Three years after Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello reduced even the most discriminating filmgoers to quivering lumps of hormones in Warner Bros.’ hit “Magic Mike,” the Kings of Tampa are back on the bigscreen in “Magic Mike XXL,” buffed and bronzed and gunning to perform their striptease swansong in the adult entertainment mecca of Myrtle Beach.
Thursday night’s premiere, held at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre, was a predictable mix of ogling fans – male and female – and comely celebrities, featuring a dizzying array, even by Hollywood standards, of eye candy on the red carpet, including Tatum, Bomer and Manganiello, all back to reprise their roles.
A gaggle of male strippers warmed up the press line, gyrating to thumping dance-club music that reverberated throughout Hollywood Boulevard, a routine rife with bare-midriffs, acrobatics and twerking galore. (The strippers continued their act at the premiere’s outdoor after-party, dancing with tipsy guests.)
But lest anyone dismiss the “Magic Mike” brand as a sensationalist ploy to exploit the male form — “There are so many new moves,” gushed lead choreographer Alison Faulk, “and we can’t say all the names — they are so dirty”— Tatum, with dancer-actress wife Jenna Dewan on his arm, asserted that “training for the film was really, really tough.”
Also on hand were cast members Elizabeth Banks, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith and Andie MacDowell.
“It’s really a beautiful art — pole dancing,” said Pinkett Smith. “I think men and women need to see this movie to just see that we can, as men and women, share sexually charged spaces together and respect one another at the same time.”
Reid Carolin, screenwriter and producing partner of Tatum’s, himself dreamy-looking enough to model J. Crew’s fall line (because clearly everybody involved with the film, even the behind-the-scenes crew, is cut from marble), further pointed out the elements of artistry and athleticism critical to the film’s success.
“In one shade you look at (stripping) as this sort of sex industry, but it’s also one degree away from being Broadway,” said Carolin. “A lot of these guys were people who have these dreams and aspirations of being entertainers but they happen to be in Orlando or Tampa or something like that and there’s really nowhere to channel that. And that’s really the purpose of this film, to showcase that side of it.”
This isn’t a performance you can phone in, Bomer stressed. “This is definitely not the kind of movie someone can call you and say, we start tomorrow,” he said. “There’s a massive amount of discipline and preparation that goes into it. One of the really fun things for me as an actor is to get to commit physically to whatever role I’m playing, whether it’s losing 40 pounds to play Felix in ‘The Normal Heart’ or gaining 15 to play Ken in ‘Magic Mike.’ ” (Spoiler alert: He sings in the movie, too, and really well!)
Director Gregory Jacobs also made sure to note that the “XXL” in the title isn’t just sexual innuendo—it also refers to the film’s supersized plot. “There’s more dancing, more comedy, more fun, more romance,” he said. “And thematically, it’s about friendship.”
“The nice thing about this (film) is that we all had each other and we were able to sort of lean on each other and hold each other accountable,” added Bomer. “There was a great deal of solidarity amongst us. Channing is the best leader I’ve ever worked with on a set. He treats everyone with complete equanimity and he’s there for you whatever you need. He’s amazing at being able to be in it and also have an eye from the outside looking in holistically.”
Carolin is hopeful that audiences will appreciate the film not only for its plethora of thongs, but for its nuanced characterization of adult entertainers working in the world of striptease.
“We pigeonhole these people who are actually performers and from the outside people look at (what they do) as prostitution, but there’s really something to it,” said Carolin. “And that’s what the second movie shows, that this can be something to have fun with and be more open about and to celebrate.”
“Magic Mike XXL” opens July 1.