Written By: James Jones
He is one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars and in recent years has emerged as a diverse and engaging actor. At first glance, Channing Tatum may seem to be a star defined by the chick flick, and his latest appearance in Magic Mike XXL does little to dispel this image. But look a little closer, and you’ll find more to Channing Tatum than just a set of rippling abs and a cheeky grin…
Channing Tatum’s pre-Hollywood story is a well-told, if a little unclear, one. Born in small-town Alabama, Channing’s early years were characterised by heavy involvement with sport, something which his parents hoped would help to channel his abounding energy and troublesome nature. On leaving college, where he had won a football scholarship, he held several jobs including, most famously, working as a stripper for several months before being spotted by a model scout in Miami. After featuring in fashion campaigns for the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch, Tatum’s breakthrough role in the 2006 dance film Step Up set him on the path to Hollywood stardom.
There’s little doubt that Channing Tatum is popular with female audiences. His eye-catching appearance in the 2006 film A Guide to Recognising Your Saints led Rolling Stone magazine to compare Tatum – “shirtless and oozing physical and sexual threat” – to a young Marlon Brando. High praise indeed.
This early physicality was later displayed for all to see in Magic Mike and, most recently, in Magic Mike XXL – films both based on his experiences as a stripper. Whilst the first film was an interesting commentary on the nature of modern masculinity and the darker side of male stripping, XXL was a vacuous, plot-less vehicle for Tatum and cast to show off oiled chests, killer moves and bulging posing pouches.
Appearances in films such as 2010’s Dear John and, two years later, The Vow, sculpted Tatum into the ideal boyfriend for thousands of women. He doesn’t, however, appear to be comfortable with such type casting: “in the beginning, I would find a character I understood. That was my focus. Not now…you basically get offered the exact same thing you just did. Which I find hilarious. I did The Vow and then I had every love story you can imagine thrown at me”.
Not to be boxed into the romantic genre, however, Tatum has appeared in a wide range of other films including the sports/crime drama Foxcatcher, Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Side Effects, 2009’s G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra and the historical adventure film The Eagle (in which he starred as a Roman soldier). 2013’s White House Down (a better film than Gerard Butler’s similar, if equally absurd, Olympus Has Fallen) saw Tatum develop as an action blockbuster lead, balancing tough-guy antics with a mischievous glint in his eye.
In 2012, Tatum turned his hand to comedy and co-starred opposite Jonah Hill in a big screen adaptation of the 1980’s TV series 21 Jump Street. Such was its box office success – taking over $35 million on its opening weekend – that a sequel was released in 2014 and a third outing, 23 Jump Street, is currently in production. From action to comedy, drama to science fiction and dance, Channing Tatum’s range is impressive and seems to be helping him to develop as an actor. There are moments when the camera seems to catch him off-guard, almost as if the real man is breaking through the fictional character. It is this easy-going and naturalistic style which endears him to audiences and which probably stems from his unintentional stumble from the stripping stage to the big screen. By his own admission, he got lucky.
The sheer breadth of genres in which Tatum has featured is testament to his desire to retain his film-making integrity, by only taking on roles with which he feels a connection. “My bar for being successful”, he has said, “is being able to do movies that really mean something to me”. Whilst he may seem all muscles and banter, Channing Tatum is one of the most interesting and diverse actors in Hollywood today and his is a bright future.
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