What exactly does it take to make a successful movie sequel about male strippers? In the case of Magic Mike XXL, director Greg Jacobs has stacked his filmmaking deck with major moneymaking potential. The film features the majority of the original cast plus a few intriguing additions in Jada Pinkett Smith, Donald Glover and Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss – all of whom worked for scale, Channing Tatum, included. Additionally, Magic Mike director and Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh served as editor and executive producer.
Screen Rant recently sat down with Jacobs to talk about the specifics of what went into the making of this potential summer box office success, things like: his preference for complete collaboration among cast and crew, the most delightfully ridiculous directorial decisions he had to make while shooting a movie about male strippers and what he’s going to do next.
I loved hearing about how collaborative the process was on this film … what is your mindset when it comes to filmmaking in that sense as far as what is set in stone and what is malleable when you get to set?
Well I think part of being a good director is casting the movie well and having smart, talented actors who come knowing a good sense of their character so, being open to their ideas I think is really important – whether it’s somebody on the crew or the cast, but also at the same time having a point of view so you know what you agree with and don’t agree with. Sometimes it’s about filtering the ideas – “Yes, yes, no, no, yes this is what I want,” funneling it into what you want. In some cases I was very clear in what I wanted and then there were other times where we had a scene and you were still trying to figure out the blocking and what happens and there the ability, there is great stuff that happens on set with improv. Some of the magic of Magic Mike is a Chan-invented line on the spot. You want to create an environment where people feel like they can contribute without any kind of judgement being passed. I like that and it’s fun and I’ve worked as a producer and an assistant director for a lot of different directors so I felt like I got to watch other people work and the ones to me who are the best are the ones who are open.
I can’t imagine how many decisions you have to make on a daily basis, but what for you was the most delightfully ridiculous decision? Are we going to have a shot of this thong? Or whipped cream here?
Yeah, there was [laughs], Adam’s whipped cream containers, the shape of them. That was sort of fallic. I’m trying to think, there were a couple like that. One of the really fun ones was the design of the food truck, the faces on the food truck and Channing weighed in on that. It was fun. Picking the songs was really fun, and that would be myself, the music supervisor, the choreographer and the individual actors would all talk about what were their songs going to be. That stuff had to be decided early on because we had to clear the rights to have that done and have the weeks and weeks of rehearsal time.
It’s great to hear that everyone worked for scale and such, but I know you did get a little more money on this one. Did some of that then go to the songs?
The biggest line item on the movie was the music budget. Literally, the biggest. But we needed it. I knew, like on the first movie, I didn’t want to have score so every place where there normally would be a composer it was music we had to buy, but it was really fun to think about what those songs were going to be, what the guys were going to perform to.
So you shot and edited daily, which blows my mind…
As we were going, yeah. We only had 28 days so every night Soderbergh and I would sit in a hotel room and work and then we’d have a little bit of a bar setup and the guys would come hang out and we’d all watch what we shot. It was great because then Reid and I would talk about we were shooting the next day and I’d get to talk to the guys about what we were shooting the next day and it was very collegial and great, so we could keep fine-tuning while we were shooting.
In thinking in terms of Filmmaking 101, are there any hidden challenges in making a movie about male strippers?
The dance sequences were really fun to shoot. The choreographer Alison who did the first movie and is spectacular, in the months before we started shooting I’d have meetings with her and meetings with the screenwriter and the music supervisor and we’d talk about – because the dances were not explicitly detailed in the script so a lot of it was her creation. I would sit with her and talk about thematically, “Here’s what’s going on and here’s what we need,” and she created a lot of that and then we’d go and I’d look at them as they were being developed and would comment in my very un-technical danc-y speak way, “Can you have it so they’re up higher here,” or “This section is ten seconds too long, I want to go from here to here,” and then she would go and make those adjustments. Then while this was happening I’d think about how we’d shoot it, and it was still a challenge, but a really fun one, because they were so fun to watch. It’s part of the reason I wanted to do the second one, the dances were so fun and I knew they’d be really fun to shoot and they were.
Even when the guys weren’t in the scenes, they were always there cheering on their buddies. The mini-mart is a perfect example. It’s in the script and I knew that I was going to have to get shots of the guys watching, that’s why we had the big glass there but it wasn’t until I was actually shooting the scenes that day that I realized how often I was going to need to cut back to those guys because their reaction watching Joe was so genuine and excited and when they push up onto the glass at the end they were all so pumped up for him, I knew the cuts to those guys watching were going to be as important almost as the cuts to Joe doing the dance, so that was pretty fun and funny to shoot. That was one of those where you just, I mean I was laughing so hard.
Actors often come away with a new skill they can add to their resume, is there a something you can now add to your directing resume from Magic Mike that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
[Laughs] Ah, I don’t know. I guess shooting a dance sequence? No, although I was really impressed at how good the guys got between the first movie and the second movie dancing.
Reid did mention that in the world of people wanting to make too much of a good thing and the talk of sequels, that there was a dinner and ideas were thrown out but, in what perfect world would the requirements be in order for you all to do another one? Again, I don’t need to touch the Magic here, you guys can all make something else but, what would that have to be?
I don’t know. It’s so hard to think about right now, truthfully. I don’t know. I can’t even go there yet, mentally.
Is there a perfect next project for you after this?
There’s stuff I have that’s coming, I produce The Knick and then I have a show called Red Oaks for Amazon, it’s a half-hour comedy with Paul Reiser, he’s really funny in it, and a movie I wrote that a guy named Niels Arden Oplov directed, who did the Swedish Girl With A Dragon Tattoo movies, with Anthony Hopkins, but as a producer/director, nothing. We’ll see what happens.
Magic Mike XXL will be in theaters July 1, 2015