How Channing Tatum Went from Stripper To Potential Oscar Nominee

  • Channing Tatum 2006

    [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

  • Channing Tatum in She’s The Man

    [Photo Credit: DreamWorks Pictures]

  • Channing Tatum in Step Up

    [Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures]

  • Channing Tatum in A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints

    [Photo Credit: Madman Films]

  • Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan 2007

    [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

  • Channing Tatum in Dear John

    [Photo Credit: Relativity Media]

  • Channing Tatum 2010

    [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

  • Channing Tatum 2012

    [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

  • Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street

    [Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures]

  • Channing Tatum in Magic Mike

    [Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

  • Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan and baby Everly

    [Photo Credit: @channingtatum]

  • Channing Tatum

    [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

  • Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher

    [Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]

Aly Semigran

When Foxcatcher arrives in theaters this weekend — the dark, true-life drama about the murder of Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz (played by Mark Ruffalo) — it may leave you with a looming question, “Wait, is that really Channing Tatum?” No, not just because Tatum — like his co-star Steve Carell (who plays eccentric millionaire and Schultz’s murderer, John du Pont) — is virtually unrecognizable due to the film’s stunning physical transformations. It’s because Tatum, as the tortured Olympic wrestler (and Dave’s brother) Mark Schultz, reaches staggering new heights as an actor.

The star of Step Up, White House Down, 21 Jump Street, and Magic Mike, among others, not only turns out one of this year’s most harrowing performances, but one of the very best. Even Tatum’s biggest naysayers (yes, they exist) will be blown away by the actor’s emotionally and physically daunting work in Foxcatcher.

Liz Lemon once famously asked on 30 Rock, “Am I supposed to just scratch the surface of Channing Tatum’s meteoric rise?” So in honor of the Oscar-bound Foxcatcher, we’ll try and answer by dissecting the evolution of the star’s already-impressive career.

It would have been easy to dismiss Tatum as just another Hollywood pretty boy at the beginning. After all, the former model/male stripper kick-started his career in less-than-desirable fare like Havoc, She’s the Man, and Step Up. Of course, even early on Tatum showed signs of being a handsome star with some serious acting chops to boot. Tatum gained the attention of critics in supporting, but effective roles in films like 2006’s A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and 2008’s Stop-Loss. As Rolling Stone said of his turn as Sgt. Steve Shriver in the war drama, “Tatum excels by going beyond the call of hunk duty to find the demons tormenting Steve.”

While Tatum had his share of movies that were box office hits but critical duds (see: 2009’s G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra and 2010’s Dear John), none of it mattered come 2012, or as it shall be known in the annals of pop culture history: the Year of Channing Tatum. Chalk it up to good timing, the actor’s tireless work ethic, his admirable personal life (he married his Step Up co-star Jenna Dewan in 2009), or all of the above, but the stars aligned and made Tatum just that. The actor appeared in four movies that year alone, including the hit, self-aware comedy 21 Jump Street and the semi-autobiographical stripper drama Magic Mike. Both movies earned the respect of moviegoers and critics alike and all but solidified Tatum’s place as an A-list Hollywood star.

But Tatum didn’t let 2012 become his defining year, he followed up his smash year with 2013’s White House Down, Side Effects, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and a hilarious cameo in This Is the End. (2013 also marked the year that Tatum became a proud papa to his daughter Everly, making him even more swoon-worthy.) It became apparent that not only did Tatum have a good sense of humor about himself, but he took his work seriously. Tatum could run the gamut from gooey romantic flicks like The Vow to full-fledged action star in movies like Haywire and make it look effortless.

Tatum continued to prove he’s a force to be reckoned with on-screen in 2014, starring in his two highest-grossing projects to date, the uproarious sequel 22 Jump Street and the animated smash The LEGO Movie. (Both films, which both wowed critics, earned a combined $450 million in the U.S. alone.) While Tatum has already become much more than a pretty face, it’s his turn in Foxcatcher that may finally catch the eye of the Academy. Back in May, Vanity Fair declared that Tatum “may soon be an Oscar nominee” and raved that the Renaissance Man “shows us that he’s also able to mute his inherent swagger and turn inward, communicating deep currents of pain and longing in subtle and intricate ways.” The guy from Step Up has come awfully far, no?

Tatum, a mega-star from humble beginnings, has not only proved that he’s a great actor, but one that managed to not get stuck in a lot of Hollywood’s pitfalls. If the Foxcatcher momentum keeps up, we may just hear Tatum’s name be called at the Oscars in 2015. But even if he doesn’t go for gold, next year will still prove to be another big one. The 34-year-old actor has the eagerly anticipated sequel Magic Mike XXL on the horizon, as well as the Wachowskis latest sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending. It’s easy to ask, “Is there anything Channing Tatum can’t do?” but it seems like the actor is hell-bent on making sure we never find out.

In addition to becoming one of the biggest movie stars in the world, Tatum is also one of the best friends a guy (ahem, Jonah Hill) could ask for.

[Photo: Getty Images]