This might be Magic Mike’s last dance, but the music isn’t turning off on what Reid Carolin jokingly calls his and Channing Tatum’s “multiverse of male strippers.”
The duo first met on 2008’s war drama Stop-Loss, and a friendship blossomed into a creative partnership. Just as Tatum was becoming one of Hollywood’s hottest young actors, he decided that his prefame run as a stripper was ripe for the big screen. The actor tapped Carolin to write the script, and they managed to secure legendarily innovative director Steven Soderbergh. Released in 2012, Magic Mike introduced Mike Lane (Tatum), a 30-year-old Tampa dancer who aspires to use this profession as a launching pad for a furniture business.
Carolin approached the modestly budgeted film as a dark, human drama in the vein of Boogie Nights. The final result was that, but it also became an unexpected phenomenon—bringing women out in droves, and launching a franchise that now includes a live show, reality series, a 2015 sequel, Magic Mike XXL, and a third and final film, out now, fittingly titled Magic Mike’s Last Dance.
Once again reteaming Soderbergh, Tatum, and Carolin, Mike’s swan song finds him struggling with what’s next, until one fateful lap dance for a wealthy divorcée, Max (Salma Hayek Pinault), changes his life forever. And that’s exactly what Magic Mike has done for Carolin.
Vanity Fair: I’m struck by how you guys have been able to track all these different stages in the life of a stripper. Are you able to look at the films and do the same with your own life and career?
Reid Carolin: No question. They’re fun popcorn movies, but they’re also not things that studios call you up and go, “We want the next one of those, and do it the same way.” Each one of them is, in some way, shape or form, a reaction to personally where Chan and I are in our lives. I was writing the first movie right before I was turning 30, and Chan had turned 30. It was so much about a young guy dealing with life, for the first time, imposing its rules on him, and trying to be taken seriously—trying to carve out a life for himself. And the second movie was kind of a shedding of that. It was like, “Well, he got the responsibility, let’s go back and try to find the meaning. Try to remember who I am and what I want.”
And, if I’m self-analyzing here, I think the third movie is about the transition to that 40-year-old you, where things have really set in. And your life feels like it has not totally passed you by, but it may be about to. When you meet him, there’s this sense from Mike of, “I don’t know what else is really out there for me.” A lot of what’s happening to Mike is a woman coming in and recognizing and valuing him for who he is, which is something that he hasn’t felt before.
If I would have told you before the release of Magic Mike that, 11 years later, we’d be talking about a multi-pronged three-film franchise, how crazy would I have sounded?
Man, I didn’t even think the first movie would work. [Laughs.] Truly, with Soderbergh—who was an idol of mine—my hope when I was writing it was, “Oh, maybe it will be a Boogie Nights or Saturday Night Fever, like an indie cult classic sort of thing.” And then all these people started going to the movie theater, and I was like, “What the hell is this?”
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