Joe Manganiello strips off
by Gregg Shapiro
Before you ask, yes, actor Joe Manganiello really is that stunning in person: tall and tan, with sculpted facial features, important hair, and shoulders broad enough to carry the weight of the world. He's also smart with a great sense of humor, making him a pleasure to interview. Perhaps best-known as werewolf Alcide on HBO's True Blood, Manganiello plays exotic dancer Big Dick Richie in Steven Soderbergh's indie male stripper film Magic Mike. Richie is the strong, silent type, and if you looked the way he does, you wouldn't need to say much, either. Just walk out on stage and set tongues to wagging, mouths to watering and hearts to racing. Manganiello talked to me about Magic Mike in June.
Gregg Shapiro: What was it about the character of Big Dick Richie that made you want to play him in Magic Mike?
Joe Manganiello: Besides the name? And the legacy that would come along with the name? I read the script, and it was scene-stealing moment after scene-stealing moment, between the fireman suit, the gold body paint, the silhouette routine, the penis pump. That, and then of course, [director] Steven Soderbergh, Channing, McConaughey and my drama school classmate Matt Bomer. It was a slam-dunk.
The first time the audience sees you backstage, you are seated at a sewing machine, working on your costume.
I'm sewing my gold thong.
Out of all of Richie's costumes, is there one you liked better than the rest?
The gold body paint was epic. When am I ever going to do that again? It took a good solid hour, with five people applying this makeup to every crevice. I had to be covered in gold. Once you go through all of that, I'm going to make this thing memorable.
Was it itchy?
No. We did three takes, I think. Steven left the music on for about five minutes. So it was me as this gold statue come to life just mauling a floor full of women, knocking tables over, jumping on things, lining them up. It was a Dionysian orgy, and I rubbed up on everybody.
To my recollection there are only two Hollywood-style flicks about male strippers that precede Magic Mike: 1981's For Ladies Only starring Gregory Harrison, and 1983's A Night in Heaven starring Christopher Atkins. Had you seen either before beginning work on Magic Mike? What was involved in your research for your role as Big Dick Richie?
I had not seen them. A really good friend of mine was a male stripper in Dallas during the 90s at a club called La Bare. He was responsible for coming up with the fireman routine there. I took him out to lunch, we hung out. I'd heard some of his stories before, but never with the amount of interest that I had now. I got a really good feel for what he did. Plus I've worked in clubs since I was 16 years old, so I know that life, I know those people.
Have you learned anything about the male stripper world that you didn't know before?
When you go to a female strip club, you're going to find that archetypical, serial-killer man, sitting there quietly with his dollar bills, staring. You go to the male strip club, and women are screaming, grabbing, groping, backstage, under the table, in the parking lot.
It seems like it's a freer atmosphere.
You don't really need security because every one of the guys is their own security. It's go for it, do your thing. I think that's why a lot of the guys are into it. Where for the women it's probably more about the money, for the guys it's more about the good time.
But the money doesn't hurt.
Oh sure, but these guys aren't thinking about tomorrow. It's enough to keep going, as long as there's drink and drugs. It's the Lost Boys. Also I think the costumes, presenting themselves as female fantasies, it's more fun.
What was it like to work with director Steven Soderbergh?
He's a very intuitive filmmaker. He's very present and in the moment. He's his own cameraman, he sees it in his head. What that allows him to do is observe what's going on and make judgment calls based upon "is what I'm seeing more interesting than what we were going to shoot? If so, then maybe we should shoot that."
Mike (Channing Tatum) takes The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing. Have you ever had occasion to be a mentor to someone, or be mentored by someone?
I'm an athlete, so I had coaches from the time I was little, all the way up. Not including my father, who also taught me all kinds of stuff. I had a trainer in high school, and I have a trainer now. I'm not somebody who's afraid to ask for help. And of course, acting teachers in college.
You mentioned your old friend Matt Bomer, who plays Ken in Magic Mike, and who recently came out as a gay man. Do you think that will have an impact on Magic Mike 's appeal to the gay community? Or will the subject matter alone be enough to bring gay fans into the theaters?
Matt's one of the best-looking guys and one of the best actors on the planet. I think that's the draw. I certainly think this movie appeals to that demographic!