From Stripper to Superstar
By Aaron Hicklin
Like Wahlberg, Tatum also comes from humble beginnings. He grew up in Alabama, in what he calls a straight-up middle-class family. His dad was a roofer, until he fell off a roof and damaged his back. His mom worked for AAA. He describes his older sister as “the dog’s bollocks, just the sickest chick on the face of the planet,” and is candid about the world he grew up in.
“My uncle Bruce is about as country as you get,” he says. “He’s not OK with interracial stuff, probably, and I don’t think he’d met a gay man before my wedding. Where I’m from, there’s not a lot of out gay men.”
It’s easy to see why Tatum gravitates to stories about blue-collar people who do extraordinary things. He remembers, as a child, sitting rapt in front of Disney’s animated Robin Hood -- “Especially the bit where he kisses the lady’s hair and smiles, and you realize he’s sucked all her jewels into his teeth,” he says. “It’s a classic storyline -- a tyrant, a penniless thief who is the hero and gets the beautiful damsel in distress.” He likes stories about class warriors and freedom fighters. The movie he’s watched most often -- at least 100 times, he says -- is Braveheart.
“Chan comes from a ranching family in Alabama, and didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and I think both of us can relate to those kinds of characters more than we do to superheroes,” says Reid Carolin, Tatum’s producing partner and creative collaborator. “He is vastly different from everyone else I’ve met in this business, perhaps because his ambition was never to be famous, or have pictures taken of himself.” The two met when Carolin was producing Kimberly Peirce’s Iraq movie, Stop-Loss. “A tape came in of an actor that I’d never seen before in my life, and it just kind of blew us away,” Carolin recalls. Soon the two men had formed their own company.
Among their slate of movie projects is a Peter Pan origin story, Neverland, which they are filming for Sony, and a biopic about daredevil motorcyclist Evel Knievel that focuses on the mid-1960s, when he jumped the fountains at Caesar’s Palace and crashed. This summer, they are planning a jungle survival trip to Guyana where they plan to rappel off waterfalls and kill their own food.
“We’re always talking about, ‘If the world comes to an end we’re fucked. We’re totally screwed because we don’t know shit about survival,’ ” says Tatum. “How do we find, like, food, because eventually food is going to run out in the cities.”
It is dusk, and Tatum is studying a whiskey menu at a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “I wish I had a palate to be able to choose one over the other,” he says. “I’m a redneck -- I still love Coors Light.”
Although he lives in L.A., Tatum doesn’t take his success for granted. He knows that the movie industry is a fickle mistress, and remembers a not-so-distant time when his wife was the principal breadwinner, paying his rent for six months.
“I’ve been acting for eight years now, and I feel I’m just starting to understand things,” he says. “As soon as you think you’re the shit, you’ll find 100 people that will point at you and laugh. I don’t ever want to be that person -- I want to keep finding people I can learn from. That’s my entire journey in life.”