Joe Manganiello Shows Off His Moves in ‘Magic Mike XXL’


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Joe Manganiello in “Magic Mike XXL.”

Credit
Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Pictures

Can a beautiful man make a woman’s day just by tying his shoe? Only if you have the right man, and Joe Manganiello will do. Throw in a bottle of water, a bag of Cheetos and the Backstreet Boys, and a classic movie dance is born.

In “Magic Mike XXL,” the new dance-heavy sequel to the 2012 hit about a group of male strippers, Channing Tatum, as Mike, gives the strapping Mr. Manganiello, playing Richie, a drug-fueled, confidence-building pep talk. They’re on their way to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Mr. Manganiello’s character, we’ve just learned, has more affection for the Backstreet Boys than for the firefighter persona he employs as a stripper.

“You have to be you,” Mike tells him. “I know so.”

A bet is made: Richie, who Mike contends could make a girl’s day just by tying his shoe, must coax a smile from a female clerk working at a gas station minimart or go back to his old firefighter routine. It’s a mighty task: Glued to her phone, she’s as animated as a slug. But Richie’s prop-heavy dance, performed with just the right touch of desperation and awkward vulnerability by Mr. Manganiello, is a delight.

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Trailer: ‘Magic Mike XXL’

A road-trip story of a car-load of male strippers on their way to a stripper convention and all the adventures they have on the way.


By Warner Bros. Pictures on Publish Date May 8, 2015.


Photo by Internet Video Archive.

He rips open a bag of snacks, grinds against a Pepsi cooler and douses himself with water. After sliding down the aisle, he pops up, performs some moves from the Backstreet Boys — “I Want It That Way” happens to be playing in the store, providing a needed dose of inspiration — and seals the deal with a dolphin dive, a move that sends his body worming against the floor.

“How much for the Cheetos and water?” he asks, breathlessly.

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Stephen Boss in a scene from the film.

Credit
Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Pcitures

For Alison Faulk, the choreographer of both “Magic Mike” films, the dance was meant to look like a series of spontaneous actions. “The idea was that it was un-choreographed,” she said. It’s supposed to feel like he is randomly grabbing products. “This is what he is able to think of on the spot.”

She referred to Mr. Manganiello as “the action-hero version of a dancer” for the way he performs everything, as a dancer would say, full-out. “He did the routine with that amount of force and commitment from Day 1,” she said. “He takes the movement and really makes it his own — he adds something to it that I can’t choreograph, because it’s him being him.”

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Clip: ‘Magic Mike XXL’

A clip from the film.


By Warner Bros. Pictures on Publish Date June 21, 2015.


Photo by Claudette Barius/Warner Brothers Pictures.

For Mr. Manganiello, that approach was instilled by the Peruvian choreographer Victoria Santa Cruz, one of his teachers at Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned a bachelor of fine arts. She told her students, “Don’t cook without fire.” Translation: Never go halfway; it sets up bad habits. “She trained us to watch a complex choreography twice and then get up and have to do it fully without hesitation, not coming from the head,” he said. “I’ve learned that the best way for me to learn choreography is to go as full-out as I can because it trains the body.”

Mr. Manganiello, who is not a trained dancer but has taken dance classes, is known for roles, like the werewolf Alcide in “True Blood,” that are action-driven. When choreography makes sense, he said, he can process it quickly. “My minimart scene is a miniature movie with a beginning, a middle and an end that allowed me to tell a story as an actor, which is an amazing thing to do,” he said. “It’s one thing to choreograph a dance routine. It’s another thing to come with a movement piece that tells a story and has its own miniature arc.”

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From left, Mr. Boss, Teresa Espinosa, Amber Heard and Channing Tatum in the film.

Credit
Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Pictures

The number has multiple layers. When the Backstreet Boys song begins, Mr. Manganiello’s character comes to life; suddenly, you can picture Richie as a boy, practicing signature moves in his bedroom. The song was Mr. Manganiello’s choice.

“The scene is about a character who has trouble dancing or has to hide behind props, and so in this scene he is trying and failing and trying and failing,” he said, laughing. “When the Backstreet Boys come in, there’s this deus ex machina, this life preserver that unlocks his inner dancing — so that’s really the story. The trick is to portray a character that can’t dance, that does learn how to dance, or at least pulls it out of himself.”

Essentially, “Magic Mike XXL” is a road movie that turns into a dance film. “The first one felt like a really realistic look at what the male-strip world was like and the second one was an opportunity to step it up and try new things and experiment a bit,” Ms. Faulk said, adding later, “We hoped that we took the cheesy aspect out of it and made it a little more sexy and connected to the women and dance-based, so that you could see the skill level.”

The finale is a spectacle of explosive solos, in which each actor reveals his character’s personality; it ends with a duet for Mr. Tatum and Stephen Boss (“tWitch”), a dazzling freestyle dancer. But earlier in the film at an unconventional male-strip club, one-on-one numbers are reminiscent of the intimacy found in contemporary dance installations or the immersive show “Sleep No More.” In shooting the sequence, the film’s director, Gregory Jacobs, said he wanted the scene to appear as one continuous dance: “The idea was to make it feel as if you were there, moving with the other people.”

Before filming, Ms. Faulk said that the leads came to her individually to tell her that they wanted extra time to work on their dances. From Matt Bomer’s jazz-inflected number to Adam Rodriguez’s urban, athletic offering — the choreography includes a corkscrew and a kip-up, an acrobatic move in which you roll on your back and then pop to a standing position — it shows. “XXL,” which explores the idea of a male stripper as a healer, is a story told through dance.

“We didn’t have explosions and giant robots that transformed,” Mr. Manganiello said. “Our production value was the dance routines. They are our C.G.I. dinosaurs. That’s what sells the movie. Without them, we don’t have a sequel.”



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