He's not just a pretty face... Channing Tatum is now adding animation to his eclectic CV
Busy filming the sequel to box office smash Magic Mike, Channing Tatum agrees it's a strange set-up for a married man. "It's weird, because my job involves doing things that other wives wouldn't want their husbands doing," says Tatum, who's married to Jenna Dewan-Tatum, his co-star in the 2006 dance movie Step Up.
"She loves Magic Mike but she's a cool girl like that," adds the 34-year-old. It's a good thing his wife, who he married in 2009, is happy with him stripping off and humping his way across the screen, because the follow up, Magic Mike XXL, is "going to be a crazy walk".
"The biggest regret on the first film was that we didn't get to live with them [the strippers] enough, and I just wanted to see that version of the movie. So with this one, you sit with them and learn about their dreams and fears."
Born in Alabama, Tatum grew up in Florida and, before modelling segued into acting, spent a period of life working as a stripper. "Magic Mike wasn't really my [exact] experience. You just steal from everywhere and make things up to fill in the gaps," he says. "It's a weird world and one I found wildly interesting. Even though it was dangerous and kind of dark, I wouldn't trade the experience, because I luckily got out of it unscathed."
Using that experience as the inspiration for a film meant he could reveal part of his life on screen. "And Jenna understands that," says the actor. "She's an actress and does things other husbands wouldn't want their wives to do, so it's a nice trade-off. We're almost 10 years into it [our relationship] now though, so it's kind of old hat. I still don't like seeing her kiss other people though," he adds, grinning.
His latest movie doesn't involve any sort of inappropriate behaviour, approved or otherwise. It's a beautiful animated fantasy adventure called The Book Of Life, directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez under the guidance of fellow Mexican film-maker, the acclaimed Guillermo del Toro, who helmed Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth.
It tells the legend of Manolo (Milk's Diego Luna), a conflicted hero and dreamer who sets off on an epic quest through magical and mythical words in order to reunite with his one true love, Maria (Avatar's Zoe Saldana). But he has competition in the form of his childhood friend, the macho, moustachioed bullfighter Joaquin, voiced by Tatum.
"I kept trying to get them to make the moustache bigger. I wanted it to be ginormous," says the actor, laughing.
Tatum insists he could grow the exact same facial hair in real life if he wanted. "Maybe I will, for Movember," he says. "Not this year though."
The Book Of Life is his first animation. "There's no real reason why I haven't done it before, just no one's been calling me for it," says the actor, who recalls how Gutierrez pitched the idea to him, rather than send him a script.
"He actually told me two stories. One was very personal and almost moved me to tears, and I knew if it had any amount of that in the film, it would be truly emotional and beautiful. And then he told me the story of The Book Of Life, and I thought, 'This is punk rock and cool and I'd love to go down the rabbit hole'."
One of the great Mexican traditions explored in the movie is the Day of the Dead, a holiday that celebrates those who've passed away. The core philosophy is that as long as you remember those who came before you, and as long as you tell their stories and cook their dishes, they're with you.
"I'm not a religious person but I am very spiritual, and I think it's one of the most beautiful traditions and something I'm going to adopt," says Tatum.
Father to 17-month-old daughter Everly, he admits he initially wondered how they would pull off a children's movie that explored death. "But I think it's such a beautiful way of looking at it," he says.
"Some people might be afraid to talk to their children about it, and I think this is a really safe and beautiful way to do that, because it [death] is going to happen eventually."
The movie also looks at the notion of living up to people's expectations.
"We live in a world where people judge you before they even see you and I think everybody has to overcome what people expect of them, whether that's great or not so great," says Tatum, who hasn't allowed his difficulties at school (he has talked about being diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD) or model looks to pigeonhole him.
He first received acclaim for his role in the 2006 independent film A Guide To Recognising Your Saints, and has since starred in a variety of movies including romances Dear John and The Vow, action blockbusters G.I. Joe and White House Down, dramas like Fighting and Roman epic The Eagle.
He co-produced both Jump Streets, which is why he has a huge amount of respect for the team behind The Book Of Life.
"These things are hard to make. I've produced live action movies before but with animation, there are so many moving parts, it hurts my mind."
TALENTED: Stripper, model, actor, producer; Channing Tatum is now adding animation to his eclectic CV, writes Susan Griffin