Magic Mike star on telling his kids he’s in a stripper movie, Channing flattery and indecent gyrations
By: Chris Azzopardi*/Special to TRT—
Matt Bomer is not buying all the buzz about Matt Bomer.
Channeling his trademark charm, the actor calls it “sheer fallacy” that anyone—let alone heterosexual men—could possibly find his piercing baby-blue eyes swoon-worthy.
And then there’s his body. On display in all its near-nakedness in Magic Mike XXL, Bomer is modest about his sculpted physique. You expect it, of course. The 37-year-old dreamboat—just ask Channing Tatum—was born in Missouri and raised in Texas, and he hasn’t strayed from his humble Southern roots despite scorching screen after screen.
Not just with a striptease, either.
His Golden Globe-winning performance as Felix Turner in HBO’s powerful adaptation of Larry Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart was a tear-jerking tour de force. And soon, Bomer will bring the spooks, starring alongside Lady Gaga during the upcoming American Horror Story: Hotel, another collaboration with Ryan Murphy (both worked together previously on Glee and The New Normal).
We talked to Bomer about geeking out to Gaga, explaining Magic Mike to his sons and how Channing Tatum made him blush.
Chris Azzopardi: You and your Magic Mike co-star Channing Tatum recently made a surprise appearance at LA Pride. As a gay man yourself, what was it like having Channing show his support for you and the rest of the LGBT community?
Matt Bomer: It’s one of the many things that makes him the magnanimous, amazing, cherished soul that he is. It was his idea, to be honest with you. And he didn’t have to do it. The reality of the situation is, it wasn’t some PR move on his part—he wanted to be inclusive, and that’s a big part of who he is as a human being. So, given the opportunity to work with him, and really everybody in this cast—they’re just a great example of what we all can be, which are people who are secure in themselves, and loving and accepting of people no matter who they are and where they come from.
Q. Channing was very complimentary toward you in his recent Reddit AMA interview. He said he “absofuckinglutely” gets lost in your eyes, and that “I don’t know what they are made of outside of dreams and rainbows and amazingness…” How did you react when you learned of his enthusiasm for you?
A. (Laughs) I mean, obviously, I blushed. Knowing Channing, and what a kind soul he is, I guess when you’re the most handsome man on the planet—and probably the most desired man on the planet—you have the security to give those kinds of compliments. And so, it was great. It made my day, of course! I and the rest of the world feel the same way about him.
Q. Your eyes get a lot of attention from a lot of people. Have they always stopped traffic?
A. I don’t think they do! I think that’s sheer fallacy and kindness on the part of others. (Laughs) No—I’m still just trying to wake up in the morning with the kids, so I don’t really have time to think about that. More like, “Do I look like I got five hours of sleep last night?!”
Q. So there’s a gay bar scene in Magic Mike XXL.
A. How great is that, to have a gay bar scene with a full-on drag show and some of the best voguers in the world? I mean, it was like a little vogue ball going on.
Q. Did you shoot at a real gay bar?
A. I’m not sure, to be honest with you. They sure made the location feel like it! I didn’t ask; you roll up on set and that’s where you are that day. I wasn’t like, “Guys, is this a legit gay bar?!” The set-dec team on this movie is so gifted, so everywhere you go you just think, “Oh, this is what it is!”
Q. It’s good to see you have more lines in XXL.
A. Well, that wouldn’t be hard. I would only have had to say, like, two or three words to have more lines than I had in the first one. (Laughs)
Q. And the singing! You get to cover D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel).”
A. Oh my god. I mean, that was the best white man’s attempt I could make at that song. I just tried to stay in the game, man. I mean, that vocal and that song—I couldn’t believe we were even trying to touch it.
Q. Were you intimidated?
A. Of course! The whole thing was Channing’s idea. We did the first movie on a tiny budget, and we entertained the extras between takes. One time he just threw them right in front of my face and was like, “Do something entertaining.” That’s the creative, spontaneous soul that Channing is, and Joe (Manganiello) has known me since we were 18 and so (Joe) was like, “You should sing something!” And I was like, “What do I sing?” Channing was like, “I don’t know—sing some Jodeci.” And so I did!
He remembered that for the second movie. He was like, “Why don’t you sing something? What song would you sing?” I was like, “Obviously the sexiest song of all time is ‘How Does It Feel’ by D’Angelo, but I’m not gonna touch that song.” He was like, “Why don’t you give it a try?” So I basically recorded a vocal over a karaoke track, more or less—I ended up singing it live in the movie—but that recording is basically what we used to choreograph the piece and what we based the eventual performance on.
Q. What do you remember thinking the first time you saw D’Angelo bare almost all during the “Untitled” video?
A. Honestly, I got Voodoo as soon as it came out (in 2000), and I remember hearing that song and just playing it over and over again. And there’s an extended cut of that song that’s, like, seven minutes long! I was just so fascinated to hear a song that’s in six-eight time, and I know that’s musician lingo, but it was so inherently sexy in such an effortless way. Seeing the video was icing on the cake. I think I was like, “How do you get that jacked? How do you get in that kind of shape?” And then I was also like, “Was he really naked?!”
Q. And now you are that jacked in Magic Mike.
A. Oh please! Not even.
Q. As they get older, how will you explain Magic Mike to your three sons?
A. You know, I think the dialogue has already begun. I think it’s dangerous to just ignore something. Fortunately or unfortunately there are billboards on the way to their school, so when I’m driving them to school in the morning—the first couple of times I tried to duck my head—they realize it’s me. So, I told them when I was doing the movie, “This is a movie I’m doing where we play dancers and we have fun and we try to entertain these ladies.” I try to frame it in a context that they can understand so that they’re not just operating in the dark and going, “Why is my dad naked on a billboard?” Because I’m trying to help them make sense of their world. In terms of a real conversation as to what that is, that probably won’t start until they’re teenagers. (Laughs)
And by the way, they keep me real grounded and real down to earth about it all. I remember I was actually taking my older son to see Jurassic World, and on the way there was the billboard and I was like, “Ah, crap.” And he brought it up. “Hey, that’s you on that billboard.” I was like, “Yeah.” And he goes, “But they’re not all you.” Like, you ain’t that cool. (Laughs)
The interesting thing about kids is, they don’t care what you do so much or what other people think about you; they’re more interested in what your relationship with them is like and how you prioritize them in your life. I try to make a strong effort to make them know they’re always number one for me.
Q. As an actor, what’s it like to go from a role in a movie that’s as intense as The Normal Heart to Magic Mike XXL? Is that balance critical for you as a person?
A. I’ll be honest with you, it was for me, man. I went from Normal Heart into the last season of a show I’d done for six years (USA’s White Collar, 2009-2014), and then into a couple of more serious roles in other films, and this was the perfect break. The thing about being an actor is you approach your work the same regardless of what the role is or what the genre is or what the themes are—you try to put the same amount of work into it—but it was certainly nice and a breath of fresh air to get to chill out and have fun with these guys.
Q. You came out publicly in 2012, and you handled it with so much grace and subtlety. These days, there’s a lot of pressure on Hollywood actors to take that step. Where do you stand on the role of public Hollywood figures in terms of advancing the gay movement?
A. You know, it’s not my business to get up on a soapbox and tell people what they should and shouldn’t do. I think one thing that people don’t always take into consideration is a holistic aspect of what may or may not be going on in that individual’s life—you know, what kind of relationship they have with their family, how the people around them feel about it. But for me, having kids and being married, it was important to maintain the integrity of those relationships and not teach my kids that this is a shameful secret and that my husband (Simon Halls) has to be waiting in the wings all the time. So that’s why it was important to me personally. By the same token, I don’t hold anyone else accountable. It’s their choice.
Q. Now onto American Horror Story. According to a tweet from Ryan Murphy, Lady Gaga has to choose between you and actor Finn Wittrock during the upcoming season of American Horror Story: Hotel. First of all, have you even read the script yet?
A. (Laughs) That’s a great question. You’re the first person who’s started with that question, which I think is, ultimately, the most important question. I’ve read a couple of them. I wish I could tell you more. Honestly, I have no specifics of who’s playing which role and what Finn is playing, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as an actor and a person, and I’m incredibly excited to work with Stefani (Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga) as well and see what she brings to the table. And listen, Ryan is a creative genius. He really is. Nobody does a show quite like he does, so I’m really excited to get to play in that twisted and beautiful world they’ve created. Whatever they bring my way, I’m down.
Q. Which Lady Gaga song could you see yourself stripping to?
A. Oh, you mean which one do I blast full volume in my car? I don’t know which one I’d strip to, to be honest with you, but I definitely get down to The Edge of Glory in my car and just geek out to it. If anyone saw me at a stop light, they would think I was crazy. I just let it fly in the car. I’ll do that.
Do you ever watch that show Broad City? It’s everything. I’m so in love with these two girls who are the leads, and one of them at one point finally gets the apartment to herself and she blasts Edge of Glory and just does a full-on dance around her apartment. I will straight up do the same thing at my house when I get, you know, two free seconds.
Q. How have the moves you’ve learned from doing two Magic Mike movies been an asset to you in your own life?
A. Um, they haven’t been. (Laughs) First of all, after we finished the first film, my sister got married shortly thereafter, and I took some of my new gyrations to the dance floor at her wedding reception. I realized very quickly, after getting some scathing looks from my cousins, that some things are just best left in the club and not brought to your sister’s wedding reception party. Like, “Oh, I better check myself—I’m not in Magic Mike anymore!” (Laughs)
The nice thing about this movie, and what I personally love, is it’s about freedom, it’s about being comfortable with yourself—especially the second one. It’s about acceptance and a lack of judgment no matter who you are or where you come from. What I love about this world, this kind of odyssey that these guys all go on—yeah, they’re in a drag club, and then they’re at this party where people are doing drugs, but there’s no judgment about it. It’s these guys who are in this world trying to forget who they are but also accepting everything and everyone around them. That’s me and something I take with me in my life.