Magic Mike XXL: Women 'want men to show sensitive side'

Joe Manganiello is part of a group of male strippers in Magic Mike XXL who come together for one last hurrah.
Joe Manganiello is part of a group of male strippers in Magic Mike XXL who come together for one last hurrah.PHOTO: WARNER BROS

Joe Manganiello is a man in love - and he does not care who knows it.

At a press event for the new movie Magic Mike XXL, the 38-year-old bursts with pride whenever Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara's name comes up. And it comes up rather a lot because the actor just cannot stop talking about his famous fiancee - which is unusual given that many stars wince when quizzed about their personal lives.

In the film, Manganiello is part of a group of male strippers who reunite for one last hurrah - a convention in Florida where they will end their stripping careers with a bang.

He freely admits, for example, that Vergara, 42, was a guinea pig for some of his sultry dance moves from the film.

"Yeah, of course. 'Hey, wanna see what I did at work today?' She's like trying to hide under the covers and I'm pulling them off," he reveals, beaming.

The actor, who before Magic Mike (2012) was best known as the studly werewolf on the television supernatural drama True Blood (2008 - 2014), does not hesitate when asked if he would let his Colombia-born fiancee go to a club with male strippers.

"Hell, no. Having spent that much time in there, I know those guys well enough, believe me."

He says he knew "by the second date" that he wanted to marry Vergara who, as the star of hit sitcom Modern Family, is the highest paid actress on TV.

They first met at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last year, although she was then still engaged to businessman Nick Loeb, and they were properly introduced through a mutual friend a month later.

By the time Manganiello and the rest of the cast were filming Magic XXL later that year, Manganiello says he knew he was going to propose.

On Christmas Eve, he finally popped the question, breaking more than a few hearts among his fans, who just six months earlier had sighed wistfully as he was named People Magazine's Hottest Bachelor.

Manganiello fans will still be able to enjoy him, however, in Magic Mike XXL, which the actor praises for highlighting a neglected aspect of female sexuality.

"The whole nature of male stripping is trying to get that nice rosy hue in the woman you're dancing for. You're trying to make her shy, make her embarrassed in front of her girlfriends," he says.

"There's a comedy to it - whereas female stripping is more inherently sexy, male stripping is inherently funny. Which is something we've tapped with these movies."

He believes the film will resonate with women because it shows "men trying to learn how to give women what they want". It is an assessment that seems borne out by the audience attracted when it opened in the United States last week, which was 96 per cent female for the first five days, although the film underperformed compared with the original (XXL has taken US$27.89 million in its first week, while Magic Mike took US$39.1 million in its opening weekend).

One of the things women want is for men to show their sensitive side, Manganiello says.

This is why it was his idea to have his character, Big D**k Richie, be a closeted fan of the 1990s boyband The Backstreet Boys, and have him do one of his big dance routines to the song I Want It That Way.

"Because no matter how tough you think you are as a guy, if I Want It That Way comes on the radio, you start singing it at the top of your voice and harmonising," he says.

Again, it is played for laughs, although viewers will no doubt be admiring Manganiello's impressive physique as well.

And there is nothing wrong with that, says the star, who claims most men - himself included - do not have a problem being sexually objectified.

Indeed, the whole point of the movie - and the job of a male stripper - is "to make women happy".

This is why he believes the film is "a love letter to feminists", provided that these feminists "are not upset that we retain our masculinity".

"Because, in my opinion, no matter how much we all change, there's still going to be a part of a man that's 2,000 years old."

He adds: "I don't think women would have it any other way. I am engaged to arguably one of the most powerful in entertainment. Does that mean she wants me to be a wishy-washy cowering blob who crawls at her feet? No, she wants a strong, protective, responsible man who also takes into her consideration her feelings.

"That's what this movie really gets right. I can't think of another movie that's as empowering to women as this is."

Alison de Souza

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'Women 'want men to show sensitive side''. Print Edition | Subscribe