Channing Tatum Q and A
The character you play in A Guide To Recognising Your Saints is very different from
the other roles that you’ve played. Do you prefer playing gritty characters such as
With my career, in general, I feel like I’m finally getting to do the roles that I’ve
always wanted to do. It’s a slow build; you can’t ever get the roles that you want
in the beginning of your career, because you don’t have the buzz or the heat, or
whatever the hell it is you need for the agents and the studios to be happy. They
want you to do a little bit at a time until you get the chance to really work out
and do the roles that really mean something to you.
Is Antonio, the character that you played, the most closely related to you as a person?
Yes. I think that is what I love about film and especially about director Dito
Montiel’s life and script. He wrote real characters without any heroes. They’re
deep and flawed people; in their minds they are always right. I liked the
simplicity of the characters, Dito didn’t try to make anything pretty or glossy
and make you root for a character. I remember, I read somewhere from a critic
who didn’t like the film, he said, ‘I didn’t really like any of these characters.’ But
that is exactly the point, you don’t need to like any of the characters, as long as
you can understand why and where they are from, why do you need to like any
of the characters in the movie. That is not how life is. You don’t like everyone
that you meet.
Did you ever get to meet the real Antonio, who your character is based on?
No! Antonio - he is still in prison. Dito and I talked about whether I should visit
him in prison pretty extensively and for a lot of reasons, some more than others,
more just because Antonio now is not like he was back then when he was 16 or
17. He went to prison as a teenager and has never really come out of prison for
any serious amount of time. Now, he is in his mid-30s and all that prison time
really changes a person. Dito said, ‘I want you to read Antonio, and know
Antonio from how I wrote Antonio and play him from your heart.’ I had a best
friend who was just like Antonio. I grew up in Florida and you don’t have to be
from Astoria to have crazy friends. Basically my best friend was just like
Antonio, maybe not as crazy and absolutely dangerous, - no that is not true he
was dangerous - but you could at least reason with the guy. I came from a place
where I really wasn’t trying to be the real Antonio; I just wanted to tell the story
in the script, the friendship that was there. It was written more about the story of
Dito and Antonio. These kids, in general, they don’t really know how to talk to
each other. In the movie, none of us really say what we mean. The only person
who says what he means is Chazz Palminteri’s character. No one ever really
speaks honestly with each other. Antonio loves, but he doesn’t know how to
Is Antonio’s dysfunctional behaviour something you could understand?
Maybe back in the day. Not any more really. Back when I was young, just trying
to figure life out in general. I don’t think so any more. I’ve kind of come full
Did you know about the dynamic of Astoria and the borough of Queens before doing
Yes. I’ve actually lived in Queens. I lived in New York for two-and-a-half years
and I actually lived in Astoria. Not the part we filmed in, but just a few blocks
away for 6 months and then I lived in Long Island City, which is really close to
Astoria. We shot in Astoria. Basically those steps at the end of the film where
Diane Weist and Robert Downey Jr are talking is right where Antonio used to
live. We shot right where they lived and so it was pretty intense to see all the
people who were being depicted actually walking around. People would see Dito
and ask him, ‘Hey Dito, who’s playing Antonio?’ and I’d think oh shit that’s me,
me this tall white boy from Florida.
What were you doing in New York?
That is when I was modelling.
Why did you choose Queens to live?
Because it was cheap! I just got in wherever I could get in. I was living out of my
suitcase for a little while because I was just trying to make ends meet.
Did you read Dito’s book before you performed the role?
I wanted to go and get it as soon as I knew I had got the part and then I talked to
Dito and he asked me not to. He didn’t want any of the actors to read the book.
There is a lot of stuff that is piecemeal and taken from other people and
references applied to one character that has been added to another for the film.
When you adapt a book to a film, you take all the best parts and put them into
an hour and 15 minutes and have to compromise on the characters. It’s not a
documentary so I tried to keep to the fictional nature by not reading the book.
Come on, you still took a sneaky look, didn’t you?
No I didn’t. I really didn’t. I wanted to really bad. Dito is a real smart guy and
I’m sure he wouldn’t have told me not to read it without good reason. I’ve
always said that now the movie is over and everything is said and done that I’ll
read it, so I can understand why he didn’t want me to read it. But there is so
much shit I’ve got to read right now that it’s not happened.
Are you being inundated with bad scripts?
You really wouldn’t believe… I got this fighting script the other day and it was
Do you think it is strange that the title refers to these boisterous characters as Saints?
No I don’t think so, everything is perspective. I think that Dito meant to do that,
he really wanted to find something that was so beautiful in something that was
violent and dangerous. He learned from every single one of those guys. He chose
to get out. I had people in my life who were insane and negative, but they taught
me how not to be, how I didn’t want to end up.
You wouldn’t call your wild pal from Florida a Saint though, would you?
He was a Saint to me. He got me out of a lot of situations and then he got me into
a lot of situations that I realised I didn’t really want to be in. Now when I get
close to getting into any situation, I know how to handle it and more importantly
how to get out of it.
What type of situations?
Everything has to be personal in the end. You’ll just have to leave it to your
Did you talk to Eric Roberts about how he was going to play Antonio as an older
character? Did you try and imitate each other?
No, I never got to meet him! When I say that this movie was shot in 3 and a-half
weeks, it was shot in 3 and a-half weeks. Not an hour over. Actors were coming
in and out, finishing parts in a day. Also I was rehearsing on another film at the
time we were shooting, so I was going back and forth to Baltimore on a train and
I would do my scene, get on the train to Baltimore, stay there for a day or so, and
then get back to New York whenever my next shot was taking place. So I never
got to see any of the scenes, or meet any of the people, except the ones that I was
in. Also, I think Eric just kind of does his own thing. He does what he does. I
think that Dito showed him some stuff that he showed me, so we end up being
close to each other in our roles, I don’t know if we’re dead on, but we’re in the
same ball park.
Does that mean you missed out on meeting Robert Downey Jr.?
Did you know any of the younger actors before?
No. We had one day to kind of get to know each other before we started
shooting. We were like lets get a beer and we went out got drunk and into
trouble and then we shot the movie.
A critic likened your performance to that of a young Brando?
I don’t know about that. I think that the only thing that Brando and I have in
common is that we are bigger guys. How do you compare people to people. It was
an unbelievable compliment, but I think it was a little far fetched.
Is he an actor you admire?
Yes, Brando, Newman and Redford. I think that those kinds of actors are lost
now. They are men who had big hearts. Of today’s people I love the older actors
like Morgan Freeman. Nowadays I think that people and actors are getting too
soft in general. Audiences and critics they don’t like seeing what happens in real
life. Why do you think comedies make all the money at the box office? People
want to go and laugh. I can understand that. In a time of war people want to see
Will Ferrell, which is what I do. I do the same thing. I want to go see him run
around and go crazy. Who wants to go see someone beat the hell out of a woman,
because it’s kind of forbidden and a little bit scary. I don’t know. I like intense
stuff. I really do.
Were your teenage years intense?
I think that any teen gets into a little trouble here and there. It’s not hard to find
trouble when you’re looking for it as a kid.
Were you a leader or a follower?
I think I was somewhere in the middle. In truth I was probably more like the
Dito character in the movie. He didn’t like to lead, but in his own way Dito was
more of a leader than Antonio was. Dito didn’t do anything he didn’t want to do,
but Antonio wouldn’t want to do anything without Dito, so you can figure out
who is the leader there. I personally don’t think you should lead out of choice;
you should lead when you have no choice and someone has to step up.
You’ve been watching Rumble Fish again?
Yes. I love that movie. That is what I’m talking about. People don’t make movies
like that and sometimes I feel like I missed the bus with they type of films I want
to be appearing in. You know how your granddad says ‘The good old days,’ and
I definitely missed it. Films like Rumble Fish and Butch Cassidy are my
sounding boards when I read scripts. I’m always wondering if they stand up
Was modelling your way out when you were younger?
I don’t know if it was a way out, it was just a way. I was willing to take anything
that was coming my way. Modelling wasn’t anything inspirable or an aspiration.
I was into movies and things, but modelling I did so that I wouldn’t have to bang
nails in the sun all day. It took me all around the world and it made me really
happy. It was a little surreal, because all my friends are workers, they work
construction and they work 9 to 5 and I was travelling around taking pictures. I
don’t really understand how I got here, but it has been a ride.
Did the surreal nature of modelling give you a heightened view of yourself?
You become so vain, which in the end is why I hated it. You look in the mirror
all the time and then think am I in shape enough? You can’t go out, although I
did anyway, and eat cheeseburgers and drink beer all day. I just couldn’t stop
my way of life because I was modelling. You just had to work out, but I hated
working out. You do though just end up becoming this big fitness guy, despite
yourself, and become so vain. I don’t think models in general are good looking
anyway. Most of the guys and even the females you see on the cover of magazines
I’m think ‘Ooh, they’re supposed to be attractive!’ Keeping in shape to be a
model you just work your abs, arms and chest and don’t really do any strength
work, you just try to get yourself what they call ‘a swimmers body’. I just
thought this is so stupid. It is always labelled something so far from what it is.
Was it hard to motivate yourself to play characters in other movies that you just
played because you needed to build your CV?
No, because you’re always working towards a goal at the end of a rainbow. It
wasn’t tough, because I didn’t do anything I don’t know how you explain it,
doing She’s the Man and things like that, I didn’t ever want to be in romantic
comedies, they’re not the type of films I like. But it became very apparent to me
when I was out doing auditions in Hollywood for the first time that I was
gravitating towards, and trying out for, these really strong dramatic roles, but
someone from the OC would get it, because they had the press and profile. It was
frustrating so sometimes you have to bite the bullet so that you ultimately get
what you want. As for actually doing them, it wasn’t very hard and was actually
quite fun on-set, far more than I anticipated. It is also a personal challenge
because I never thought I’d be able to do a romantic comedy, so it was a
challenge. In the end it worked out and I didn’t die.
Are you a romantic?
I don’t know. I like doing romantic things. Whoever my girl is I want her to feel
like she is on a pedestal. I try to do things that she doesn’t expect and not to do
things because it is expected because it’s a holiday. I don’t like doing things on
official holidays. I like surprising them when they’re not expecting it. I’ll much
rather do something for someone else than myself, it makes me feel good to make
You’re currently dating Jenna Dewan. Who was your co-star in Step Up. Does it
make the relationship more difficult because you’re both in the public eye?
I don’t read those things anyway – the tabloids. You catch wind of it, they’re
talking this or that and I don’t think about it, because in the end who cares. But
what is amazing and does suck is that people get more wrapped in your gossip
than they are in what you’re doing with your career. Who your with, where
you’re shopping with and you think, c’mon people don’t you guys have lives!
It’s like office gossip when you go out with one of your co-stars?
Yes. When the Tabloids have pictures of Christina Ricci shopping who cares.
I’m wondering are these people really that admirable? I know that I’m not. You
don’t want to see what I’m like when I wake up and go out to get the mail. I’m
not that cool or that important. It’s really weird, I read some psychologists
things that people are so unhappy with their own life that they want a glimpse or
a picture into someone else’s life so that they fill that their life is just as cool; I
don’t know it was really psychobabble.
That’s why reality TV works?
It’s so fucking weird. I hate reality TV in general. Some of the stuff is just
tortuous. The dating shows, seeing girls falling over themselves and dating guys
that they’ve just met to win the competition. Do they really like these guys that
much to put themselves on display like that? When they get rejected, they get all
angry and say, “I didn’t want you anyway.” I’m like really, you just showed him
your tits and don’t want him.
Are you a morning or an evening person?
I don’t wake up before 12. I can’t ever get to sleep. I’m always falling asleep at
2.30 or 3 a.m. I don’t even go out, I’m not a big clubber or anything, I just can’t
get to sleep. So getting up at 6 or 7 in the morning just isn’t going to happen.
You are an aspiring writer yourself?
Yes. I love stories, but I probably couldn’t write a correct paragraph if I tired.
My dad was always a good storyteller so I know what is interesting to me. I just
got through reading Genghis Khan and the Modern World. I love history.
I’ll probably write some stuff as soon as I can get the time. I’m so focussed on
trying to get done what I’m doing and get it right and not just blaze through it. It
will be stories that I know, stuff like Rumble Fish and A Guide to Recognising
Your Saints. That’s how I want to write, great little stories, some will have
profound meaning and others will just be slices of life.
Will you make the stories biographical?
Yes for sure. I grew up in the South and I’ve always had an affinity for
Mississippi and Alabama. In movies you see that those places are so boring and
there is nothing going on, but growing up it was nothing like that. Yes, there are
no malls or shit like that, but there was always something to do, some trouble to
What trouble did you get into?
I went to school for a semester in West Virginia and there was some of the
craziest shit I’ve ever seen. The most drugs I’ve ever seen in this little tiny town.
It is interesting to me. I was dating a girl from Philly and all of sudden I went to
visit her, and her sister is like real young and some of the shit that she was
getting into I was like what are you fucking kidding me. They were all hooking
up, these group sex things and they were only 14.
Did you get into a lot of girl trouble at school?
Maybe! I don’t know if it was girl trouble but it was fun.
What was the first romantic thing you did with a girl?
Romantic or sexual [laughs]!. I can’t even think of one right now. Next question.
When you are young you are more romantic, it is cute and innocent. When
you’re afraid to talk and have to figure out how to express yourself in other
So have you done anything romantic with Jenna recently?
Jenna and I were in Italy to promote Step Up and been hanging out together.
We’ve been going around the countryside, I’ve been to Milan before for
modelling, but never been to Rome. It’s beautiful there. We were wondering
around the Coliseum and it was so cool. It was a little surreal for me, because
I’ve always dreamed about going there. I’ve always imagined that I was a
Gladiator in a past life. There is so much history and I’m really interested in
Do you speak any Italian?
No not at all! We’ve been playing the charades game.
Well you know where you stand with an Italian?
They definitely let you know how they feel.
They’re kind of like New Yorkers in that respect?
Yeah. People will definitely let you know if they life you and if they don’t like
you. There is no in the middle or thinking ‘I wonder how this person feels right
Is that what you’re like?
For the most part, but I pretty much like everyone. It takes a lot to get me upset.