"In 2nd-Century Britain, two men--master and slave--venture on a dangerous quest that will push them beyond the boundaries of loyalty, friendship, and hatred." Channing Tatum dons his Roman fighting gear to star in this period adventure. The popular star sits down with Buzzine and shares about the film, his life, and career.
Izumi Hasegawa: Jamie (Bell) said that his horse was faster than yours.
Channing Tatum: His horse was faster than mine. Not his first horse, though. I think El Greco was faster than En Fuego. En Fuego was his first horse, and then Dali was--she was the Porsche.
IH: You went in the water more. How horrifying was that? His brain froze.
CT: Brain actually did freeze. It was hypothermia. His legs started giving out. He's got like 1% body fat, so I'm probably a little fatter. I've got a little more insulation than he does. But yeah, this movie was insane. He'd never been on a horse and he did it so well. I've kind of grown up with horses my entire life. I wouldn't call myself a horseman by any means, but I at least was really, really comfortable with the animals and have a great respect for them.
IH: Can I channel my Peter Graves in Airplane! and ask: Do you like movies about gladiators?
CT: [Laughs] I do like movies with gladiators, yes. Gladiator and Braveheart are two of my favorite films. Braveheart is probably my Star Wars. Everybody has one. It came out when I was in high school. I was on a football team, and we were just all ready to rock. Aside from that, there's something about these movies that's so romantic. They're my version of fantasy. I loved history class, probably for the stories. It's stranger than fiction--some of the history of it all.
IH: So instead of Cops & Robbers or Cowboys & Indians you'd play...?
CT: Legionnaire? Mine were probably ninja. I really wanted to be a ninja when I was really young, but it was still swords and stuff, so yeah, running around in the woods.
IH: Playing a soldier again, even from a different era, do you feel an affinity for that type?
CT: I don't know if it's playing that type, but I just have an affinity for soldiers and what they stand for and what they do, for sure. It's so mind-boggling to me, what they would put on the line and what they do put on the line today. I don't know, maybe it's because I feel I'm a coward that I didn't go do it, but I just respect it so much. It's such a more complicated yet simpler way of life. They have a responsibility to the person next to them and for themselves, and that's it. You don't have to figure out all these other politics. It's just very simplistically beautiful, yet it's dangerous and crazy.
IH: Is it true you had audiobooks on ancient Rome on the set?
IH: Is that the history buff or getting into character?
CT: It's both, I think. It helps you stay in it. If I'm listening to Rage Against the Machine and the next thing I know I'm trying to live in that first century or second century, it's kind of weird, but I don't know. For me, I listen to words better than I can actually read. Even when I run, I listen to books on tape. The Kindle came out and I loved it because it helped me so much with character study. You can buy a huge history book and put it in your kindle and search Mithras, and all this stuff will come up every time the word comes up. That made it a little easier for me to study.
IH: Did you mind that there wasn't a romantic element to the movie?
CT: You didn't see it with me and Jamie? That was the tension that was between us. It was all underneath. We're wearing skirts. But no, it was a little strange. I talked to Kevin (Macdonald) about that in the beginning, but he thought--and I also agree with him--it's what makes the movie different. It doesn't try to succumb to the Bravehearts and the Gladiators, which are such epics, and we weren't trying to hit that golden ring. We were trying to do something a little different, a little more intimate, maybe even a little more realistic. It was in the book, actually. In Rosemary Sutcliff's novel, she did have an element where he was going to come back to her, but she kinda disappears. If you were with them in the highlands and you kept cutting back...300 could do it because she had a real storyline where she was trying to help her husband from so far away with the politics of it all. I think that's why that worked, but I think it would've been just a little distracting, and it took away from not the real relationship, but the real tension. It would've dropped it for a second. This way, it stays simmering the whole time with Jamie and I.
IH: What was the most dangerous stunt you did yourself?
CT: Oh God, every one of them was... At a certain point, a stunt guy would come up to me and he's like, "Okay, don't screw this up, man." Seriously. The horse master looked over at me one time and he's like, "I have never done more dangerous things with actors on horses ever in a movie." We were on these slippery cliffs with ten feet of path that's all rocky, and it's just a sheer drop off to more rocks and a loch down there of about 100 yards. It was serious. I mean, if we messed up or if the horse just decided to freak out or take off, it would've been really bad. I would say probably the most dangerous one was the river. There's one part where the rapids sort of take us and we get kind of washed down river. That one was really scary. I did the part where I kind of went halfway and I jumped in, and we hadn't done it without life jackets. Not one of the stunt guys had done it without life jackets, so they weren't exactly sure if it wouldn't just keep you under there. As I'm jumping, I'm like, "This is so stupid. This could be: '...And on entertainment news...'" But it was exhilarating and, at the same time, it's what you do these things for.
IH: Being a history buff, does it help you get back into a more rudimentary time? We're spoiled creatures now.
CT: In a way, I think we might be more crude today than we were back then. Things were just so much more simple. I've tried to logic out why honor and your name meant more to you back then. The best I can really come up with is things mattered more. You couldn't just get in a car and leave and go to a new place and start over as easy. It took time and a real risk to just up and leave anywhere. So winter hits and you don't have any food, you don't have any more firewood, you need to be able to rely on your neighbor. If you've wronged him or crossed him, or if you don't have a good reputation, you're not going to get the help and you could essentially die. Also, if your father was good to somebody, then that person is going to be good to you. It just was so much more connected, I think, back then because now we get to check out, we can get on the phone, order pizza... We can get on the Internet and order whatever we need. It's I think made us farther apart. These things that are made for communication have separated us.
IH: Obviously you're speaking English in the movie. How old-timey could you make it without going too far?
CT: I don't know. I don't think there is an answer to that because look at The Passion of the Christ. They went and found Aramaic and had them speak it, so I think there's no distance you can go that's too far. It's just how you tell the story. If you can make people understand and you get what you're trying to do across, I don't think there's any length you can go. But Kevin, I think, made some really smart decisions and really strong decisions, because I was doubting them in the beginning. He's like, "I want the Romans to be American." I'm like, "Okay, but if I'm saying 'dog' and 'son' and speaking like we speak today..." because America is such a young country, I thought it would be weird. So we kind of met in the middle. The mid-Atlantic accent, which isn't a real accent--it's just a fake, made-up accent that lives in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean--it's such a weird thing. It's really just good speech for the stage, so I just took that and sort of tried to water it down and kind of Americanize it a little bit.
IH: What are you looking forward to about 21 Jump Street?
CT: I promise you it will be the most insane ride that you will ever go on. It's the most ridiculous script I've ever read in my entire life. I've read a lot of insane scripts, and this one takes the cake. The stuff that we're going to get to do, you're just going to be like, "I can't believe they're getting to do this."
IH: But Jonah (Hill) likes to improvise, so how much of the script ends up in the movie?
CT: Who knows? Truly, that's what I mean. It's going to be just bonkers. We're going to go crazy on this movie, and I hope I can just keep up with the kid.
IH: Did you get along with Jamie Bell because of your dancing backgrounds? He said you were competitive about everything.
CT: I was competitive? That kid made everything a competition. If we rode the horses somewhere, we would get off of them and let their backs rest because we didn't want to just torture them all day. We would race back to where the first mark is--and the kid's fast, for one thing, a twitchy little wiry thing. He made everything. I can't believe he just threw me under the bus like that. He's the one who's competitive.
IH: He meant both of you.
CT: Oh, okay. Well, yeah. That's what I was meaning too.
IH: You didn't dance together, did you?
CT: No, he refused to dance for a little while, and then all of a sudden he would bust something out. He's kind of shy about it, but we did a kaylee, which is like kind of a more aggressive Ring Around the Rosy. It's a more violent Ring Around the Rosy, but it's so much fun. Everyone in the entire village comes to this hall, everyone sings and everyone brings their instruments. Everyone gets up and dances. It's so much fun.
IH: Were you familiar with the book before signing on to the movie?
CT: Not before, and Kevin really didn't want us to read the book. I read the book toward the end of the movie, or started to read pieces of it. It's definitely a little younger than the movie is itself. I don't really even know what that means. I think it's definitely for a young adult type of a book, but I love Rosemary's books. The Mark of the Horse Lord is one of my favorite ones of hers.
IH: Now that you're a husband, does it change your willingness to do stunts?
CT: Oh, that's cute. No, not really because I think she kinda knows what she signed on for. But it's definitely helped me grow up a little bit. Not so much like I'm doing it because I'm married, but I feel a little more mature and a little more mortal, I guess. I do think of certain things. It more affects how I act in my normal life than it does me in movies because it's so safe. If I was jumping from here to here, there's two people on each side, everyone's just making sure that you're not going to hurt yourself every step of the way because there's too much money riding on it. Not that they care about you. There's entirely too much money riding on it.
IH: What was the big change for you in your life?
CT: I really love saying that I'm married. I love saying "my wife." I don't think I've ever felt grown-up, and I think it's sort of a rite of passage for me to feel like a grown-up and I'm responsible.
IH: Did you have to shut down production during your injury?
CT: One day. Well no, actually. I had the day off. They went and shot everything around that last battle scene at the river. Then they just turned the cameras and kind of didn't get around to center. Then I came back the next day--sorry to be vulgar, but--wrapped it up and kept going. It kind of helped because I was supposed to be hurt anyway, so any amount of gingerly walking kind of worked with the character. Every once in a while I'd be like, "Arghh, okay, hold up, I need a minute."
IH: Was the guy who poured hot water on you fired?
CT: No, I would not let him get fired.
IH: You're too nice.
CT: No, I'm not too nice. I tell you, this shoot was the hardest thing that I think anyone has ever done on the entire movie. Not only the hardest but the most dangerous and the most grueling. That poor kid had to run 10-15 minutes up to the truck all day for 13 hours for weeks at a time to just try to help us out and keep us warm. If he was incompetent or bad at his job, I would've probably blew his teeth down his throat, but he wasn't. He was so good at his job. He bought me a bottle of whiskey too, so that always helps. Helps with the pain.
IH: What was the rat thing you ate?
CT: It was like this terrible plastic horrible gelatin thing that they smeared with crap and grease. I want to throw up now thinking about it.
IH: You were really funny in The Dilemma. Will you be doing more comedies?
CT: 21. 21 is broad. Wait 'til you see how broad it is. Again, I say that people don't call me for funny, but it was my first sort of jump out into it, and it was fun. It was a blast. You kind of just create this insane person and you live within that world. Look at the people I was working with. They helped me a lot along the way. Vince (Vaughn), just in himself, gives a lot of direction if it's welcomed. I'd be lucky to be directed by someone as unbelievably talented as him. And then Ron (Howard), I mean come on, there's not anyone better to direct a character or an actor.
IH: Is Johnny Depp doing a cameo in 21 Jump Street?
CT: Yes. Well, I'm praying. We're beating on his door so hard that I hope he answers. But yeah, we would freak out, I think. We're on top of it every single day. I think we send him something every single day.
IH: What would the scene be?
CT: I can't tell you that. We have an idea, but it'll be a surprise. If and when it does happen, it'll be crazy, as true to form and as brilliant as he is. It'll be true to form to him for sure.
IH: Will there be a GI Joe 2?
CT: I hope so. They have a script, from what I hear. I haven't read it yet. With these big films, they always play the cards pretty close to the chest. Don't know what's going on with the director. I hear weird things, so I'm not sure what's up. I've been calling, I'll tell you that.
IH: It might not be (Stephen) Sommers?
CT: I don't know. I keep hearing grumblings of things.
IH: Do you think your and Jamie's characters become friends in the end of The Eagle?
CT: I think so. I think, in a way, Marcus has always been a bit of a black sheep and an orphan of Rome because of his father's name. Now that he's gotten it back and sort of been able to see Rome through Esca's eyes in a way, I think things are definitely different. I think he doesn't feel the need to live under the Roman way of life anymore. I think he has found that it's truly what's inside a person, especially Esca, who saved my life in every way, shape, and form. There used to be a scene at the end of the movie where he's like, "Well, what do you want to do now?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?" He's like, "Let's go hunting." It was a very Butch & Sundance scene. It was us joking with each other, which is really strange because we don't joke throughout the entire movie, which I think is why we didn't end up going that direction. I think I said something about being a farmer and he's like, "Farmer? What about a horse farmer?" Or something and I'm like, "I don't want to see another horse for as long as I live." And he's like, "All right, a farm in Spain with horses." And I'm like, "All right, fine." So it was very Butch & Sundance, but there's a reason why it didn't get used.
IH: I was thinking "sequel" as they walked off.
CT: Right, it could be. Especially in today's market. If something is successful, they always want to make another one, but I don't know if this one has a commercial enough of a thing to have a sequel.
IH: Who would you love to work with--actors or directors?
CT: Look at any movie that's been out this year. Pretty much any director, any actor that's been in any of those films. I mean, it's been such an interesting, cool year for films. Look at all the great directors--Darren Aronofsky to Danny Boyle to (David) Fincher. Even the people that haven't made movies this past year but actors--Johnny Depp. Be in 21, please. Please! I don't know. I definitely don't mind working with people that are strictly raw. Do I want to make myself better by playing tennis with somebody that's better? Yeah, for sure, but I like new filmmakers, new actors. It's always a good time too.
IH: Would you ever do another dance film?
CT: I would. I actually would really like to do sort of a fantastical, dansical type thing. Me and Jenna (Dewan) keep trying to create one in our heads. We always come back to the greats--the Alice in Wonderlands and the Peter Pan-type things, but I don't know. It's got to be something good. It can't be just a dance movie to be a dance movie. It's got to have some amount of a greater story.
IH: Have you ever had a dream you had to give up like your character?
CT: I think you always go through life, and as soon as you achieve something, you're always looking up, you're always looking in the future. If you just get stagnant, it can be just not positive. You can stop growth, and I always want to try to grow. I've done a lot of my learning on movie sets, so I think that's why I've tried to work so much--I learn on set, even though I do have an acting coach. But my next thing, I do want to try to direct something--start failing early and get better with time and experience. There are some things that Reid Carolin and I, my producer partner, are looking at to try to mess around with.
IH: Were you at Sundance with Dito Monteil's film, The Son of No One?
CT: I was. I went for the opening night of it, but I didn't get to go very much. We just wrapped up the first movie that we're producing in New Mexico called Ten Year. It's a little movie, kind of like Diner. Well, 18 actors isn't a little [film]. It's not a small fete for especially a first-time director. Jamie Linden is directing it, who wrote the screenplay to Dear John. I don't know if you've ever had 16 actors in one scene, but it's like herding cats. You can't get 'em to do anything you want 'em to, but we have such brilliant actors in it that it's very freeform. All the actors got to write their own characters. It's kind of an experimental type thing.
IH: Do you have any advice to people who may have to change their course?
CT: Don't be afraid. You've got to go through a door to see if it's where you want to be. Just like Marcus--he's like, "No, I'm going to try to do this or I'm going to die because there's no other choice for me." He's already dead if he can't win his honor back. Just do it. I heard Spike Jonze talk, and some filmmaker pretty much asked the same question: Do you have any advice? He was just like, "There are no magic words." He's like, "You would be shocked at the amount of stuff that I shoot on a daily basis that no one will ever see. So just go do it."
IH: Is Ion based on a book?
CT: No, this young writer just came up with an idea. It's really far from being made. It's a complicated world trying to create a mythology of going through dimensions and whatnot, and why and how and rules of the world.
Focus Features' 'The Eagle' is released on February 11, 2011.