Whereas the big losers in the computer hack that rocked Hollywood last fall included Amy Pascal, Scott Rudin, Sony Pictures, and Kim Jong Un, one of the winners, as far as I can tell, was Channing Tatum. Amid the blizzard of e-mails that showed some of movieland’s key figures as two-faced, snarky, and mean—that is, entirely unlike their red-carpet personas—Tatum’s leaked missive showed his back precisely like his front and his inside exactly like his outside—the same bighearted, fun-loving, victory-dancing guileless kid you know from the screen. He’d been writing his producers at Sony after the opening numbers came in for 22 Jump Street, the buddy-cop sequel he starred in with Jonah Hill. Dominating weekend box office, that film broke the earnings record for R-rated comedies held by Seth MacFarlane’s Ted. Tatum’s e-mail, which opened, “F YOU TED!!!! SECOND OF ALLLL TIMMMMME BEEEOTCH!!!! COME ON JUMPSTREETERS WE GOT CATE BLANCHETT WIT DIS BOX OFFICE BITCHES!!!!!!!!,” faded to a near infinity of AHAHAHAs.
Here you had America’s leading man, the biggest male star since Pitt or Clooney, the star brighter than all the others, behaving in private exactly as you’d want him to behave, exactly as you’d behave if you became a titanic box-office draw. (“I’m sure, I’m positive, I’ve written bad e-mail,” he told me. “I just got lucky that’s not the one out there.”) Of course, being jaunty and cool is a lot easier when all the pistons are firing, all the gears clicking. By the end of its run, 22 Jump Street had taken in more than $300 million worldwide, a figure that added another hit to Tatum’s epic string of successes, beginning with his first starring role, in 2006’s Step Up, and continuing with 2012’s The Vow, 21 Jump Street, and Magic Mike—three $100-million-grossing movies in just six months, an unheard-of run that minted him as a sure thing in a town diminished by binge television and the endless churn of social media, a town overcome by a case of the heebie-jeebies. But it was Magic Mike that really made Tatum’s bones. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, it told Tatum’s up-from-the-trenches origin story via codpieces and other ephemera of the nighttime trade—the handsome kid from the midsize city, a natural-born aristocrat dreaming through the American nowhere, modeling and dancing and how would you feel about trying it without pants? “I started dancing at Joy, a nightclub in Tampa,” he told me. “The group was called Male Encounter.” This eventually led to the more legitimate precincts of showbiz: print ads, a Pepsi commercial, the first feature films.
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