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Interview with Channing Tatum, co-star of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Review of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

In A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Channing Tatum plays Antonio, Dito's (Shia LaBeouf) best friend while growing up in Astoria during the 1980's. Channing Tatum's past films include Step Up and She's the Man. I had the privilege to interview him.

First Look Media will release A Guide to Recognixing Your Saints on September 29th, 2006.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What actors are your role models?

CT: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason and Morgan Freeman.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you get along with Chazz Palminteri?

CT: He was, by far, my mentor in the whole thing. Heís been very fatherly from day oneófrom the first scene to the last scene.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What did you learn from your role?

CT: I learned from [him] that everyone doesnít have to like [my] character, [Antonio]. They just have to understand it. That was the one piece of advice that Iíve taken so [dearly]. It was better than any acting class. I think thatís why people get caught up in picking roles. People [normally] want to be the hero. Itís so much more important to do roles that are not that because itís more real. People arenít walking around thinking that they have to be this great guyóthey just be themselves and try to let other people know [that] itís okay to be who they are. As long as people will understand why Antonio did the things he did and was the way he was, I did my job. I hope that it turned out [well].

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why did you choose this role?

CT: When I read it, I was, like, crying my eyes out in the tub. But, basically, my best friend growing up was Antonio. So, as Iím reading it, Iím like, ďOh my God, this is Matt, [my best friend]Ē. I was more like Dito in my life. I walked away from a few people like that and I feel like I just knew him. I would throw up if I saw anyone else [hurt] him because everyone was afraid of him, but [Dito and his buddies] were the softest people who were just misunderstood. They didnít know how to communicate. They didnít have anyone to teach them anything and to show them [right from wrong].

NYC MOVIE GURU: Did you get to meet Eric Roberts, the actor who plays Antonio as an adult?

CT: No, I never met him. [When] we started shooting, I was going back and forth between here and Baltimore and all-of-a-sudden I see Eric Robertsí picture and Iím like ďWhat?! I thought I was supposed to play Antonio.Ē I had no idea until they said that they got him and, weirdly enough, we look a little bit like each other, but not stature-wiseóheís a lot shorter than me. It was weird to look at him and then to look face all beat up. I wouldnít have thought that thatís who they would have got to play [Antonio] when heís older. But, it sort of worked.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What makes Dito so important to Antonio?

CT: I donít know if in the movie itís very clear, but I have a sound byte of him talking over the phone when heís in jail and heís like, ďYou were the first guy Iíve met. You put a baseball glove in my hand when I didnít even know how to catch.Ē They were just kids. In the beginning, when youíre new to a place and somebody befriends you right off the bat, you just kind of latch onto that person. Antonio always felt like he was messing things up. He only had Dito there to let him know that heís doing okay. As long as he can keep Dito happy and keep him around, he felt like he was okay. He kind of got him through the days. Thereís something understood [or taken for granted] when friends love each other. Itís just unspoken. Dito is one of the only people in Antonioís life that was any good. He didnít think that he was as fucked up as his brother.

NYC MOVIE GURU: So, how do you explain Antonio and Ditoís deteriorating friendship?

CT: [Director] Dito [Montiel] explained to me that itís kind of like breaking up with a girlfriend. You donít want to act like you want them so bad because you feel like thatís just going to push them away. You kind of want to play it cool, but youíre dying inside. You donít want him to go away, but you canít tell him that because itís not cool. These kids donít talk like that. Itís just reactionary.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What did you do to develop a friendship with the young cast?

CT: We had one night when I showed up in New York. Dito [Montiel] and Shia [LaBeouf] had gotten here a day before and we all had one day [to bond before the shoot]. There were no rehearsals. We kind of hung out for the night [and] got into a little bit of trouble, but thatís all Iíll say about it. We never went to jail, [though].

NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like filming in Astoria and running into the real people from Ditoís childhood?

CT: Nerve-racking. We filmed at Antonioís house. His little brother and sister and were coming out and Iím sitting there and thinking, ďMy God. They canít see me. I gotta get out of here.Ē The first thing that everyone asked was, ďWhoís playing Antonio?Ē They didnít want to know whoís playing Dito. [Antonio] was a superhero in this neighborhood. It was very humbling. I would tell everybody that Iím not trying to play Antonio [or] to be [him]. I canít try to be [him] if Iíve never met him. I think Iíve done him a good service. Anyone else would have just fallen on their face trying to duplicate him. All I was trying to do was to recreate the relationship and duplicate the love between [Dito and Antonio].

NYC MOVIE GURU: Talk about your Iraqi War film by director Kimberly Pierce that's coming up next.

CT: Itís going really well. Weíre right in the middle of it. Itís intense like A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is, but in a different way. Itís about two best friends who come back from the war [in Iraq]. Itís not really about the war, in a way. Yeah, itís a war film, but itís really about these people and their relationships and their love for each other. Just like in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saint, [the characters] changeóthe war has changed them. They donít know whatís going to happen. Certain things kind of put them through a trial. The two kids growing up together end up going in different directions and itís painful. Itís not anti-war. If anything, itís just more about the soldiers and itís like an ode to them.

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