Kat Kourbeti sat down with Magic Mike XXL director Gregory Jacobs and chatted to him about the film, out now in cinemas in the UK and worldwide…
Gregory Jacobs: Thanks!
KK: The trailer is very misleading, it’s all like “Yeah! It’s all about the dancing!” but there’s actually a lot more to the film than just that. There’s character growth and friendship and discovery. What did you want to do to make it stand out from the first film?
GJ: Well, Chan [Tatum] had this story of the road trip that he’d talked to us about when we were developing the first movie, and I really loved that idea but none of us felt like there was any way to get that into the first film. So after the first one came out and did what it did and we started thinking about making another, the idea of the road trip was something that excited us. It felt like it would enable us to explore the guys more, and I think we all wanted to get to know the other guys in the Kings of Tampa. The first movie was kind of a two-man show with Chan and The Kid, and by going on this road trip it would enable us to really spend more time with the guys, and in classic road movie style you could go on this circuitous journey and introduce these other characters. I felt like we could shift tone because we were taking the movie out of Tampa, and I thought that the idea of their friendship would be interesting to explore.
KK: It’s obvious that a lot of effort went into the script, it’s got a balance going on with action sequences in the form of the dancing bits and slower, more intimate scenes in-between. What can you tell us about the script-writing process?
GJ: We spent a lot of time working on it, trying to figure out “is Dallas [Matthew McConaughey] gonna be in it or not in it?” You know, if we’re picking it up three years later, what’s happened to everybody? So Channing and Reid [Carolin, screenwriter] and I really spent a lot of time on it. I think we were all completely in sync that it was going to be more about the guys, and this idea of the food truck enabled us to have this kind of rolling locker room, so to speak. And we really wanted to be able to show dances in their entirety as opposed to montages, like the first one. The dances in a sense had to be character-based, that was really important. Channing was a big part of the development process, with Reid and I.
KK: I wanted to talk about the ladies of the film—there’s a lot more of them, for one. Was that a conscious decision, was it like “hey, the other film had like, two women in it, maybe we should get more ladies” kinda thing?
GJ: It wasn’t conscious, so to speak, from the beginning. It later kind of became something that was interesting to us, in addition to the fact that Jada [Pinkett-Smith]’s character, Rome, was originally written as a guy. I remember Reid Carolin, the writer, at some point said “Maybe it would be cool if it was a woman?” and before he even finished his sentence I knew where he was going, and immediately thought “I can’t believe none of us had thought of this earlier”. It was like, “of course!” And Channing and Reid and I, and [Stephen] Soderbergh and Nick Wechsler and everybody on the producing team immediately knew that was the right idea. And then Jada… Channing and I Skyped with her, we had a long Skype call, and we sent her the script and said “look, it’s written for a guy, but we want you to have a swirl”… It was a great, great Skype call. She was full of ideas and immediately Chan and I were both in love with her. She’s so smart and cool and beautiful and just a really engaging person, and she had a great take on the character. Pretty quickly we all agreed and she was on board. She had a lot of input into her character, and helped us shape Rome into who she is in the movie.
KK: Between Paris, and Rome, and Dallas… is every strip club proprietor named after a city?
GJ: [laughs] Yeah, I think so.
KK: And is the juxtaposition between Rome and Paris on one side and then Dallas on the other, like a Europe vs US thing? Is there a dynamic there?
GJ: [laughs] No, I don’t think that was there. I hadn’t thought about that. But the city thing, yeah. We were lucky to have the actresses that we did on board, they really brought so much to the process.
KK: They really did. Elizabeth Banks, Andie MacDowell… and of course Amber Heard as Zoe.
GJ: Yeah. I think, creatively, they were really great in helping us get specific with the characters. We brought them in as we were rehearsing before shooting, to sort of help shape their characters, and for Amber at some point we realised, really just before shooting and as we were starting, that it’d be better if her and Mike don’t get together, that it develops into more of a friendship. For me, that was kind of the theme of the movie, in a way. I know it’s a male stripping movie, but…
KK: That’s the thing though! There’s a lot of depth in there that doesn’t meet the eye at first, and that’s what’s awesome about it.
GJ: I love the stripping too, though. Their performances are so beautiful and so much fun to watch and shoot. For me the stripping was performance and character stuff, of course, but it was really just super entertaining. I just couldn’t not enjoy it. Like yeah, these are men dancing, but it’s so beautiful and erotic and cool and sexy and engaging. And it was very fun to shoot.
KK: How did the new additions to the team fit in with the Kings of Tampa?
GJ: Really great. The fun of the road trip really enabled us to bring in some new characters and I think, once you get to Rome’s club, you’re ready for a jolt of new blood. I felt that Donald Glover and [Michael] Strahan and tWitch were each distinct and interesting and brilliant kind of performers, and each brings something different. It was really fun to have them, and all three of them were great creative partners.
KK: It really feels like they had good chemistry together in real life.
GJ: Yeah. The truth is that part of why I wanted to do the movie was to get the band back together, you know, such a great group of people. And everybody who came on really brought something, and was fun and had great ideas and sort of went for it. Really went for it. I mean, Andie [MacDowell] playing this kind of character who when you meet her as clearly had a couple glasses of wine, and just sort of goes for it in a really interesting way, but really smart about not crossing the line. She just really brought something to it in her performance.
KK: What was it like swapping roles with Soderbergh?
GJ: Fun, really fun. He’s one of my best pals, and we’ve been making movies together for over 20 years. I’ve been his creative sounding board for a long time so it was fun having the roles swapped. He was great and completely supportive of where I wanted to go, was there if I needed him, was not there if I didn’t… Having your pal on set with you is really great. I’d directed a couple of small movies but I hadn’t—and this was still a small movie, in a way—but it was six years since I’d actually directed something, so it was really fun to dive back in, and he was great to have there.
KK: Do you think you might go for Magic Mike 3.0? Might we see them in Europe at some point?
GJ: [laughs] I don’t know…
KK: ‘Cause I feel like a world tournament might be the way to go. Call it Magic Mike 3-D…
GJ: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, I don’t know. I think it’s too soon to tell. We’re still sort of digesting 2 but… it was fun, and they’re a good group of guys, so you never know.
Read my review of the film here.