Magic Mike XXL: Climax at the Stripper Convention

The movie’s climax takes place at a stripper convention.

Mike encounters an old friend in the form of the show’s self-assured master of ceremonies, Paris, played by Elizabeth Banks, the convention gatekeeper who has her doubts about whether or not Mike still has the magic.  Paris also proves she can still surprise him when Mike discovers they aren’t the only attendees with an interesting past.

But what the convention really offers is the opportunity to spotlight each member of the talented ensemble with thrilling individual routines on multiple platforms, leading up to a spectacular number everyone has been waiting for: Channing Tatum and tWitch, matching their combustible energies in a dance duet, on opposing sides of a giant picture frame bisecting the main stage.

Costume designer Christopher Peterson says, “We wanted a graphic look so when you saw the mirroring movement it was very clear, so we went with black, white and silver.  Nike came up with a sneaker for us made of Scotchlite, a reflective fabric made by 3M that’s used in road signs.  We embellished their jeans with strips of the same material so that when the strobe lights hit, they flash, and when they move their legs in a particular way, you really catch that movement, not only because of the stripe defining the leg but also the light it’s kicking back at the camera.”

The number was Tatum’s idea, based partly on the fact that he and tWitch are good physical counterparts and that it would be strikingly different.  For their characters, Mike and Malik, it’s a suitable melding of partnership and competition.

“It’s something I’ve never done before, performing with another person as their reflection, not to mention dancing with Channing Tatum, which, in itself, is pretty crazy,” says tWitch.  “While your partner is moving to the right, you move to the left, and you have to match each other’s speed and other nuances.”  The dancer concedes it also marked another passage in that “it’s the first time I’ve danced in such little attire.  So, not only was I worried about getting the steps and the timing right, and making sure the angles were good for the camera, but I knew that by the end I’d be standing there with my butt showing.  Solidarity was the only thing that helped.  I’d look to my right and left and there were my brothers standing there the same way.”

At least he knows it will be appreciated.  “I think we could have charged admission for people to just to watch Channing and tWitch rehearse,” relates Jacobs, who staged the number before a room full of enthusiastic extras. “They’re both such incredible dancers, the performance was amazing and the response was thunderous.  When the dance finished and the pants came off, and they were standing there in thongs, it was the loudest roar I’ve ever heard.”

All the characters hit that venue with newfound confidence and fervor, because they’re doing it their way.  The old routines are gone – out the window in more ways than one – and each man brings to the stage a personalized performance mixed from his own style, experience and imagination, and served up hot.

Even their clothing reflects a new individuality, though Peterson remarks, “These guys are so good-looking, I could put them in trash bags with belts and look like a genius.”  Gone is the standard stripper fare and in its place are costumes the group had to put together themselves, while creating their routines.  For example, artistic Tarzan uses a tablecloth from the hotel to fashion a dashing cape for a fantasy bit Peterson calls “Elizabethan filtered through International Male”; budding Fro-Yo entrepreneur Tito launches a flavor-themed routine with a twist on an ice cream vendor’s uniform; and the romantic BDR makes an elegant entrance in a groom’s tuxedo that tears away to reveal his untamed alter-ego in a segue to the wedding night, fueled by Nine Inch Nails’ pulsing “Closer.”

The convention is also where Ken stakes a claim on his singing career with a soulful rendition of D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does it Feel),” a moment that similarly marks Matt Bomer’s movie singing debut.  “It was a crazy dream come true,” he says, before describing the idea’s inception.  “Between shots on the first movie, we’d go out and entertain the extras.  One day, Channing handed me a microphone and asked, ‘What do you do?’ and Joe, who I’ve known since I was 18, said ‘Sing something,’ so I did it.  Channing remembered that, and when we started on the sequel, he felt I should sing.  It was an unforgettable experience, and I’m so grateful that Greg let everyone bring something to the table from their own bag of tricks.”

“It was a blast, watching these guys perform.  We were all rooting for them,” says Jacobs, who captured the finale footage in approximately four days and admits, “I loved filming those dance sequences.  We didn’t need to do a lot of editing because they were all so good, it was often more about trying to cover the space and not get in the way.”

Though Tatum’s original experience of a stripper convention was more of a day-and-night dance marathon in a very large strip club, the director opened it up by selecting a convention center in Savannah.  Seeking a more environmental, theater-in-the-round approach to sync with the idea of everyone supporting each other, production designer Cummings constructed multiple stages around a central stage, through which their MC would transition from one spotlight to another.

The space’s seating capacity allowed for a host of approximately 900 extras which, cast and crew agreed, “raised the energy level in a very positive way. They made us feel like rock stars,” Rodriquez proclaims.

“It was electrifying, deafening, it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” says Manganiello.  “I have never witnessed anything like it.  It was amazing to see all those women cheering each routine.  I have to give credit to the choreographers who came up with routines so good that audiences couldn’t help but react.  And it’s a real tribute to Greg, who put the whole package together in such a dynamic way that makes you feel like you’re at a live show.”

The cast’s genuine, supportive and playful camaraderie absolutely shone on screen.  The hours they logged together working, training, rehearsing and just hanging out became an accurate reflection of the bonds of friendship depicted in “Magic Mike XXL.”

For Tatum, the core of the film is “about guys, doing guy stuff, and trying to figure out what women want.  This time, you get into them a little more as people and understand who they are.  Yeah, they’re all a little crazy.  They’re just trying to get on with life and have a blast, and a lot of it is hilarious and ridiculous, but that’s how a lot of friendships are.

“They’re going out on this one last night and you know it will end with everybody on stage in thongs,” he continues.  “These guys like walking on the edge and knowing it’s there.  But they all love each other and no one will let any of the others completely fall off, and you end up loving them for that.”

“I hope audiences will feel as if they went on a ride with these guys, and that it was a fun, funny and wild road trip with good friends,” Jacobs concludes.  “Most of all, I hope they find it as joyous an experience to watch it as we did to make it.”