Recently Reid and I had an extensive conversation in which we covered a whole range of subjects including his diverse creative background, the production company he and Channing Tatum have, the stunning success of Magic Mike, the craft of screenwriting, and much more.
Scott: Let’s talk about “Magic Mike.” I believe its origins derived… Channing was a male exotic dancer or something at 18?
Reid: Yeah, he was.
Scott: How did that project come into being? You guys just sitting around talking about it and going, “Wow. That just seems like a great idea for a movie”?
Reid: It was actually the first thing. When we started our company, I said, “Look. Here’s a couple scripts that I’ve got I want to get going.” I had a script that I’d been working on for years about Leonard Peltier, who’s an American‑Indian activist. Obviously, this political stuff. We threw all of our ideas into a hat together. We made this pact, basically, the day that we decided to start the company, we said, “Look. We’re either making a movie within the first year that we’re in business – as in actually we’re on set making it – or we shouldn’t do this. Neither of us have an interest in running a vanity production company I don’t think you have an interest in wasting your time on something like that.”
We said, “Let’s just put our ideas into a hat and try to figure this out.” His big idea was, “Look, I have this crazy experience as a stripper. I know there’s a movie in it. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s there.” I said that it’s definitely there. We should do something. We talked about it with Nicholas Refn first. There were so many incantations of it. One with Leslie Dixon. She’s a wonderful writer. She had this great pitch for it as a big musical thing. We talked to so many people about it, and nothing ever quite stuck. Channing talked to Steven about it during the couple of days he was up on Haywire, and Steven thought it was a good idea. I think Channing didn’t believe that Steven seriously liked it as much as he did.
When he was giving an interview about his retirement right after he first announced it a couple of years ago, or whenever that was, he said something that, in one interview, that…It was something like, “I would come out of retirement for Channing Tatum’s stripper story,” or something like that.
Chan saw it, and he emailed me, and I was like, “You need to call him,” and he’s like, “No, no, no, no, no.” I said, “No, you have to. You have to send him an email tonight, don’t wait. Do it tonight, because you just never know.” He sent him an email saying, “I know you’re probably kidding, but if you’re serious, let me know.”
Steven emailed him right back and said, “Dead serious, let’s meet up tomorrow. Let’s get a hotdog.” They met at Carney’s hotdogs. They decided to do the movie. Then Channing called me and said, “Come up to the house. We have to start outlining this.”
We outlined it while I went to London with him for a week. I transcribed all of his stories, put an outline together on two big cardboard boards, corkboards, and Steven came up to the house.
He looked at it and he was like, “Oh, OK. So you guys are really serious. This is good.” He said, “Let’s make it two characters instead of one, we’ll make a young one and an old one, and let’s kill the young one.” [laughs]
He was like “You can write that, so go, get going.” I said “Great.” Basically I didn’t sleep, and I wrote it in three and a half weeks.
Scott: Soderbergh was the guy who came up with this idea of the older guy and the younger guy?
Reid: Yeah. Because I had designed it as true to Channing’s experience, of being this young guy that gets wrapped into this world. Steven said “He can play young, but he’s getting a little older. Let’s make him more of a mentor character, and get it away from his exact true story, and make it more fictional.” The paradigm was really “Saturday Night Fever,” “Shampoo,” “A Star is Born.” If you smash all those movies together, and some of their tropes, you’d find a lot of that in our movie.
Scott: The two central characters are Mike, played by Channing, who’s a self-proclaimed entrepreneur. He’s like 30 years old at that point in the movie. Then Adam, played by Alex Pettyfer, an impulsive, self‑destructive, 18‑year‑old who Mike befriends. Like you said, a mentor type relationship. How much research did you do, beyond what Channing told you, to get into this whole male stripper sub‑culture?
Reid: I went to some shows, and had a fun time just watching these guys. For me, it’s really important because I get into the political, intellectual stuff, and I really want to think things through. Think about what makes a character interesting, what makes a subject interesting, important, and all that stuff. I’ll debate myself about stuff like that all day. What’s really nice is when you go to something like a male strip review, and you realize right away intuitively, you don’t have to think, “These guys are interesting. This is an interesting story.” Don’t try to make it too political, or topical, or anything. It is inherently entertaining, and interesting.
It’s a sub‑culture that’s full of people who are risk takers, or ego‑maniacs, or damaged in some way, shape, or form. It is people living on the extreme edge of life, and that always makes for good characters, because they have drive and they believe in something and they are true performers. That inherently is cinematic.
Scott: The Mike-Adam relationship is obviously central to the movie, and you have an interesting dynamic at work there. With Adam, there’s this sort of innocence to experience arc, one where by the end, he thinks he’s much better off from where he started. Ultimately, it feels like after FADE OUT, it’s a path leading to perdition. With Mike, it’s an opposite dynamic, one where he moves from pretty much feeling like he’s got his shit together, working toward a future as a custom‑furniture guy. Then, ending up with something more unformed, but more hopeful, he can extract himself out of this surface‑level existence that he’s had. Does that feel accurate?
Reid: It does. The entire thing was really to make Adam’s character a mirror for Mike to look into at the end of the movie and go, “Now, I’ve brought somebody into this world in the way that Dallas brought me in. I’m looking at myself years ago. I don’t like where I’m going or where I’m headed. I’m not sure I like who I am right now. I need to start owning up to that, stop pretending that my life is going to be fine, because it’s not. I’m not realizing my hopes and my dreams. I’m not being the person that I want to be.”
I didn’t really want to make a cautionary tale about the world of stripping, because I don’t believe in it in that way. I think you can go down a dark rabbit hole, so to speak, if you give yourself over to that world. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re destined to be doomed or anything like that. I do think it’s tough.
I do think we can all recognize that it’s tough to make a living. If you’re a stripper, it’s tough to look at the future and go, “Hey. It looks real bright.” At some point, the candle’s going to burn out on that for you. Your body and with your age, your just not going to be able to catch up to it, and there’s no net there to catch you.
That’s what Mike’s looking at. He’s looking around him, and he’s seeing all these people who are living for now, not living for the future that they want. They’re too afraid to face it, and he’s the only one who’s like “I have to face it.”
It’s really interesting when we talk about doing a sequel, how to think about the emotional development of the character who’s already been through that, and how to not go back. There’s a lot to love about that world, and those guys, and to celebrate about it that gets lost in a cautionary tale.
Scott: It sounds like perhaps your instincts there are not making it a cautionary tale. Soderbergh says “Well, let’s have one guy die. The young guy is going to die.” By the end of the movie, Adam actually comes out feeling like he’s in a better place. He’s going to have an equity position in this new club in Miami. Was that an intentional move on the part of you guys to say “OK, this pulls it back from that cautionary tale?”
Reid: Yeah. There’s two reasons. One, you kill Brooke’s little brother, and it’s so intense, it’s really hard to have a love story develop in that circumstance. I think if Adam had died, that’s a lot to recover from quickly, for him, for her, so that’s one reason. The other is not to make it so much of a cautionary tale, but say “Look. He’s a kid, he’s 19, he’s going to take an equity position in this thing. He’s going to go down there, it might work out. You never know.” The tone might insinuate that maybe it won’t, but you have no idea.
Maybe he’ll have his own process just like Mike, where at some point he’ll get out of it, and it won’t be for him anymore. We didn’t want to speculate either way. We didn’t want to kill him because we also wanted to leave room for that development of that character.
Tomorrow in Part 3, Reid goes into more depth about the creative process on the movie Magic Mike.
Please stop by comments to thank Reid and ask any questions you may have.
Reid is repped by UTA.