The alternate title for this post was going to be ‘Why Channing Tatum is our Next Great Movie Star (and could win an Oscar soon)’ but I decided to spare you all the righteous indignation of it all. I decided to publish this after a lengthy Twitter discussion with Joseph, Joey, Robert, Mark and reader extraordinaire John Rivera regarding Channing Tatum. It started with me asking Joey if C-Tates, who is going to be in the presumed Oscar contender Foxcatcher, would be in a position to be nominated for an Oscar given that most people seem to be predicting big things from the film. It unraveled from there all in 140 characters (you can view the convo here and here) and I thought it might be fun to offer up a defense of the actor and really dig into his awards potential.
As a fan of Channing Tatum since seeing She’s the Man, I am generally miffed at the blowback he’s gotten over the years. He’s like the male version of Anne Hathaway, a hardworking actor who people seem to like directing ire toward. “C-Tates” critics are a bit different from Hathaway’s though, as the shade thrown his way is about his acting ability rather than overt earnestness. Even when he’s making people laughing hysterically or lust after him ridiculously, people till find the time to ridicule and hate the man. The reason it’s popped up on my radar is that, in an industry so starved for star wattage, that many people are missing the growth of a genuine movie star.
Of course what really makes a star is how much the audience is willing to go see them. One thing that I think people have often overlooked is C-Tates’ bankability outside of franchises. Look at the other major young actors that have been foisted on us in the past few years: Taylor Lautner, Shia LaBeouf, Robert Pattinson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Ryan Reynolds, Alex Pettyfer, Taylor Kitsch and Andrew Garfield. Ryan Reynolds is the only actor with 2 $100 million movies, Taylor Lautner (Valentine’s Day) and Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) have one $100 million hit outside of their franchise film, and Alex Pettyfer was in Magic Mike. On the flip side, C-Tates had 3 consecutive and 6 total $100 million films stateside.
Breaking it down even further, let’s look at his movie selection:
I’m certainly not going to vouch for all those films being quality movies, in fact a few of them are horrendous, but what young actor do you know has jumped around like that, not been the worst part of the film, and turned in some legit performances? This list doesn’t even include the sci-fi (Jupiter Ascending with the Wachowskis), the sequel (21 Jump Street 2), the Oscar contender (Foxcatcher) or the action flick (White House Down) that are currently in production with him attached. That’s a lot of range and you can’t attribute all that success to the genres he’s working in or his physique or how well he treats people, C-Tates has to be doing something right in the acting department to have this kind of success.
Determining acting ability and performance value is an incredibly difficult thing. You can look no farther than my feelings on J-Law in Silver Linings Playbook to see evidence of that. However, I strongly believe in order to be any kind of a good actor, the audience has to believe you in character, regardless of how much like your public persona a character appears to be. Just because C-Tates was a stripper in his past life doesn’t mean his performance in Magic Mike should have been as good it was nor does it mean his dopey persona would make his work in 21 Jump Street funnier. The more I stare at that list of films, the more I feel like the knock against his acting is a function of him not doing traditional baity roles that would prove that one could act.
However, this has actually worked out in Channing’s favor. What I most appreciate from Tatum is that you can see that he’s actively working hard to be a better actor. Channing isn’t going to disappear into a role like Daniel Day-Lewis because 1) those aren’t the types of characters he will play and 2) he’s been great at finding projects that use his ridiculous charisma in interesting ways. It’s one thing to play the built airhead, but another thing to get the audience to care about that character. Wouldn’t you rather an actor know their limitations and find interesting ways to work around them?
And before you shout “He plays the same role in every movie!” at me, let me pleasantly point out that most of our most cherished actors did nothing but “play themselves” throughout their careers. James Stewart was himself in every film, he couldn’t even be bothered to use an accent or change his vocal inflections for films (Vertigo and Rear Window) that take place on opposite ends of the country! And when was the last time you saw George Clooney in a role and didn’t feel like you were watching him play himself? Brad Pitt’s best performance ever (Moneyball) is essentially just him finding depth in a part that was tailor-made for him. Hell even Johnny Depp at this point is playing a Native American Muderous Barber Pirate Hatter caricature of himself. Now that is no shade to those men, but this concept of playing oneself being a negative can’t just be used for actors you don’t like.
The difference I see with Tatum is that unlike those actors who want you believe they’re not playing some variation of “themselves” is that Tatum is fully aware of the audiences’ preconceived notions, but he uses it to his advantage. I can totally appreciate an actor working consistently within an archetype but offering new shading each time. Tatum has played many an airhead jock type but you can’t tell me that his hilarious turn in 21 Jump Street is the same as his breakout in She’s the Man. I’d encourage everyone who feels like he can’t act to check out A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints or watch the confrontation scene with Cody Horn in Magic Mike if you need samples of him being able to “act”.
Now as far as awards potential is concerned, who knows what the Academy will do if/when they find themselves in position to nominate him but he could totally find himself in contention one day. If Jonah Hill (JONAH HILL!) can beat out Brad Pitt and Albert Brooks for an Oscar nomination, I’m pretty sure that given the right role, and Foxcatcher might just be that, Channing could see himself as an Oscar nominee. That statement alone might cause some people to think the world will end but I can think of far worse things the Academy has done than rewarding someone like C-Tates with a nom if the role is good enough. Remember it takes men a lot longer to even get on the Academy’s radar. I’d also like to add that perceived acting ability isn’t the end all be all for a nomination: C-Tates and Michael Fassbender currently have the same amount of Oscar nominations. What type of role could net him a nomination? I think that he excels in comedies so maybe doing a black comedy with the Coens or a romantic comedy with someone like David O. Russell could work. Or if all else fails play a real person.
What do you all think? Could Channing possibly become an Oscar nominee? Is he our next big movie star?
Tags: 2013 releases, Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher, In Defense Of, Magic Mike, Oscar hopeful, upcoming projects, White House Down