mor

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