QUESTION: You and Steven Soderbergh have worked together for so long, including Magic Mike, which you produced and he directed. Can you talk about your dynamic and how this project evolved with you taking the helm?
GREG JACOBS: I was involved in developing the first film with Channing Tatum, Soderbergh, and [screenwriter] Reid Carolin. After the first movie came out and did well, we started thinking about a sequel. Chan had a story about this road trip that he and a bunch of the guys took that we tried to fit into the first movie but couldn’t because it was too big of an idea. We thought, ‘If we’re lucky enough to make a sequel, that could be a big idea for it.’ So once we started working on Magic Mike XXL, we used that as a framework for our screenplay.
When it became clear that Steven wasn’t going to direct the sequel, I think all eyes turned to me because I had directed a couple of other films and had a relationship with all of the guys. Chan and Soderbergh were very supportive and encouraged me to do it. So that’s how it came about.
Steven and I have made a lot of movies together. He’s the perfect producer and cameraman. He’s there doing for me what I’ve done for him for a long time, which is to be a creative sounding board. Every night after we finished shooting we’d go cut the movie together. It was a really great, collegial atmosphere.
QUESTION: Did the cross-over success of the first Magic Mike free you to have fun and bring different flavors to this movie?
GREG JACOBS: Yeah. We made the first movie for around seven million bucks. When Chan first pitched me the idea for Magic Mike, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really interesting and could be great. It could be really successful.’ It did even better than I thought it would do. Once I knew we had this opportunity to do a sequel, none of us wanted to repeat what the first one was, and the idea of this road trip opened it up tonally and visually so that it didn’t feel like a retread. It was great to know that there was another route we could take.
QUESTION: In working with Channing Tatum and all the guys in the cast, did you find that their chemistry and the energy they brought to their roles and their relationships inform what you were doing?
GREG JACOBS: Yes, in a big way. The camaraderie they all have together is real, and the fun thing is that it translates to what’s on screen. There’s a real adoration that they have for one another, and the vibe on set is a pretty collaborative one, which hopefully adds much to what comes across in the film.
QUESTION: What was it like for you as a director to be sort of the master of ceremonies in the big crowd scene where the guys are performing in front of hundreds of screaming women?
GREG JACOBS: It was great, actually, and pretty fun to have these genuine reactions. The energy was amazing. I think if we said we were shooting for another twelve hours, the crowd would have stayed – and for us, it was great stuff to shoot.
QUESTION: Can you talk about some of the new cast members joining the guys in this movie, like Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks and Amber Heard?
GREG JACOBS: On the road trip these guys go on, they meet this cast of characters, and the reveals of who they are and what they are becomes part of the fun. Amber plays a photographer who is on her own journey when she crosses paths with Mike. Elizabeth Banks is our master of ceremonies at the big show.
Jada plays a club owner named Rome who is really sensual, smart, beautiful, and feminine but also very strong. Rome is a really interesting character who has a history with Mike, and Jada was the first person we talked to about it. The character was originally written as a man, and thank goodness we were smart enough to realize it was better as a woman.
QUESTION: Andie MacDowell is also in the movie, and it’s interesting because her break out role was in Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape.
GREG JACOBS: I know. She and Soderbergh hadn’t seen each other in years, but when we were writing this part, she was really the first person that popped into my head. Andie plays a well-to-do southern housewife living at a plantation, and the guys stumble upon her.
QUESTION: The cast talk about what a collaborative environment you create on set. Do you like to give them the freedom to ad-lib on the fly?
GREG JACOBS: Yeah. Reid and Chan did a great job on the script, and that’s the movie – but the guys know their characters so well. Certainly part of the fun was encouraging them to bring their own thing to their roles and to some of the dialogue.
QUESTION: What should audiences expect and what do you hope they will experience when they see Magic Mike XXL?
GREG JACOBS: I think they should expect a good time, and I hope we deliver. I hope people laugh, and that the experience is enjoyable. It’s kind of an emotional journey, but it’s a lot of fun too.
The first movie was very much Mike’s story and his coming to terms with whether to be a stripper or not to be a stripper. Where we find Mike now is in a different place – it’s three years later, and things haven’t worked out as he planned. The guys catch him at an opportune moment, and he decides to hop back on the road with them. Along the way he learns something about himself, and he reclaims his friendship with them.
The guys also have their own journey as each of them comes to terms with the fact that this lifestyle of theirs is not going to last forever. That question is in the air for them to then figure out what they’re going to do with their lives.
QUESTION: And in the meantime carpe diem. Right?
GREG JACOBS: Exactly.
MAGIC MIKE XXL hits South African theaters Nationally Friday 3rd July 2015.