If when you’re watching Magic Mike and/or the upcoming sequel Magic Mike XXL and you think to yourself, “All these actors seem so comfortable, natural and perfect in their roles,” some of that is of course due to the actor’s performances, but a lot of the credit goes to screenwriter Reid Carolin for writing such likable, fluid folks and the collaborative method he uses to create them.
Screen Rant recently sat down with Carolin to discuss his very effective and logical writing process, which in XXL, is most noticeable in the new female characters, played by Jada Pinkett Smith and Amber Heard, as well as what tools and tricks he picked up from XXL editor/executive producer Steven Soderbergh and director Greg Jacobs on set.
Also in discussing Carolin’s projects post-XXL we were reminded that the man is busy. He and Tatum, who are longtime friends as well as producing partners have a slew of films in the works under their production banner Free Association, like Gambit which according to Carolin, Tatum has already begun practicing slight of hand card tricks and will start shooting in the fall. Oh and that much-buzzed about Ghostbusters reboot? That is very likely not happening.
Was there any major glaring differences between the films you’ve worked on before and the Magic Mike movies?
Everything. Not really because the subject matter, but more because the group of people doing them. Steven [Soderbergh] and Greg [Jacobs] as a team are, there is nobody like them.
Watching Mr. Soderbergh set up shots, using his hands as a camera lens, before filming a certain sex swing was… something I never thought I would see.
I know. The guy is, I’ve learned so much from him, so much from Greg. I really don’t believe there is anybody in the business that moves as fast that’s also as efficient and by being that efficient, sacrificing no artistic integrity. Those guys know how to run a set and how to make a movie better than anybody in the business, bar none. For me, it’s great that we get to make these movies but the most valuable thing I’ve gone through is sitting and learning and working with them, so everything I work on in the future is going to be completely influenced by this process.
Are there specific things you did pick up? I still can’t believe he edits every day after filming.
Every night. We sit in the room. He and Greg will look at stuff, I’ll come over and look at something, but then basically we all hang out. Steven has his headphones on and every now and then he’ll take them off and talk, but then puts the headphones on and he and Greg sit there and cut. Then at a certain time he said, “Alright, let’s watch it.” and you watch the day’s work and it’s cut and not only is it cut, it’s 80 percent close to what the final movie is. It’s amazing. I was just on Tarantino’s set and they watch dailies. Everybody goes to the theater at the end of the day’s shoot, but they watch just the dailies, they don’t watch an assembly or an edit. I’ve been on movies where the post process has taken over a year. Steven and Greg are done with a movie in like three months at most.
Were there any things you picked up about dialogue, or friendship or choreography? Anything you’ve picked up through working on Magic Mike that has changed/shaped you in any way?
I guess it aligned with my previous perspective that I do believe in the process as a writer, of listening to actors and letting them tell you what their scene should be about in the sense that you know what the scene is, and you know what you want it to be about but you can hear them out and if they’re smart they’re going to have a lot of good ideas – not only good ideas about the scene but things that they’re saying that are organic to them and their spirit that you can then imbue into their character. You’re not making the character the actor, but you’re making it influenced by the actor so that when they go into the scene they feel it’s theirs.
That’s very wonderfully non-egotistical of you. I feel like some writers feel that what they write is what should be filmed, no changes.
I can’t stand it actually. I’m a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin’s and I’ve heard him say, “I want the scene set the exact way that [I write it]” and I know Quentin Tarantino works like that and sometimes I think when you’re a really brilliant writer and you’ve spent so much time in that world, you need to do that for your voice to come through, so when you’re going to the theater you’re seeing Aaron Sorkin’s voice, we’re not really seeing the actor’s voice or we’re seeing Quentin’s voice, the actor’s kind of a vessel for it. And I think it’s a beautiful thing and that’s one way to craft a movie, the other way is to sit there and invite this giant collaboration and listen, learn, let the movie and the people involved with it kind of tell you what it wants to be, as opposed to coming in and telling everybody “Here’s what it is.” I think the writer is sort of the keeper of the soul of the movie, the writer and the director know what they want the movie to be about and they know the basic pillars of the house, the blueprint but as long as those pillars stand the rest of it can evolve in front of their eyes, they don’t have to have the entire building built in front of their eyes before they experience it. Steven is that kind of director and so is Greg, they’ve just learned to be true collaborators. Not only with me, with everybody in the crew, every actor and for me that’s the way I’d like to make movies. Maybe someday I’ll do it differently, but I like that.
You knew the potential for certain craziness in knowing the script, but was there one particular moment that broke you where you lost it or thought, “I can’t believe we get to do this?”
Oh, tons. There was some stuff, also Chan’s dance in Rome’s club got really sexual. When you say, “I can’t believe they’re letting us do this,” do you mean because it got too racy?
No no, just that it’s a studio film.
It’s one of those things, the way that we did the first movie, Channing and Steven wrote a check out of their checking accounts for it and we sold it to Warner Bros. halfway through. People don’t really know that had anything gone wrong, Channing wouldn’t have been able to pay his mortgage on his house a month later and he would have been bankrupt. He really wanted to make this movie and leveraged himself to do it and it worked. We made the deal with Warner Bros. for the second movie we basically did the same thing. “Look, we’re going to make our movie and hopefully you like it.” They have some smart people over there who were part of the process with us who came down to set to visit and to their credit, nobody tried to go, “You have to make this type of movie.” They were down there and laughing and having a good time with us going, “Oh my God, I can’t believe we’re making this movie.” And that’s the beauty of the movie business, if you have executives who are willing to be surprised like that and want to be brought things that are outside of their traditional view then you have a nice experience.
I’ve been talking about this a lot with the guys, but the sneaky feminist turn-on element of the movie is such a selling point. I saw it with girlfriends and everyone was texting their significant others suggestive things, like “You better not be asleep when I get home.”
That’s awesome, that’s absolutely what the movie should be.
It’s amazing to hear that it wasn’t totally by design.
We have these awesome TV spots that I’m so excited to see on air, our movie comes out Fourth of July weekend and we’re doing these spots that are targeted to women, which are basically “Leave your guys at home and celebrate your independence day” and we put in Fourth of July music and it’s awesome. Also I was trying to figure out how, I don’t know how you do it as a marketing thing but we were trying to figure out how to tell guys, “Just wait outside the theaters” and as they come out and just see what happens.
I know everyone says it’s a last ride and you can’t milk this dry – we wouldn’t want you to, but since everyone loves everyone so much and it was such a good time, were there talks on set about other things you could do?
Yeah, we’ve talked about it a lot. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from Warner Bros. about it and I’ve gotten calls from all these people about it. We had a dinner last night at a bar with all the guys where we were all coming up with ideas and I’ve heard everything from zombie movie to heist movie, I’ve heard, “We’ll do it in China and make it as a documentary,” I’ve heard all these amazing ideas and the truth is, I’ve got a lot going on, Channing has a lot going on, Greg and Steve have a lot going on, we really are going to have to come up with something great to bring us all back together but there is nothing that would make me happier.
I should know this, but were you a part of Hateful Eight?
No. I went to say hello because I like Telluride and I wanted to ski. They were shooting there and I was like, “I’m going to come ski for a couple days” and I know the producer and some of the people who worked on the movie so I would watch dailies and it was fun. It’s so amazing.
Is Quentin’s energy just as palpable while directing as it is in person when he’s just talking about movies?
Oh my God, yes and I don’t know him well, we have mutual friends and such, I don’t know what he’s like all the time but as an observer and a true fan of his work, seeing him on set was a joy. He runs a set differently than anybody else. You hear these large chants at various times a day where he goes, “We love making movies!” and the whole crew will chant it and you’re like, “Where am I?” And when you screen dailies you walk into the theater and you just hear the sound of the 70mm projector whirring and you watch the dailies in the theater and after each daily is done everybody claps. It reminded me of being in a film class in college when we were cutting on 16mm and you hear this sound of the projector but you weren’t listening to anything, you were thinking about the movie purely visually and it’s just this other way of thinking about storytelling that’s not in most director’s minds anymore but it’s still in his. So I think with him, anytime we get a new film we’re witnessing almost a relic, something that will last that will be gone soon.
So what are you doing next? Are you on any of Channing’s next stuff?
Yeah, we’ve got a bunch of stuff.
I don’t know when you guys sleep. Everyday another announcement: “Oh they’re doing Ghostbusters now.”
We’re not doing that anymore.
Oh you’re not?
No I don’t think so, I think it’s too complicated. There’s a lot of things going on with that brand and I just feel like it’s over-saturated.
Gambit, are you on that?
Yes, I’m producing that.
I was going to ask Channing to give me a preview of his Gambit accent, but it’s probably a spoiler in this culture.
Yeah, it probably is a spoiler but you should ask him. I don’t think he has it yet. Last night we were with my friend who I went to college with, this guy David Kwong who is an incredible magician and he was teaching Chan how to throw cards and do slight of hand and all that, so we’re producing that and I’m mostly just writing stuff, both things are female-driven but they’re totally different kinds of stories.
I support that. After watching this and hearing how collaborative you were with Jada and Amber and Andie, you should be writing some female-driven projects, comedies, an action movie, whatever you want to do I support.
Maybe, maybe some of those things will happen. I think the next thing I write will be so wildly different from all my previous stuff you’ll be like, “How’s the guy that did that doing this?”
Is Gambit then the next official thing?
Yeah, that we’ll shoot that in the fall, we’ll probably start that in late October/November in New Orleans. Rupert Wyatt is our director, he’s pretty cool. I think the script is really good. To be honest, I don’t watch big movies for pleasure a lot, but this script convinced me that we should be making this movie, so…
The first superhero thing I was exposed to and loved was the X-Men cartoon, and Gambit and Rogue were my favorite thing.
By the way, that’s what Chan says. I didn’t watch it but my brother and all my friends did and they all love Gambit and Rogue.
Magic Mike XXL will be in theaters July 1, 2015.
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