Interview: Channing Tatum of "G.I. JOE"
Mon, 03 Aug 2009 07:37:32
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Channing Tatum got the chance to live out every little boy's dream and fight Cobra for real.
In G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra (Paramount), Tatum assumes the role of Duke, G.I. JOE's leader. He does a hell of a job bringing the character from an animated icon to a big screen action hero. Pulling off all the epic battle sequences as well as adding real depth to the character, Tatum makes a Duke a modern hero with heart.
Sitting in a New York City hotel, he was extremely thrilled to discuss his love for the franchise, how his Duke is different and why action movies are crucial to pop culture in this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com.
Catch Tatum in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra on Friday August 7th. You won't regret it! Go JOE!
How awesome was being in G.I. JOE?
Imagine if you were playing the ultimate make-believe as a kid! That's what it was like. I got to run around with guns that actually do cooler stuff than the stick I got out my backyard did [Laughs]. It was ridiculously fun! I feel like I'm getting to live out every single fantasy that I ever had growing up.
Duke has a certain duality. He's got a ton of passion and drive, but he also strictly adheres to duty. Was it a challenge to achieve that balance on screen?
We kept watching all of the cartoons and reading all of the comics. Everybody always knew Duke as concerned about the mission first. However, we tried to make these characters people first. The movie is a prequel story. It's about how these people become the characters that we all know and love. We wanted to give them real personality before they become these characters that are such icons in our culture. I wanted my Duke to be a normal guy before anything else.
Was it fun to build this myth from the ground up?
Hell yeah, man! We had so much to pull from. The comics go back and back. There is so much history and great character there. Snake Eyes was my favorite when I was a kid. I wanted to be a ninja! I would run around the backyard with my mom's stocking over my head and a stick with my dog with me [Laughs]. To be on set with Snake Eyes right next to me was one of the coolest things ever. To build this story from the ground up was a little nerve wracking because you don't know how the fan boys are going to take it. These characters are their childhood—and my childhood. I think we did a good job. We really kept kids and the fans in mind.
You exhibited real reverence for the story but, at the same time, you created an epic thrill ride on screen.
Thanks! That means a lot to me because you never know with these things. As an actor you try to do what you can to construct your take on something. With this, there is so much history and so much stuff behind it. When you start adding to that you can fall into pit falls and people might not like it. All we're really trying to do is give the audience a good time and a good ride. I think Stephen [Sommers, director] did an amazing job with the film. I think this is his best film yet. I challenge you to catch a breath in the movie. It just moves! It doesn't stop as soon as it starts.
That's exactly what an action movie should do. You give the younger generation that may have not grown up with G.I. JOE heroes too. Kids need that.
I totally agree! These days it's so rare to have actual good guys and actual bad guys in a film. In drama today, everybody's a good guy in his own head. Even if he's the villain in the movie, he thinks he's a good guy. It's such a rare thing to actually have a villain in a movie. It's such a rare thing to play a real hero that's just nothing but good.
There's a positivity associated with watching something like G.I. JOE because it shows true heroism.
Exactly! Look, we don't want kids to run off buildings like we do in the movie. We're hoping parents raise their children to be smart enough not do that [Laughs]. To fight for what's good is what it's about. Think of all the PSA's at the end of all the cartoons. They'd always have some lesson to learn. That's doesn't happen anymore. If you look at cartoons these days they don't seem to be trying to teach kids anything.
Did you draw on action heroes you grew up watching?
I always loved Bruce Willis. He was always the "normal guy." He wasn't this bionic man, but he was that regular guy that could whoop ass. I love Stallone and Schwarzenegger too those were guys I grew up on.
Did you have a favorite action sequence?
The Paris sequence rivals any action sequence in any movie that I've seen this year for sure [Laughs]. There's a scene where Marlon Wayans and I bounce onto the same car after going through a train. It's really funny to me. The scene is me and Marlon to a "T." He's one of my dearest friends now, and the scene really sets up who Duke and Ripcord are. In the craziest of circumstances they can still clown on each other and laugh about it. That's probably my favorite scene. I like my Snake Eyes fight. I have a little training sequence with him that I really enjoyed doing.
There's a lot of chemistry between the characters amidst all the action.
In no way shape or form is this movie trying to portray "real soldiers." I think soldiers are the most heroic people on the entire planet. I have a cool job; they have the most important job. That's how soldiers are. They're always clowning with each other. They're the best of friends. Ripcord and Duke are like that. That's probably the only thing that I would say is "reality" in this movie. The rest of the film is a big huge fantasy. It's an escape.
It transports you back to being a kid.
Definitely, man! I felt like a kid when I got out of there. I felt a lot like I did when I came out of Pirates of the Caribbean. I wasn't sure how I was going to like a pirate movie. Then the next thing I knew I was on this crazy ride with these awesome characters I cared about. Pirates had these great relationships, crazy action and humor. This movie has all of those same elements. G.I. JOE has comedy, romance, action and a little bit of drama. As far as I'm concerned, it's got the whole recipe for a big action blockbuster or whatever you call these things [Laughs].