Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum (born 1980) is an American actor, film producer, dancer, and model. That’s right. A male mode! It says so on his resume. I was once a male model, so I was heartened to read that.

Tatum made his film debut in Coach Carter (2005), but his breakthrough role was in the 2006 dance film Step Up. He is known for his portrayal of the character Duke in the 2009 action film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and its 2013 sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Although both G.I. Joe films received negative reviews, they grossed more than $300 million at the box office.

Tatum played the title role in the 2012 comedy Magic Mike, which he produced and was inspired by his early life, which lead to rumors of his possible bi-sexuality. Later he played Greg Jenko in the action-comedy film 21 Jump Street and its 2014 sequel, 22 Jump Street, based on the 1987 television series of the same name. All three films were critically and commercially successful.

Tatum has also appeared in the romantic films Dear John (2010) and The Vow (2012). His other films include She’s the Man (2006), The Dilemma (2011), White House Down (2013), Foxcatcher (2014), for which he received critical praise, the 2014 animation The Lego Movie as the voice of Superman, and Jupiter Ascending (2015).

Back in 2012, when I was working up in Toronto, I got a call from my agent. “Hey! Tomorrow they’re doing a “Table Read” of something called THE VOW. Don’t know anything about it….. Bill Hurt’s set to play Rachel McAdams’ dad, and Jessica Lange’s playing her mother. Neither of them can make the read. Can you go in at 2 PM and read the part of the dad? They’re sending you the script right now. Oh yeah, and I got you 700 bucks for it….minus 15 %. Interested?”

I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not doing anything else tomorrow. And 700 bucks is 700 bucks. And if Bill Hurt drops dead, maybe they will use me instead. Or the director will be so enthralled by my reading that he will fire Bill and use me. Or give me another part in the film. Or if I am particularly good, he will write in a part for me. Or the writer will want me for the lead in his next project.” (These are the thoughts that go through an actor’s unstable mind.) So I agreed, and turned up the next day in an upstairs boardroom of some fancy downtown hotel.

When I walked into the room, everyone was seated at a long boardroom table. “Am I late?” I whispered. I was assured that I was not. So I quickly took my place at a designated spot just opposite the leading man. He was introduced to me as Channing Tatum. I thought “What an funny name!” Was his grandmother Carol Channing and his mother, Tatum O’Neal? I mean who ever names their kid Channing? And what kind of last name was Tatum? Must be a made-up stage name, right? Sitting next to him was the leading lady, an actress whom I did recognize: the beautiful Rachel McAdams. There were 25 or so other people in the room. Who was who, I have no idea: writers, producers, presumably the director, and assorted hangers-on.

“Well let’s get going,” I heard someone announce, and we began the first read through of the script of THE VOW. As usual, many actors under-played their parts to the point where you could barely hear them, and when you did, you had no idea what they saying. No one wants to be caught committing to a performance this early in the game. (Hollywood Rule Book: Page 24.) Except for Channing Tatum. He was into it. As my character didn’t appear until midway through the script, I looked up to see who this guy was. I confess I had never even seen photos of him before. Or indeed seen any of his films. So who was he?

You take in a person in stages. The first thing that caught my eye was his hands as they turned the pages of the script. An athlete’s hands. Okay. Then my gaze drifted upwards to the face: flawless skin, strong nose, full lips, “Windex” blue eyes, a shock of brown hair. And I all I could think was “OMG! This is one perfect specimen of manhood. Almost cartoonish good looks….more like a drawing than a person. And he can act! I returned to my script just in time to say my first line, which was a bit of a blurt, as I had almost got caught starring.

When the read through was over, I signaled my friend Rosemary who was subbing for Jessica Lange. We were good friends and I wanted to get her take on the event. A producer came over and offered us a perfunctory: “Nice read.” Sadly there was no mention of another role in this or any other movie; so Rosemary and I turned to go, but I was stopped by Channing. “I hear you know Bill Hurt. Is he as crazy as they say? I have a lot of scenes with him, and I want to know what to expect.” Well, I told him that Bill was indeed crazy as a loon, but that he was a gentleman and a talented actor, and not to worry.” (Bill Pulman eventually played the part. Hurt either had “Artistic Differences” with the director, or he was overbooked.)

Somehow, once you have met a star, you kind of keep an eye out for them. And as the months rolled by since 2012, I noticed with some small amount of pride that Channing Tatum was appearing in movie after movie. God knows he looked spectacular in MAGIC MIKE. But he was amazing in FOXCATCHER. Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo got Oscar nominations, but for my money, the really great performance in that film was Channing Tatum’s. Watch it sometime, and see if you don’t agree.

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