We’re used to seeing Joe Manganiello in front of the camera as Alcide on True Blood and as male stripper “Big Dick Richie” in Magic Mike as well as on our book shelves with his fitness book, Evolution: The Cutting Edge Guide to Breaking Down Mental Walls and Building The Body You’ve Always Wanted.
But you won’t see the man at all in the documentary La Bare. Manganiello stays behind the camera for his directoral debut with the film that looks at a popular male strip club located in Dallas.
TheBacklot caught up with Manganiello, who is still filming the final True Blood season, to ask him 10 questions about La Bare, gay men’s place in the male strip club and how he’ll feel saying goodbye to the role on the HBO series that made him a star.
How would you say the male strip show has changed over the last decade or two?
Joe Manganiello: I can’t answer for any other club but La Bare, but I can say that when the most recent owner, Alex, took over after the dip the club took post-9/11, he cleaned up a lot of the partying and drugs. He and Randy turned it into more of a business. The focus has now been shifted onto being the best entertainers possible and putting on the best male review in the world. The result is a better quality of dancer and a better live show. If it wasn’t for them, I’m not sure this film would have worked the way that it did.
Did Magic Mike have as a big of an impact on the industry as one might think?
JM: One of the characters in La Bare is a 19-year old kid who saw Magic Mike with his sister in the theater and decided that that was what he wanted to do with his life. His stage name is “Channing,” so, yeah, I think it had a big impact on future generations of male dancers.
I also think from what I know about Magic Mike XXL, there will be an even bigger impact. Guys are going to want to do this for a living. With that said, aside from attendance spiking post-Magic Mike release, there is a 20′ high banner of Magic Mike in the club, they do the “It’s Raining Men” routine now, and obviously, because of Magic Mike, I heard about the club and made this documentary about their lives, which has now created interest in a TV show. It has shined a light on the culture in general and brought mainstream appeal and curiosity to a very misunderstood profession.
Did the Men of La Bare – Dallas trust Manganiello and truly open up?
(photo by Justin Campbell)
What was the biggest challenge for you behind the camera?
JM: Gaining the trust of some of the people who were witnesses in the after-hours club parking lot the night of the murder. Earning people’s respect takes time and we just needed to hang in there. The other challenge was directing without being noticed by the crowd. Luckily for me, my Director of Photographer, Andrew “Wheels” Wheeler is such a badass and was on top of all of the B-roll shooting.
Was it a challenge to get the guys of La Bare to open up to you? They really revealed a lot!
JM: My role in Magic Mike definitely moved mountains. I don’t know that anyone else would have been able to get that kind of access without some sort of street cred in their world. My old friend Jason was a dancer there in the 90’s and flying him in for the first round of shooting was essential to make introductions.
I’ve often heard people assume that a lot of male dancers are gay, but that isn’t really a part of your film. Can a gay guy be a successful male dancer (for women)?
JM: I don’t understand why people think that and I don’t understand why the job of dancing exclusively for women would a) appeal to a gay male dancer or b) why it would appeal to a female to be danced on by a gay male. At a men-only gay strip club, sure, but this club and all of the others like it are for women. Men aren’t even allowed in unless accompanied by a female and even then, they have to sit in the far back of the club away from the stage and use the urinal in the guys’ locker room.
Story wise, the interesting thing to me as a director were the differences between male and female fantasies and how they manifest in the form of a male strip club as opposed to a female club. You just don’t get that foundation and conversation unless it’s at a straight club. That, in my opinion, is what is at the heart of this film and what is inherently interesting to me about this world. This ever-evolving conversation of post-feminist sex relations. As much as we fight to be equal in some ways we are still, and always will be, wonderfully different.
Loved the music in the film. Where did you find Z-Trip?
JM: I’ve been a huge fan of Z-Trip for about 14 years now. I used to go every week to his first residency in LA at this spot in Los Feliz. I snatched up all of his early mix tapes and CDs and would go to see all of his gigs religiously. He, in my opinion, was responsible for breaking music out of this creative funk that was happening at the end of the 90’s and early 2000’s. We became best friends over the years and I swore that when it came time to make my first professional film as a director/producer I would do everything I could to have him lay down the soundtrack.
Your production company is 3:59. What’s the significance of the name?
JM: It’s dedicated to Roger Bannister, the man who made the impossible possible. He was the first person to break down the four minute wall in the mile run after thousands of years of naysayers proclaiming that it was never going to happen. It’s about breaking down mental walls created by society. I go into a full chapter of detail as to the global importance of this principle in my book, Evolution.
Post- Alcide, Manganiello has a full plate including Magic Mike XXL & maybe another book.
What else is in the pipeline for you post-True Blood wrapping up?
JM: Looks like I’m going to shoot a horror/thriller with some fantastic people in July back East. Magic Mike XXL will shoot in the fall, and my brother Nick and I have a full slate of projects for TV and film with our company 3:59 rolling out over the next few years and maybe another book or a fitness DVD. We’ll see…
What will you miss the most about the character of Alcide? Did you get to do everything with him that you would’ve liked?
JM: It was the perfect character for me in many ways. He’s this savage monster at times but has this huge heart and capacity for undying love. There was a lot left on the table, however, and I’d love to be able to return to him or some other similar character at some point.
You’ll be saying goodbye to this family of True Blood soon. Is it really goodbye or will you be in touch with everyone frequently?
JM: I’ll make sure to see and continue to support my castmates that I grew close with over the past five years. We’re not kids anymore and all of us have big full lives with lots of moving parts. But Hollywood is a small place and we’ll run into each other.
To find out when La Bare is playing in your area, visit the website. True Blood airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.