It seems like it was only a matter of time before the bulked-up Channing Tatum played a Roman soldier: His head seems like it was crafted for a helmet, and his physique made for short tunics and giant swords. In The Eagle, which opens today, he appears as a commander who has a power switch with his slave (Jamie Bell) while on a mission. We talked to Tatum about the inevitable whispers of homoeroticism that come with any sword-sandal-and-slave movie, as well as the bad, cruel press for his Sundance movie, The Son of No One. And, of course, we check in with his scalded penis, because it would be rude not to.
In The Eagle, there are two male leads but no female love interests. Would you say there’s a homoerotic element to the film?
Well there are swords, and two guys are sword fighting. There’s a metaphor there I’m sure. And back in the Roman day I think it was probably more accepted than it is now. But there’s none in the movie. Me and [director Kevin Macdonald] talked a lot before we started filming: There is no love story in the movie, but it’s a relationship movie for sure.
There’s been a lot of buzz about the master-slave relationship going on there. Seems a little BDSM.
I think Jamie had a lot of fun having me as a slave. I don’t think I took advantage of it like I should have when he was my slave. But Jamie, yeah — he abused me. So maybe there was some frustration coming out a little bit here and there.
But would you say there’s a bromance aspect to it? They need each other even though they resent each other — that’s the basis for a lot of love stories.
I think there’s love in any relationship, whether it’s between a man and a woman, an animal and a person. Look, you have a need to be understood, humans gather around each other and they need to help each other through things. Jamie’s character and my character through trial by fire had to figure out how to understand each other. So I guess you could call it a bromance.
How about in real life?
Jamie and I have a bromance. We’ve been having sex for a few years now.
How’s that going?
He’s a lot smaller than you. He’s really small.
He’s a goer though.
What’s a goer?
I don’t know. I just made it up.
So you went to Sundance last month with the corrupt-cop movie The Son of No One. How was it?
It went good. I know there was some discrepancy and a little bit of bad mud being slung at certain actors. I think it was all unwarranted. I think Katie [Holmes] is an amazing actress.
Did you see The Hollywood Reporter article that said there were walkouts?
I try not to read it. It kinda hurts, man, sometimes, so I try not to read ’em. It can literally turn your head inside out. It’ll make you the most insecure person on the planet. And actors are probably already the most insecure people on the planet. Adding fuel to the fire probably will not help.
Why so insecure?
You know people, if they don’t like you — you’re opening up in a sort of way, putting your shit out there. If people take a big ol’ shit on it, it hurts a little bit.
Ever read anything about you that’s ever made you feel that way?
I read on IMDb one time that I’m missing a chromosome or something. Which, I don’t know, could be true.
Like missing which chromosome?
That’s all I read before I was like, "Oh my God, I gotta stop" and pulled the ripcord. It’s all dangerous reading those message boards. I went on there to try to remember the name of a costume designer that I worked with and I scrolled down for a second and was just like no, no, no, no, no, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.
That kind of thing can get addictive for some people.
It’s human nature; we want to see destruction. We know that bodies are gonna be everywhere and it’s gonna be carnage.
Speaking of carnage, how is your burned penis? Everything healed?
It’s great. I’m back on top. No scarring, nothing. That part of your body is very regenerative.
Were you scared?
You should burn your privates and see how scared you are. I’m not even kidding. It’s by far one of the most painful things I’ve ever been through. That’s your man, that’s your dude, that’s your guy. I’ve had a longer relationship with him than I have with my parents.
It’s admirable that you were so eager to talk about it so publicly and openly.
Thanks, man. Look, I know people are gonna want to know, so the best thing I know how to do is literally to overtalk about it so that people are tired of talking about it.
There you go. That’s smart. Do you do that with anything else?
Obviously the stripping thing. But it’s kind of old news. Everyone wants to talk about it but they all keep saying the same thing. It was a crazy time in my life. Young and crazy and in Tampa.