Channing Tatum: Stripper extraordinaire

Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams show off their steamy chemistry in “The Vow.”

Director Michael Sucsy isn’t afraid to admit that Channing Tatum initially passed on his lead role in “The Vow,” his new romantic drama — based on a true story — co-starring Rachel McAdams. The film follows Leo and Paige, a couple trying to rebuild after a car accident robs Paige of her memories — including those of her husband. So what was so wrong with the project, according to Tatum?

“When I read the first version of the script, it felt like Leo was just too great. He was too good, too perfect. He was so understanding that I didn’t believe him as a real person,” Tatum says. “I wish I could say I’d be that understanding,” he says. “I think it would be more frustrating.”

So how did Sucsy lure his leading man back to the project? They had to make some changes to his character. “We tried to put more frustration in there,” he says. “I think you would have to swallow so much, and that’s what we were trying to do with Leo.”­

Of course, they could always refer back to Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, the real-life couple on whose story “The Vow” is based. “I was worried,” Tatum says of meeting the couple. “I was nervous to meet him, because I didn’t want him to hate what I was doing with their story. But they were so positive.”

Speaking of real-life situations, part of Tatum’s own life will be hitting theaters later this year with Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike,” which the actor co-wrote, focusing on a particularly revealing part of his young life. “I was a stripper for about eight months between 18 and 19 years of age in Florida,” Tatum says. “It’s a part of my life that I’m not so proud of, but I’m not ashamed of it. If anything, I will stand by it because it was one of the most pivotal parts of my entire life.”

It’s also the kind of personal history most A-list stars would try to cover up — something Tatum admits he was pressured to do at first. “[My publicist] was like, ‘No, no, no, we’re not saying anything about it,’” he says. “I’m like, ‘Look, it’s going to come out. We should just say it, because I’m not ashamed of it. We should talk about this because I think it’s hilarious, and I’m not afraid to talk about it.’ I will tell you, though, after the film comes out I will never talk about it again.”

The Tarsem connection

An acting career likely wouldn’t have happened for Channing Tatum if it hadn’t been for one visionary director. After infamously working as a male stripper, Tatum headed to New York to be a model, which got old fast, to hear him tell it.
   
Luckily, one particular gig popped up. “I just fell into this Pepsi commercial that was directed by Tarsem [Singh], and it was such a fun experience. You actually got to put something into it,” he remembers. “With modeling, you’re just sort of there, you know? And you’re just like a mannequin doing things. … It was really stale to me. And when I got to do that one commercial, I was like, ‘Wow, I get to really do something. This is interesting.’ I walked into a workshop the very next week and … I fell in love with it. It was one of those moments when I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is everything I’ve ever wanted to do.’”


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