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41 Things We Learned From the ‘Step Up’ Commentary

Magic Mike may be loosely based on Channing Tatum’s past as a male stripper (and Tatum proves it with his impressive dancing skills), but Tatum first burst onto the film scene in 2006 as a troubled kid from the wrong side of the tracks with some serious moves (even when he is keeping his clothes on) in Step Up. While Tatum has taken on drama (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints), comedy (21 Jump Street), and being a romantic lead (The Vow), one thing has always been true – the guy can dance.

Step Up seemed like your typical dance movie based on two dancers, the classically trained Nora (played by Tatum’s now wife, Jenna Dewan) and break dancing Tyler (Tatum), but the dance chops  and chemistry of these two leads made ended up making the film a surprise hit at the box office. Directed by Anne Fletcher (who is also an accomplished choreographer) Step Up’s story not only resonated, but the dancing on screen was fresh and exciting.

With two choreographers (Fletcher and her long-time collaborator Jamal Sims) and two dancers (Tatum and Dewan) doing the commentary, the conversation inevitably focused on the dance routines and the music. But even the early chemistry between Tatum and Dewan (despite recording in two separate cities) still stood out and proves to be a sweet time capsule of the beginning of their relationship.

Step Up is a fun movie full of eye candy from the intricate dances to the attractive leads and the commentary works to further enforce and highlight this feeling.

Step Up (2006)

Commentators: Anne Fletcher (director/choreographer), Channing Tatum (actor), Jenna Dewan (actor), Jamal Sims (hip-hop choreographer)

  • As everyone is introducing themselves and noting where they are recording from (Fletcher and Sims in Toronto, Dewan in Los Angeles, and Tatum in Austin), Tatum makes bad joke calling himself “La Tangerina” and saying he will be “doing everybody’s hair today.”
  • Tatum did not get to see opening dance sequence until the film’s premiere and was “wildin’ out in the theater” when he saw it.
  • The lead male balerino in the opening was one of the finalists in Season 2 of So You Think You Can Dance, Ryan Rankine.
  • Fletcher wanted the opening to show the dichotomy and similarities of dance (in this case between hip-hop and ballet) because dance is basically expressed the same way no matter what style you may be performing.
  • Nephew was the film’s music producer and had submitted the back of this intro music for the finale, but because they went with Kwame for the finale, they took this music and threw vocals from Petey Pablo over it to create what you now hear in the opening.
  • Sims and Tatum started rehearsing Tyler’s dance we see at the house party in Los Angeles two weeks before going to Baltimore. It is a great introduction to Tyler’s character and Tatum has noted that sliding between the legs of the girl he was dancing with always terrified him because he thought he would accidentally knock her over.
  • Fletcher noted that they shot almost all the dance scenes to the music you hear in the film, but the music in this scene was a replacement. They had originally shot the scene to T.I.’s “Bring ‘Em Out” and changed it to T.I.’s “Get It” in the film.
  • Tatum laughed that in the scene of the three boys – Tyler, Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and Skinny (De’Shawn Washington) – walking down an alley, one of the camera men had to write an arrow on their shirt to show Washington which way to run because he kept going the wrong way.
  • Fletcher said the window the boys break was actually already broken because “someone” thought it was a good idea to use a slingshot to break it.
  • When Tyler throws feathers into Mac’s face while vandalizing the theater, Tatum clarifies that he says, “Ninja blind,” but no one in the room seemed to understand what he is talking about.
  • The guard who tackles Tatum during this scene was a stunt guy and Tatum noted he was, in fact, “very strong.”
  • Fletcher said they shot the courtroom scene in an actual courthouse in Baltimore and it was “creepy” because people were coming in and out and actually getting arrested right in front of them.
  • Everyone laughed that Tatum looked like a giant next to his foster mom.
  • Fletcher noted that they changed the song Tyler listens to his in his headphones about “62 times” while Tatum was more concerned that he looked cross-eyed in the scene.
  • Fletcher pointed out that every frame of the movie was shot in Baltimore because she thought the city was beautiful and eclectic.
  • Dewan said one of her favorite shots was Tyler’s first day at the Maryland School of the Performing Arts and seeing all the different types of dancers and art school students walking the halls. Fletcher said this is really what art schools are like (tons of creative kids everywhere), but she hated the trio of singing girls that pass around Tyler and wondered why she kept hanging on to that shot.
  • Hip-hop violinists Nuttin But Stringz are seen performing “Canon in D” in the hallway (Fletcher fell madly in love with them after seeing them on Ellen) and are also featured in the film’s finale.
  • Step Up‘s Director of Photography (Michael Seresin) played the janitor Tyler gets assigned to as an “intern” to work off his community service hours.
  • Fletcher also played one of the school’s dance teachers, Miss Stephanie, who directs the dance class where we first meet Nora.
  • Fletcher said she hated the line, “Love a man in a uniform,” that Lucy (Drew Sidora) says when she sees Tyler for the first time, but agreed that Sidora delivered the line well.
  • Sims said they re-worked the entire parking lot dance shortly before they shot it and when Tyler starts unbuttoning his coveralls Tatum joked, “He’s gonna strip!” Oh Tatum – how you speak of the future.
  • Fletcher changed the name, age, and ethnicity of Lucy’s boyfriend up until they filmed the scene when Sidora first mentions him in the movie. This tendency to constantly change things was brought up again when Dewan explained that Nora’s back-story would change daily, but it allowed her to explore every aspect and version of her character.
  • Mark Ronson submitted the song that plays over the basketball scene for Sidora to sing in the club, but since it didn’t work there, it was instead used it here. Fletcher clearly worked to use all the music brought to her, even if it did not work for the scene the artist originally submitted it for.
  • Fletcher neglected to work out the logistics of the lift between Tyler and Nora so when the day came to shoot it, they spent an hour in front of the entire crew trying to work it out – even going so far as to try the Dirty Dancing lift before finally settling on the lift you now see in the film.
  • When Tyler knocks over a picture in Director Gordon’s (Rachel Griffiths) office it actually was an accident, but Fletcher thought it was hilarious so she kept it in.
  • The scene of Nora rehearsing as she waits for Tyler was done to a thump track instead of music and Tatum chimes in that he hated the thump track.
  • Fletcher notes that in the scene with Tyler calling Nora’s routine “boring” they (most likely meaning the studio) wanted something more like Save The Last Dance with Tyler gyrating to spice things up. But in keeping with the tone of the film being more accurate to how dancers work things out and less showy for entertainment’s sake, the scene went with went with something less obvious, but still sexy.
  • When Nora listens to a song Miles (Mario) sent her on her phone, there was no song playing when they filmed it as it had yet to be temped in, but the beat Sidora and Dewan bobbed their heads to ended up matching perfectly the song they put in later.
  • While the dance rehearsal montage was not meant to be funny, Tatum worked in moments of humor and Dewan admitted that in some moments she was honestly laughing at him and not acting.
  • Tatum and Alyson Stoner (who played his foster sister, Camille) improvised their entire scene with the cereal, which felt like a true brother/sister moment – very natural and sweet.
  • Dewan said they changed the context of the rooftop scene (her dad died, her mom died) so many times it was hard for her to get into the right character headspace. Tatum said the scene was also hard for him because he killed a bird that day. He was kidding, but he does throw something into the water at the beginning of the scene and it does look like it hits a bird.
  • Tatum complained that the shirt Dewan was wearing for the lifts in the rooftop scene was insanely slippery and compared it to holding a “wet water balloon.”
  • Fletcher points out that Nora’s hair goes from curly to straight when she storms upstairs to confront Brett (Josh Henderson) and jokes that Nora was so angry her hair straightened itself out. Oh, continuity.
  • Fletcher and Sims created a brand new line dance to make the moment in the club when everyone starts dancing to the same choreography more believable since most people know or can catch on quickly to line dancing (rather than a less realistic, complex choreographed scene.) Sims can also be spotted in this scene dancing in the black fedora and leather jacket.
  • Tatum loved that he had to pretend he did not really know how to do the dance until he finally got to bust a move and show off his skills when the guys and girls separated to opposite sides of the floor.
  • Sims jokingly asked if the first on-screen kiss we see between Tyler and Nora was the first time Tatum and Dewan kissed. Fletcher jumped in to say that their first kiss was actually the final scene since they shot the end of the film first, but I think we all now know what Sims was hinting at.
  • The HUGE glass of orange juice Camille hands Tyler was made extra large on purpose for comedic effect. It was originally supposed to be a cup of coffee, but Tatum wanted a glass of orange juice.
  • Tyler was originally named Derek and was going to be a singer, but this was a script change Fletcher was happy they made so both Nora and Tyler were dancers instead.
  • Sims asked Tatum point blank if being cast as one of the leads in Step Up, a role where he was required to act and dance, was intimidating and Tatum confirms that it definitely was, but it was also the first time Fletcher was directing and the first time Dewan was acting so he did not feel alone in breaking new ground.
  • There was a near tragic accident when Tatum was attempting a flip during the final dance and fell directly on his head. Luckily he was fine and did not break his neck (and Sims added did not have to watch his career end in front of his eyes.)
  • The final scene backstage was a re-shoot since the film originally ended up with Tyler and Nora on stage, but audiences wanted to know what happened to the two after the big performance so they added in this additional scene at the end.

Best in Commentary

“I want her – but not in a weird way!” Tatum on working with his much younger co-star, Stoner.

“That’s so gross! Let’s talk about the Corn Pops.” – Tatum trying to change the subject to a bowl of cereal in the scene when everyone starts talking about his butt.

“It’s Snora.” – Dewan mocking her ADR.

“You saw a tear? She wasn’t just brushing her teeth or washing her hair? She wasn’t doing underwater basket weaving?” – Tatum filling us in on some of his ad-libbing (and continuing to show off his comedic chops).

“Don’t touch me, Sean Paul!” – Washington yelling at an extra who resembled the singer as he stormed down the street.

Final Thoughts

While the commentary did not give too much hard hitting insight into the film (outside of the technical aspects of the choreography and funny moments on set) it is clear that these four had a great time working together and it was easy to get caught up in the fun they were having reliving their time on-set together. And even though Step Up is not billed as a comedy, the commentary (and certain moments in the film) prove that Tatum has a true talent for giving a comedic performance (as many learned earlier this year with 21 Jump Street) with many of the funnier moments in the commentary coming from him.

It is interesting to see Tatum at the beginning of his career (and his relationship with Dewan) and how this movie truly did change his life. This may have been Fletcher’s first time directing, but she has gone on to direct more successful films like 27 Dresses and The Proposal while Dewan has helped pave the way for more dancers to break into acting with dancers like Julianne Hough and Kenny Wormald getting lead roles in films like last year’s Footloose remake.

And if you are a female dancer looking for good outfits, both choreographers and Dewan gushed over Nora’s rehearsal outfits throughout the film.

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