You may not see his beautiful body in The Book of Life, but Channing Tatum still exudes the same charm and confidence he brings to live-action roles. Also starring Zoe Saldana and Diego Luna, the film is a visual treat for the whole family to enjoy, with a kick-ass soundtrack. Producer Guillermo del Toro and director Jorge Gutierrez give us a story based on the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead (which was the original title), that deals with love, friendship, family, life, death and everything in between. Literally.
Based on a Latin tradition, The Book of Life tells the story of Manolo (Luna) and Joaquin (Tatum) fighting for Maria’s (Saldana) love with modern tropes weaved throughout (see: “Hey, girl”). There’s also the unexpected delight of contemporary music, including cast remakes of Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” and “Just a Friend” by Biz Markie. Not to mention the Nightmare Before Christmas-esque animations, which are stunning and perfect for Halloween.
VH1 caught Channing Tatum at The Book of Life press conference in New York, and the actor revealed behind-the-scenes details of what went into filming. He even hinted at the possibility of a sequel (“Maybe I’ll speak more Spanish and get to sing!”). Fingers crossed that there eventually will be a sequel, but until then, here are five things to know about The Book of Life, as told by Channing Tatum himself.
Zoe Saldana didn’t even brush her teeth while shooting.
According to Tatum, animated movies are like “vacations” for actors. “You don’t have to work 12 hours a day,” he said. “I get to show up in my sweats and Zoe jokes around, ’I don’t even brush my teeth when I go in, I just go right in!’ It was a really playful thing.”
A lot of lines from the movie were ad-libbed.
Tatum spoke of the freeing nature of voice acting. In fact, it was his spur-of-the-moment call to have his character shout “Joaquin!” while fighting. According to him, anything goes:
I don’t remember all the stuff that I was doing. It’s just crazy recordings — you sort of very insanely vomit out a bunch of stuff. The idea that someone who fights says their own name [while doing so] is hilarious to me. It’s the funniest thing in the world. That was not in the script, we just sort of found it on the day. That’s what’s so amazing about the animated world: it’s such a fluid process. Sometimes they don’t even know where the idea is going to come from, it just sort of materializes. You sit in a sound stage and there really aren’t any wrong answers. I could have spoken in French and [gotten], ’Maybe that’ll work!’ You just got to let go.
Tatum wishes his character had a bigger mustache.
The actors didn’t have full animations when stepping into the voice over booth, only stills and artwork — which was mostly done by director Gutierrez’s wife – to look at for reference. And like many real-life men, Joaquin prides himself on his fantastic facial hair, which Channing thought was a little more extravagant at first. “The first character picture that I saw, [Joaquin] had a way bigger mustache, which I’m very upset that he doesn’t have as big of [one] as he [originally] did,” he said. “In Joaquin’s mind, his mustache is way bigger than what it is in the movie.”
Joaquin’s father’s parenting skills aren’t the best.
In the film, Joaquin’s father forces him to carry on the family tradition of bull fighting, even though his true passion is music. Tatum revealed that he was raised differently:
[Kids] shouldn’t just want to do [something] because their parents did it, or they should not want to do it because their parents do it. They should really just go and try to explore and it should be OK if they don’t want to do something. I remember I was doing martial arts and there was a time that I wanted to quit and my mom was like, “Look you can quit if you want, but you said that you were going to go to this class and then afterwards you can withdraw if you’d like, but you have to honor what you said.” Just because somebody doesn’t want to do something, you can’t just let them out of a commitment. I ended up staying in!
It’s important to teach kids about death.
At first, Tatum was skeptical about how the Mexican Day of the Dead would translate into a kids’ movie:
[The movie] doesn’t deal with it as death and the “gone.” It’s the land of the “remembered.” They don’t go away. They can still be with you. And I think some people will maybe be afraid to teach this to their children. It’s a really safe and beautiful way to talk about it ’cause it’s going to happen eventually. They’re going to have to learn about it. Better to maybe learn about it, in a beautiful fiction world, than in real life. I’m not a religious person, but I am a very spiritual person, and I think the idea of life and someone [moving] on to whatever’s after, treat them as if they’re there — cooking their favorite meals, serve the drinks that they used to like, or tell their stories or jokes — they do exist and I just think that’s one of the most beautiful traditions.
Join Tatum, Saldana and the rest of the cast when The Book of Life hits theaters, on October 17.
Amidst shooting his new movies (ahem, Magic Mike XXL), the Tatum is keeping his marriage to Jenna Dewan-Tatum alive. The Gossip Table crew fills us in on just how they spice it up, below.
[Photo Credit: Getty/20th Century Fox]