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Movies & TV

29th Jun 2022

The original version of Magic Mike could have been very, very different

Rory Cashin

The hit stripper movie arrived in cinemas 10 years ago this week.

When you think of stripper movies, you probably immediately think of what are considered two of the worst movies ever made: Striptease and Showgirls.

While there is some ironic enjoyment to be mined from both of them, it really wasn’t until 29 June 2002 when the very limited subgenre got its first good entry: Magic Mike.

It is also pretty rare for a Hollywood movie to so wholly celebrate male sexuality, with the phenomenon of the male gaze turned on its head, by men, at men, for men (and also for women, obviously).

Magic Mike was directed by Steven Soderbergh, who has proven to be a master of genre, be it Hitchcockian thriller (Side Effects), handsome heists (the Ocean’s movies), ostentatious biopics (Behind The Candleabra), grounded disasters (Contagion) and crime epics (Traffic).

Soderbergh was working with Channing Tatum on the action-thriller Haywire, when Tatum brought up the Magic Mike movie. It was based on Tatum’s own life, having performed as a stripper at the age of 18 in Florida.

Tatum had brought it to Soderbergh after the movie’s original director had to drop out. And who was that original director?

Nicolas Winding Refn was turning heads in Hollywood following his star-making directorial turn in Brosnan, which also firmly put his star Tom Hardy on the map.

However, his Viking epic Valhalla Rising had just lost A LOT of money, and in 2011 he was working on another project that he was hoping could still stay true to his sensibilities while also making the movie’s producers a lot of money. That movie was about a man who was a stunt driver by day, and a getaway driver for bank robbers by night, and the movie was set to star Ryan Gosling…

Drive became a massive hit, and a project that Refn and Tatum had planned working together on fell to the wayside, as both men became increasingly busy. So then Tatum brought the idea to Soderbergh, and the rest is history.

From a production budget of $7 million, Magic Mike made over $167 million worldwide, and ended up on many critics’ Best Of 2012 lists. It spawned a just-as-good sequel, 2015’s Magic Mike XXL, a massively successful worldwide stage musical, and upcoming trilogy closer, Magic Mike’s Last Dance, likely to arrive in cinemas in early 2023.

Would any of that have happened if Refn had stayed in the role as director? Drive is still his biggest box office hit to date, making $81 million worldwide, from a budget of $15 million, and hasn’t really delivered anything that has left much of an impression with audiences since then.

Refn definitely has a knack for capturing masculinity in a unique way – from Gosling in Drive and Hardy in Bronson, to Miles Teller in Too Old To Die Young, and Gosling again in Only God Forgives – but his work is the polar opposite of Soderbergh’s incredibly light touch. The room Soderbergh leaves for his performers to play in allows them to fill it with humour, nuance and an enjoyable reality, but that room would likely be devoured by Refn’s love for saturated style.

Not that we wouldn’t love to see a stripper movie from the director of Drive, but for the sake of pure entertainment, we’re very happy we got to see a stripper movie from the director of Out Of Sight.

Magic Mike is available to rent on Rakuten TV, Google Play and Sky Store right now.

Clips via Movieclips & BreeSettle

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