Well, you gotta admit, Channing Tatum has got some serious taste when it comes to directors. With his CV so far including folks like Michael Mann, Kevin Macdonald, Ron Howard, Kimberley Peirce and now, of course, Steven Soderbergh (x3), there’s another helmer that, had things gone differently, Tatum would’ve already knocked out a couple movies with. His name? Nicolas Winding Refn. After “Bronson” in 2008, Refn was lining up the thriller “The Dying Of The Light,” which would’ve starred Harrison Ford and Tatum in a Paul Schrader-penned film about a CIA agent who becomes afflicted by blindness. The project fell apart, but it seems Tatum and Refn were talking about reuniting on something entirely different.
In a feature article in the Miami Herald about the making of “Magic Mike,” it’s revealed that before Soderbergh came along “Tatum had originally been in talks with Nicolas Winding Refn to direct ‘Magic Mike.’ ” We can only imagine what that would’ve been like, but after that deal fell apart, Soderbergh was the next one on the phone, and he has nothing but strong praise for Tatum. “I had a great experience with him on ‘Haywire,’ and he immediately became one of those actors in my repertory who I can call upon to do stuff. I became a fan,” the director said. “He’s interested in a lot of different things, and he’s well aware of the difference between taking yourself seriously and taking your work seriously. I like his attitude, and I think he’s really got it together.”
And those kind words are easily reciprocated. “Steven is one of the two or three directors who made me want to make films,” “Magic Mike” screenwriter and Tatum’s business partner Reid Carolin said. “I was awestruck at getting the chance to work with him. And he’s truly a mentor. There’s a culture of respect. He doesn’t care who you are; he values your ideas, listens to them, gives you the feedback that you need, and you construct the story along with him. I think that’s why his movies are so distinct: He’s in every frame and every line of dialogue.”
In an interesting related tidbit, Soderbergh also chatted with the Miami Herald about the change in direction he took after his polarizing epic “Che,” which he feels “broke out so obviously along ideological lines and nothing else was discussed…I just thought there would be a more wide-ranging discussion,” he says. He adds: “After ‘Che,’ I have no desire to make another quote-unquote important movie. I’ve been cured of that.”
Following that experience, Soderbergh admits he was looking at fare that didn’t carry with the weight of being an awards contender. “After that, I’ve been consciously looking for things that would be more fun to do. With ‘Contagion,’ I was trying to push into a genre category as far as I could. Even though it came out in the fall, I didn’t want it to feel like important Oscar-bait. I wanted to make something really entertaining. As far as the smaller scale goes, that hasn’t necessarily been by choice. I was fired off ‘Moneyball’ and then got sort of shoved off ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ Those movies were on a larger scale,” he explains. ” ‘Contagion’ was $60 million. When I was on it, ‘Moneyball’ was $50 million. When you get into those kinds of numbers, the amount of time you spend doing the things you like to do decreases. I like being in a room with actors. But when the scale of a film grows, you are forced to wrangle with a bunch of other elements. And that’s not fun for me.”
But with “Magic Mike” on its way to theaters, the smaller-scale thriller “The Bitter Pill” in the can (with Tatum again) and “Behind The Candelabra” gearing up to shoot this summer, more than ever Soderbergh is going wherever his interests take him. And with a hiatus on the horizon, who knows where he’ll go next.