Dear John - Channing Tatum interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
CHANNING Tatum talks about the appeal of making Dear John with director Lasse Hallstrom and why letters form such an important part of a soldier’s life.
He also talks about the legendary injury to his penis while filming The Eagle of The Ninth in Scotland and why he prefers doing dramatic roles to action…
Q. With an unashamedly romantic comedy it’s all about getting the tone right so you don’t slide into melodrama, isn’t it?
Channing Tatum: As actors you’re always afraid to go too far but Lasse wants you to go too far. [Once he has the take he likes] he wants you to do it wrong, to be over-the-top, and that’s so freeing to be able to think ‘Now I can try and be bad’. There’s no pressure on you and you don’t feel you can make a mistake.
Q. Had you read the book by Nicholas Sparks?
Channing Tatum: I actually read the book first [before the script] and I just fell in love with the character of John. I knew of Nicholas Sparks from The Notebook and A Walk To Remember. I’ve think I’ve cried a hundred times at The Notebook. My wife cries and that makes me cry, and she makes me promise we’re going to die in bed together. I’m like: “That’s weird, I don’t want to talk about that.” So, I knew there was such a big audience for his stuff, for those unbelievable loves, and this was more of a relevant story – it’s more contemporary. The Notebook was period and it kind of felt like this sweeping sort of thing, but this one felt more relatable.
Q. How was it working with Richard Jenkins [who plays John’s father]?
Channing Tatum: You can tap that guy for anything. He can come off the bench and give you anything you ask for in a character – comedy, heroics. He’s one of the strongest and smartest people I’ve ever met. He helped me throughout the entire film and I don’t even know if I can describe what it feels like to be in a scene with somebody who makes you better. He’s so smart he manipulates you to be better. It’s ridiculous.
Q. The film gives life to the lost art of letter writing. When was the last time you wrote a letter?
Channing Tatum: I don’t know if I’ve ever written anything that’s not a bill! I do write stories but I don’t put a stamp on them. I wrote a story for my wife over Christmas and gave it to her as a present because she asked me to, but I don’t put a stamp on things and send them to people. I wish I would do that more.
Q. Did you talk to guys in the Special Forces about letters they wrote and received?
Channing Tatum: Yeah. Most of the guys except for maybe three or four in our Special Forces unit were real Special Forces guys. They were guys from Fort Bragg who were actually teaching the Q Course, which is what people who are learning to be in the Special Forces have to go through. They talked to me about letters and it’s like Christmas – they sit and they wait to get something and it’s so much more than what’s written, it represents someone you care for and it’s something they touch, they wrote, they made. It smells like them, it smells like your house, it’s so much more than: “Hey what’s going on? The dog took a crap on the floor today…” It’s not about that – it’s home, it’s tangible.
Q. Was it your first time in South Carolina and what did you like about it?
Channing Tatum: I was talking to a friend the other day about how American audiences love period pieces. We were trying to figure out why and I think it’s because America doesn’t have a lot of old things. It’s a new country so I think we’re a little bit fascinated by that. The fact Charleston is one of the oldest cities in America means it has something a lot of other towns and cities don’t have. Here in London you look around and everywhere you see history, but we don’t have that a lot.
Q. Have you kept up the surfing?
Channing Tatum: No, I have not surfed at all because it is entirely too cold in California. I need it to be like bathwater. I’m from Florida and Alabama and it’s warm water down there. I do enjoy surfing, though, and it’s all me in the movie [in the surfing scenes].
Q. Did you do your own handwriting in the film?
Channing Tatum: They wouldn’t let me write anything because my handwriting is like a three-year-old’s! And I would spell everything wrong [laughs].
Q. What’s the weirdest piece of fanmail you’ve had?
Channing Tatum: I’ve never been sent a lock of hair or anything like that, but I’ve gotten underwear with my face on it. That was weird. Another weird one, a really young girl posing. She wasn’t naked or anything but she was posing like that [affects saucy poses] and she was really young, like 10. That was bad!
Q. Do you find straight drama like Dear John more of a challenge than action films like GI Joe?
Channing Tatum: I don’t know if it’s more of a challenge but I find it more exciting. I don’t like doing action movies. They’re not that interesting… it’s fun to do the physical element but the really fun stuff, like running into exploding buildings, they won’t let you do. There’s too much money riding on you not getting hurt. But yes, there’s something exhilarating in just sitting on a beach with somebody having a real conversation. There’s something exhilarating about being open and honest [in a scene].
Q. Have you recovered from your legendary injury and do you wish you’d never mentioned it?
Channing Tatum: No, I love talking about it. It’s hilarious to me. My penis is great now, it’s doing well. I burnt it very badly doing a movie [The Eagle Of The Ninth]. I have a new iPhone so I don’t have the pictures to show you, but luckily I’m all healed. It was horribly bad but I don’t have any scarring, thank God, and there was no nerve damage. I’m back on top… literally [Blushes and laughs] Bad joke, sorry!
Q. How was it being up in Scotland filming The Eagle Of The Ninth?
Channing Tatum: I’ve loved Kevin McDonald’s movies for a while and it was an amazing experience because he really wanted to do something different. He wanted to make all the Romans American and venture off from making them that English-speaking villainous type thing. It was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, to wake up every single day and know that you’re going to be freezing cold and wet, every single day, 10 times a day, and there’s no getting away from it. It took about four months to shoot and it was just exhausting but also very gratifying. It’s going to be some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see on film. Of course, I did injure my penis, and I think I also had mild hypothermia for a while and Jamie Bell almost collapsed. I hope it’s good. I think it’s a little more commercial than Kevin is used to making.
Q. Amanda and Lasse share an Abba connection. Did that ever manifest itself on set?
Channing Tatum: [Laughs] Every single day! He’d be there on the computer on YouTube or his iPhone saying: “Hey have you seen my work?” That’s what his favourite work is and you’re like: “Yes Lasse I’ve seen [sings] Take A Chance On Me.”
Q. Lasse apparently also loves ducks and gave Amanda a wooden one for her birthday. Did you get a present?
Channing Tatum: He gave me wooden duck clogs as a wedding present. Nothing more – just wooden clogs, and he only gave them to me… not even my wife [laughs].
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Amanda Seyfried interview
- Channing Tatum interview
- Dear John Photo Gallery