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Channing Tatum Talks About ‘Dear John’

Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum in Dear John

Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum in ‘Dear John.’

© Screen Gems

Channing Tatum stars as John Tyree, a US Army Special Forces soldier home on leave who falls for a pretty, intelligent college student (played by Amanda Seyfried), in Dear John, a romantic tale based on the book by Nicholas Sparks. Sparks’ The Notebook is a multiple hanky film, and judging by the reaction of the female-dominated audience at the preview screening I attended, Dear John is another one of those romantic films that makes you tear up. This one’s going to be a must-own DVD, just like The Notebook

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Tatum’s done romantic films before (Step UpShe’s the Man) and he’s no stranger to playing a soldier having starred in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and 2008’sStop-Loss. But Tatum’s soldier in Dear John differs greatly from the hardened character he played inStop-Loss or the over-the-top action hero of G.I Joe. And his John Tyree is a much more mature romantic lead than either of his previous romantic roles.

Playing Soldier

It’s interesting that directors see Tatum, a former model, as the military type. At the LA press day for the Screen Gems movie, Tatum reflected on why he’s now been cast as a soldier in three films. “I don’t know, I’ve played football. I have a thick neck and I usually have a shaved head,” said Tatum. “But, I don’t know. I really respect them. My papa was in the military and before I really got to like grow up and ask him about it, he was gone or he didn’t have the ability to speak. And I was always kind of interested, and if I didn’t get a football scholarship, I probably would have thought about going into the military. And then I just didn’t, you know? Then after college I just didn’t really think about it again. And I don’t know, I was off on a crazy road. It didn’t appeal to me anymore.”

Tatum has nothing but respect for the men and women who choose to join the military, and he takes very seriously the job of portraying a soldier onscreen. Still, Tatum sees this as more than a movie about a soldier during war times. “[…] I’m not a solider, never been over there, I haven’t even visited. I want to. But I know how to wear the clothes really well. You know, I know how to like sling the gun and walk around. But when it comes to being a soldier, we didn’t want to make this about a war movie. We didn’t want to make it about 9/11. We just wanted to make it about two kids that were falling in love for the very first time. It’s that first love, that one that you cannot get right, no matter how hard you try, because you’re just not going to get the first one right. You’re going to fall on your face. It’s going to be painful and you’re going to learn, hopefully. And you’re generally going to end up blaming everybody else except yourself until you figure it out. And I think that’s exactly what John does. He’s got to learn the hard way,” explained Tatum.

Life on the Dear John Set

Director Lasse Hallstrom’s also no stranger to romantic movies. His filmography includesSomething to Talk AboutCasanovaChocolat, and The Cider House Rules. Even his critically acclaimed 1993 film, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, is a love story. Tatum found Hallstrom to be a joy to work with, and admired the fact the former director of Abba music videos knew how to handle romantic scenes – as well as the long-distance relationship aspect of the story – without making it come off as cheesy.

Tatum admitted he was a little worried at first about how the exchange of letters over a period of months would come across as his character is off in some foreign land and Seyfried’s is attending college. “A little bit, you know, because they can get so sort of voice-overy and episodic. Once Lasse came on though I wasn’t really worried about it anymore. I don’t think they reinvented the wheel with it. You know, I think that he just did it really simply well,” offered Tatum. “But it just never really was a problem when he came on because he has a sort of an allergic reaction to anything that is really cheesy. And, you know, he hated my beret. Like when I wore the beret or the jacket, he was just like, ‘It just seems like the worst movie moment. I can see it in the trailer and I just can’t have it.’ And so he would always fight with the D.O.D., the army guys, because they’re like, ‘If you’re outside, you’ve got to have your cover on and your jacket on.’ And then he’s like, ‘Well, he’s not outside in public. He’s at a private property.’ He’s like, ‘You can’t have it all and I’m just not going to have it. It’s a movie – stop it.’ So that was always kind of interesting to watch. But, I don’t know. Lasse, I just kind of have faith in him. He doesn’t do things badly.”

Tatum added, “He’s the funniest guy, and he’s really so specifically funny. Like all of his jokes are really like for one person – they’re not really for the room. And he’ll kind of lean over and whisper something absolutely hilarious to you and then you want to share it. You’re like, ‘Awww, no one else heard that?’ I don’t know, he’s one of the smartest people I think I’ve ever met in a lot of different ways because he doesn’t sit there and try to impress people with his knowledge. He actually does the opposite. He kind of tailors himself to whoever you are. If you’re a very intellectual person, he’ll have an intellectual conversation with you. If you’re just a kid and you want to joke around and have fun, like that’s what he’s doing, he really sort of adjusts himself to whoever he’s around. And I think that’s a really socially genius thing to do.”
Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in Dear John

Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in ‘Dear John.’

© Screen Gems

Channing Tatum was attached to Dear John even before director Lasse Hallstrom came onboard. In fact, Tatum was set to star inDear John back when the project didn’t have a script. So when it came time to choose the actress to play Savannah, his love interest, Tatum was actively involved in the casting process.

“I got to be in all the sessions and read with all the girls. And it’s really interesting to go in and just read with so many different girls, and some of them doing it entirely different. You get to see all these different Savannahs and then one walks in the door and you’re just kind of like, ‘Oh…right.’ And it was one of those ah-ha moments. And all of them were good. I mean because they weren’t seeing anybody that were bad actors, you know? And some of my favorite actresses were coming in and you try to take yourself out of like your crushes or your favorites and just say, ‘What’s right for the film? Who is Savannah really?’ Who should Savanna be in the film, and not who do you really just want to act with.”

What made Amanda Seyfried stand out? “I think her humor and her kind of irony,” replied Tatum. “She always went away from the emotion, which in a movie like this is very [important]. You know, you can’t come towards the emotion all the time, just because of the content of the film. And she makes it really light, the content. We only had really two weeks together, so the first 15, 20 minutes of the film needs to have fun. You have to have fun. And even when you start to go down the whole, ‘I’m going to miss you, I can’t believe you’re leaving. Are we going to try to do this?,’ she still has a bit of a quirky feel to her. That could have went into a very more melodramatic way. And I think that’s how strong she is. She makes really kind of interesting choices.”

And working with Seyfried was fantastic, according to Tatum. “She’s like one of the most talented little quirky [actresses]. She’s hilarious. And she’s really weird at times, which kind of makes it great. She makes really interesting choices, kind of goes away from the obvious thing all the time. And she’s got a voice of an angel and she’s beautiful. I mean there’s nothing really more you can ask for from just an all-American girl. She’s the perfect little package.”

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February 5, 2010 - Posted by | 1

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