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Fighting - Channing Tatum interview

Chaning Tatum in Fighting

Compiled by Jack Foley

CHANNING Tatum talks about the challenge of making Fighting, how he prepared for the physical aspects of the role and whether he finds his good looks a help or a hindrance when it comes to landing the type of roles he’s actively seeking…

Q. How did you prepare for this role?
Channing Tatum: I grew up around fighting. My dad boxed with gloves and stuff so we always talked about boxing and what not. I had done martial arts like Kung Fu. I went to Legends gym here in LA and trained. I went in there and I consider myself a decent athlete but when we started to train, I realised it had nothing to do with how athletic you are [laughs]. It’s all mental. It’s what you know, how you use it and your mental toughness and composure. It’s incredible. I would say it’s sixty per cent mental forty per cent physical.

Q. Does it focus on your weakness or your strength?
Channing Tatum: Well, it’s your knowledge about fighting in general. Whatever the fighting is – boxing, fighting, Judo, Thai boxing, it’s how much you know doing that. Some people just know how some people move. It comes down to the experience of it. The more you fight, the more you know, the more you can use in the ring.

Q. Have you ever been so angry in your own life that you’ve just hit someone?
Channing Tatum: [Laughs] I’ve been in my fair share of scrapes, but I’m not a fighter. I’m not a tough guy at all. I walk away from fights now.

Q. You have two huge movies – GI Joe and Public Enemies – coming out. Your name is around Hollywood, on billboards and on magazine covers. You’re the next Hollywood ‘big thing’… how does that feel?
Channing Tatum: It’s a bit of a bubble right now, it hasn’t popped. I don’t know exactly. Every once in a while I’ll feel it like if I’m walking through an airport and there’s a [laughs] a high school field trip or something, then that can get a little crazy.

Q. What do they want?
Channing Tatum: They just want a bunch of pictures and stuff like that, which is fine. But that’s the only time I really get it. No-one knows me at all really, which is kind of great. I kind of like it. If I can still be successful making films and no-one will ever know me, then that would be great. Because we (actors) just like to do what we do. People who are doing it for fame, I don’t know if they ever get really successful.

Q. Well, GI Joe can certainly change that for you?
Channing Tatum: GI Joe is definitely going to mix things up and I don’t know if I’m ready for it.

Q. How are you going to feel?
Channing Tatum: I try and not think about it yet, I think I’m going to deal with it when it comes and if it changes and how it changes…I’m sure it’s going to change my life. But I guess it’s something I chose! [Laughs] So, it’s my fault.

Q. What do you think of the action icons of the eighties like Stallone and Schwarzenegger? Would you aspire to become an action hero?
Channing Tatum: I think the action movies in the 80s and 90s were different. It was a testosterone age. Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone – they fuelled my childhood. That’s what got me to do back flips off houses and crazy things. But now I don’t think I’d like to do just action, I don’t enjoy that. I didn’t want to do GI Joe at first.

All of my films I’ve made have had an element of physicality and action but I really enjoy the drama of it because it’s where I feel I’m really doing something. If I want to do action, you don’t really get to do it. They don’t let you, there’s too much on the line to let you jump out of a building. If I really wanted to do action, I’ll just go and do it myself! [Laughs]

Q. Let’s say they offered you a remake like Conan the Barbarian
Channing Tatum: I would like to do Conan. I would love to remake that. I asked about that recently actually.

Q. We meet your character Shawn on the underground and he seems like such a nice guy… but then he has a dark side to him right?*
Channing Tatum: I think some of the scariest people I’ve met in my life have been some of the sweetest. I have this theory that as nice and sweet as you can be equates to how dangerous you can be. Like as much as you can love someone, is as much as you can hate someone. It goes in equal and opposite directions. Like if you love someone so much and they hurt you so bad, then that is as equal as to how much you can have rage for them. I think that’s Shawn.

He’s the nicest guy and he can take a lot, but once you push him up against the wall…like if someone cuts him off, if someone pushes him around, he’ll be like: “It’s fine man, whatever.” He buries it all and then when he unleashes it, he’s not even a great fighter, he just keeps on getting up and I guarantee he’ll be the last person getting up.

Q. You mentioned that your father was a boxer, and there is a special relationship between a father and a son. How much did he expect from you?
Channing Tatum: I think I put more pressure on myself then he put on me, because he let me be. I always knew he was a great athlete and I just happen to be pretty good at sports so I wanted to keep doing it. It made me happy for a while, but as soon as the fun went out of sports, I stopped playing. I don’t even watch football anymore.

I played for 10 years of my life and I don’t even watch it. It’s really strange. I don’t want any sports anymore, except fighting which is the only sport I really watch – whether if it’s boxing or UFC. I don’t know why. I think maybe it’s an aspiration I didn’t get the chance to explore more, but I don’t think my father expected anything from me, I think it’s more what I put on myself.

Q. You went to military school right?
Channing Tatum: No, I didn’t go to military school; I don’t know why that rumour is out there? It’s not true. There was a point in my life where I had the choice to go to military school or private school, because I was in public and I was going crazy and I got the opportunity to play football so I went to private school.

Q. So was your father disappointed that you went into acting?
Channing Tatum: No, they were not disappointed at all. My parents let me find my way and that’s how they supported me the entire way. I moved to Miami just to move, because I wanted to get out of Tampa (Florida) and then someone spotted me on the street for modeling, now that was the weird thing! They were just like: “Somebody saw you what?? You want to do what now?” That’s what they really didn’t get, but they were okay.

Q. Were you spotted on the street in the typical Hollywood cliché fashion?
Channing Tatum: Yes, I swear to God. But the guy was really shady, let me tell ya. He was like: “Do you have representation?” And I’m like: “For what?” But it opened the door for possibilities.

Q. So what made you go with him?
Channing Tatum: I didn’t go with him. I actually hung out with him for about a minute so he could explain what he was talking about. But then I went to the company he was talking about direct. That (modeling) went on for two and a half years and took me around the world. I won the lottery. It doesn’t work like that for most people. But now I want a career and the thing is you really have to love acting. I didn’t just fall into it and it wasn’t just something I was good at. I’ve had to really work at this. I’ve had to fall on my face time and time again. You get ‘no’ 99 per cent of the time and a ‘yes’ just once.

Q. Can you talk about Zulay and the relationship you have with her in the movie?
Channing Tatum: Zulay is one of the youngest and most talented ladies I’ve ever met. It’s so hard for young girls in this industry. I didn’t know this until I started dating actresses and getting to know them. They were like: “Oh we have it so much harder than you guys…” And then I got to see it firsthand. It is a thousand times harder for women, because there are less roles and I respect her so much that she has been able to keep her head and keep her integrity, and she hasn’t sold out and done any kind of movie. I think this movie showcases her real talent.

Q. Have you ever had a relative of someone you dated interact like you see the grandmother in this movie?
Channing Tatum: Every single one of my aunts and uncles…I’ve got a big ranch in Alabama – I never know what’s going to happen every time I visit!

Q. What about someone you’ve dated and their family?
Channing Tatum: Absolutely. I dated this Cuban girl in Tampa. Her whole family didn’t speak good English, but their grandmother, Mima, she would drink. She would be like: “Chan…come Chan…” Really old lady, and as cute as can be…. She would say (in Spanish): “Take care of the girl…” And I would have to sit there for twenty minutes and tell her how much I loved her daughter. It was hilarious.

Q. Does it make it easier dating an actress [Jenna Dewan, his co-star in Step Up] because she understands the business – you’re engaged – right?
Channing Tatum: I’m very happy in my life, and it’s something I don’t feel comfortable talking about. But I’m about as happy as it gets.

Q. Is it true you were a construction worker one time in your life and you actually planned to keep doing that for the next 10 years?
Channing Tatum: Well, I went into it. I didn’t do it for that long, because the ones and zeros didn’t add up to me. I love working with my hands and stuff and I got there the first day, and I realise they were only going to pay me $7.45 an hour and I didn’t have any other options for that moment, so I did that for like three months or so.

Then I looked at the next guy who had been doing it for like 15, 20 years and whose now up to like $25 an hour and I thought: “Man, it’s a long way to go to make not that much money and I need to really love this.” And I was doing all the work. I was doing all the labour and they were doing all the paper work. So, one of my buddies told me they were paying ten dollars an hour to stand there spraying people with cologne in an air conditioned mall. I was like: “What am I doing?” And that was it.

Q. How real is that whole underground fighting world?
Channing Tatum: It’s very real. I don’t think it’s as glamorous as it’s portrayed. So many people are betting. You can get all of this information online. There’s Felony Fights on YouTube. There is a lot of underground type of fighting going on and some of it is not safe, it’s pretty brutal. But it’s absolutely fascinating.

Q. This is the second film you’ve made with Dito Montiel, what is it about the relationship between director/writer and actor?
Channing Tatum: I think maybe we hear or see the world in the same way. His writing fits in my mouth very well. He writes how I talk. It’s such a relief to have someone who has a BS meter way up here and makes you not watch yourself. Because if you’re with someone you don’t exactly trust then you have to watch yourself and that’s the hardest thing for an actor not to do, and not listen to yourself as you’re talking.

Q. You’ve successfully made the transition from model to actor –have your good looks been a hindrance for nailing some roles?
Channing Tatum: I think it’s been more of a help than a hindrance so far. But there have been a few parts…

Q. Like do they tell you – you are too good-looking for this part?
Channing Tatum: [Laughs] They tell you: “You’re not exactly the right type; we are looking for something else….” I don’t ever get the great looking lawyer roles because I’ve got a thick neck from playing football. There have been a few roles where they’ve specifically said they do not want any ex-models. But trust me; I’m not sitting here going: “Woe is me…” I’ve got great genetics from parents, and I’m not moaning that I have such a hard life. Trust me; it’s worked out so much more in the positive then the negative. I guess it can be a hindrance with anything you do. You can be the best football player on the planet and it could be a hindrance in some way in your life.

Q. You said you couldn’t do action scenes because of insurance reasons. Did you do much stunt work in Fighting?
Channing Tatum: Yeah, in Fighting there’s not a frame that I’m not in. That was very important to me. I wasn’t going to do the movie unless I could actually do those physical scenes – fighting, dancing, flipping, anything physical, I can do that. In my mind I could probably do that better than the stunt.

Read our review of Fighting