Channing Tatum dances up a storm for Coens
US actor Channing Tatum will try anything, whether it's tap-dancing for new movie Hail Caesar! or bull-riding
If there's one modern movie star who would have been the perfect song and dance man in the golden age of movies, it's Channing Tatum.
Great dancer, nice voice, leading man looks - the US actor is tailor-made for the old studio system.
And in the Coen brothers' Hail, Caesar!, set in 1950s Hollywood, he shows audiences just how good he is at being the Gene Kelly-esque Burt Gurney, a dimwit actor who defects to Russia because "the joke was that he just loved the clothes, he has no idea what communism was and he was like 'oh, I get to go over and wear uniforms'".
Now showing here, the comedy follows a single day in the life of a studio fixer (Josh Brolin) who has plenty of problems to fix, chief of which is trying to discover what happened to A-lister Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), who vanishes during the filming of a Roman epic.
Even though Tatum showed off his smooth moves in Step Up (2006), Magic Mike (2010) and its 2015 sequel Magic Mike XXL, the 35-year-old had never tap-danced before and had no idea when he took the role that he would be doing a whole production number for a sailor musical.
He said during our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Hollywood: "The script had 'and then they dance, he does a knee slide to a bucket of water' and that's it. There was nothing more."
He said directors Ethan and Joel Coen showed him some clips of old movies.
"They were like, do you know how to tap? And I am like, nope, I can try, let me see how it goes. And then Joel said, do you know how to sing? Nope. And they were like, want to try it? And I was like, okay.
"I wasn't worried so much about the singing because I knew if it sucked they could always just dub me over. But they couldn't dub me in the actual dance. So I was pretty stressed out."
Tatum's dance style is more like Gene Kelly's - athletic and muscular - than Fred Astaire's, which was all elegance and refinement.
And it took him three and a half months to prepare.
He said: "It was not enough time. I definitely thought it was going to be easier than it was. I just figured that if I did the moves, the noise would come out correctly. It wasn't even close to what happened.
"Because the way I am used to dancing is dancing on beat, but in this, you are the beat. And if you miss a beat or if you are off tempo, everyone can hear it."
He has a daughter with his wife, US actress Jenna Dewan-Tatum, and he bought the three-year-old a little pair of tap-dancing shoes.
"She just loved making noise. She stomps like you wouldn't believe. And we can't get her to take them off."
On whether he would have thrived in the old studio system, he says: "It must have been really cool in the beginning of your career, just trying to get in the door. But then as your star rose, they were kind of trading you like baseball cards."
He did go through something of that sort early in his career, with the three options he gave movie studio Paramount for his debut, the 2005 sports drama Coach Carter.
"I was like, that's amazing, that means you want me for more movies? But there is no expiration date on the options and so years go by and then I want to go do a movie, and you have to clear it with them.
"And if they don't want you to, you can't go do the film. You can't go do something that you really want to do. And they can put you in any other movie that they want to put you in, like (2009's) G.I. Joe," he said with a laugh.
Being so versatile, is there anything he can't do and won't try to do?
"I can't say no to very many things that I am afraid of. A great example is bull-riding. I never wanted to get on a bull in my life and someone challenged me. I would have killed myself if I didn't do it," he said.
"(But) I don't just want to do this for the sake of just challenging myself. I want to do it and by the time I am done with this, I really want to feel that no one else could have done it better than I could have."