“Whatever ex-girlfriend talked to them, she should be on the Christmas card list,” jokes Manganiello, best known as werewolf Alcide on “True Blood.” “They sent me the script, and I found out right away what I was going to have to do, which was: penis pump, fireman suit, head-to-toe gold paint. And I went, ‘I’m in. let’s do this.’”
In the film opening Friday, BDR is one of the male strippers who works with Mike (Tatum) at a Tampa-area club, and Richie’s selling point is self-explanatory. The 6-feet-5-inch Manganiello is having a bit of a breakout moment himself after striding onstage at the MTV Movie Awards in a fireman costume and later carrying Elizabeth Banks offstage.
At the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Pennsylvania-native Manganiello, 35, talked about real-life stripper stories, his softer side and BDR’s backstory.
Before filming, you talked to a friend who used to be a male stripper for background information. What was a story he told you that was especially helpful or amusing?
Well, there [are] so much drugs. They used to have drums of GHB backstage and they would do rails of speed and they would try to time it out so they would peak right onstage with the girl. And they would say that backstage there would be women who were going to get married the next day and they’d be backstage just doing stuff with the guys. And then they’d go to the parking lot, some girl’s waiting next to their car so they’re doing the girls in the car and they’d have these regulars that would follow them home and then [be with them] all night long ... [Then they’d] get up and lift some weights, go back, rinse and repeat. And the guys, it almost had this sense of pro wrestling. These guys are like these egos and feathered hair and they were just beating each other up backstage, getting into fights in thongs and knee-high white patent-leather go-go boots. It was like, “What is this? What is this world?” It was so funny and insane and tragic and depraved all at the same time. So I really got a sense for what that world was.
Why is there that feeling, as far bachelorette parties, of, “They’re just strippers, I can do whatever I want with them?”
Why are women behaving that way? Jeez. It’s male wish-fulfillment in a lot of ways. For example, I think there [are] a lot of gender differences, or a lot of gender questions that come up or lessons that can be learned by the difference between the female strip clubs and the male strip clubs. The female strip clubs, men aren’t allowed to touch; men are threatening physically to the women. Male strip clubs it’s not that way. Women aren’t physically threatening to big men. So if you want to touch the guy, who cares? Do it. They’re into it. So it’s really just this free-for-all, this Dionysian, orgiastic male wish-fulfillment. ... I think it’s interesting the way women behave in packs when they think no one’s watching. I think there’s an amount of that. There is a market for—women want to let loose. They want to go crazy. They want to let that energy loose in a society that I think tells them to not—not step out that way, not behave that way, be a lady. So here’s this environment where they don’t have to be. They can be as dirty as guys. And oftentimes are more dirty than the guys are.
This is the first movie in a while that’s inspiring girls’ nights out that doesn’t have “Sex and the City” or “Sisterhood” in the title.
Exactly. It’s that audience but, I want to say on steroids, but I mean maybe estrogen—
Yeah. It really is, there’s a level of energy because of the sexualized nature of what we’re doing. I mean it seems ridiculous to think that putting on a fireman suit elicits the response that it does, but it does! I questioned it and went, “Really? This, with the fireman?”
But I love that Big Dick Richie has a phobia of fire.
[Laughs.] Yes. He doesn’t really like it. Fog machines are cool, real fire no.
How long did you have to sit around to become a man covered in gold?
I sat in a chair for a little over an hour with a team of five women [laughs] who had gold paint, just covering every crevice with gold.
What’s going through your head at that moment?
“God, this is the life.” “All that Shakespeare and Chekhov and Ibsen has brought me to this point.”
What was the most surreal moment of this whole process?
Most surreal moment was thinking I was signing on to do this $5 million indie with Steven Soderbergh, who I love, and [Matt] Bomer, ... who was this drama school classmate of mine. We really think we’re doing this underground-feeling-cool expose on this subculture of male stripping and then getting there and realizing that all these studio executives from different studios were there engaged in this bidding war over the movie and realizing, “Everybody’s going to see this.” And hearing that it was going to be released July 4 weekend, June 29, and it was going to be one of Warner’s big summer movies and going, “Oh my God, everybody’s’ going to see this thing.” I think that was the moment. Because we went into it thinking it was going to be this little thing. And now it’s just huge.
You’ve had several roles where people wouldn’t exactly say you’re lacking for masculinity. What’s something that touches on your softer side that might surprise people?
Oh, jeez. I think there’s a lot of sensitivity in the character I play on “True Blood.” He’s a deconstructivist werewolf. He’s not what you would typically think of a werewolf to be. He’s very sensitive. He’s a bunny inside of this monstrous frame. And I think when he gets hurt it’s when it gets scary. ... There’s a lot of that in me I think. I was a super-sensitive kid growing up. I mean hell, I had a career ahead of me in college athletics that I gave up to go do classical theater, which in western Pennsylvania is not really the move.
Do you think if you didn’t get injured you’d still be doing sports?
I could have gone past the injury. It wasn’t this debilitating, I-can’t-walk-anymore wheelchair moment or something. I tore my MCL, which happens. But funny enough the first game back from tearing my MCL I went up to dunk in a basketball game and my legs got taken out and I landed on my elbow and broke my elbow. So I went from rehabbing my knee for months to rehabbing this elbow. And I came back for volleyball that season and broke a finger. It was a series of injuries. It was like the universe was keeping me out of competition that way. It gave me enough time to become reacquainted with that artistic kid that I was. I was very, very artistic. I was always drawing, writing, creating these characters. That became reactivated in me through my high school’s TV studio. I started writing movies for me and my friends and we found out how to make homemade squibs and that’s kind of how I got into it.
What’s a situation in which being 6’5” feels like an inconvenience?
Airplanes. When you’re not flying first class. Or even just the front row seat in first class because your feet are up like (demonstrates). So that. But with that said, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I think being as big as I am has been the single most defining factor of my life.
How do you think Big Dick Richie and Dirk Diggler would get along?
Oh, they would fight like cats and dogs.
There can only be one.
Isn’t that a “Star Wars” line or something?
[Laughs.] “Two men enter, one man leave.” That’s “Mad Max.”
We don’t get a ton of Richie’s backstory in “Magic Mike.” What do you think a Big Dick Richie spinoff movie might touch on?
Well, there actually were some scenes where we talk about Richie’s backstory. He was a baseball player, had a lot of potential. Played some minor league ball, got into some pills, drank a lot, didn’t really fulfill his potential. Wound up in Tampa. Good way to make money. He was just along for the ride.
It’s a really heartfelt story.
Ah, he’s having a good time. He’s not really thinking about tomorrow, which of course in 10 years the guy’s either going to be dead or in rehab. That’s where the sequel will wind up. [Laughs.] It will be Richie’s funeral or something.
His favorite thing to do in Chicago: “Eat. As soon as we landed we were calling to make sure that the deep dish pizza was delivered last night. We took a general consensus of what the best one was and they sent it.”
On the “Magic Mike” DVD: “The DVD is going to have two hours of stripping. The whole full routines that were edited down into the montages that you see in the movie, each one of those is a full song. I think the DVD will have the full-length … It will be like the director’s cut of a porn.”
An onscreen werewolf he wants his “True Blood” werewolf to battle: “Well, I like ‘Teen Wolf,’ so I wouldn’t want—I think my character would destroy ‘Teen Wolf,’ Michael J. Fox. I wouldn’t want to see that one go down, that would be sad. Other than that, who would I want to fight? Jeez. Kate Beckinsale isn’t really a werewolf, but I would like to be in a scene with Kate Beckinsale.”
If his “How I Met Your Mother” character Brad will attend Barney Stinson’s (Neil Patrick Harris) wedding: “Oh! We’re talking about it. We’re trying to get Brad back in there for the final season for sure. We’ve been trying every season. It’s just werewolfin’ takes up a lot of time.”
If he still wants to be a superhero, after having to bow out of possibly becoming Superman due to “True Blood” conflicts: “Sure. I’ve been very fortunate to work on projects Alan Ball calls ‘popcorn for smart people,’ whether it’s Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ or Alan Ball’s ‘True Blood.’ Getting to work with Soderbergh on something as, I don’t want to say high concept, but something as glossy as what we’re doing with ‘Magic Mike,’ I’ve been able to work on really out there, interesting stuff that’s high concept and fun. It would have to be with the right person on the right project.”
Guilty pleasure movie: “Well, I don’t know how much of a guilty pleasure it is because it’s brilliant, but one of my favorite movies of all time is ‘The King of Kong.’ Oh man, I love that. But I grew up [with] ‘The Dark Crystal,’ ‘Labyrinth.’”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U