Their movie comedy will be under close scrutiny at the box office. But they aren’t fazed and have lots to say about that Brad Pitt cameo, “Magic Mike” and “Harry Potter.”
Channing Tatum, Sandra Bullock and Daniel Radcliffe are starring in the rom-com adventure “The Lost City.”Credit…Amy Harrity for The New York Times
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By Kyle Buchanan
They play potential lovers in “The Lost City,” but in real life, Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum share a very different kind of bond: They’re play-date parents.
On a lively Zoom call with their “Lost City” co-star Daniel Radcliffe, Bullock and Tatum described what it’s like now that her daughter, Laila, and his daughter, Everly, have both reached the sleepover stage. “Daniel, you’ll experience this one day,” Bullock said. “It’s a major coup when you can safely allow your child to go to someone else’s house without thinking they’re going to die.”
In “The Lost City” (in theaters March 19), Bullock plays romance novelist Loretta Sage, whose life is on autopilot until she’s kidnapped by a rich eccentric (Radcliffe) who believes she can lead him to a hidden treasure buried deep in the jungle. The novelist’s cover model Alan (Tatum) mounts an unlikely rescue, helped, at times, by an equally dashing but far more capable mercenary (Brad Pitt, in a cameo). And as Loretta and Alan try to escape together, sparks fly, punches are thrown and swamp leeches are picked carefully off his naked body.
But the movie comes with an additional set of stakes specific to Hollywood’s post-pandemic future: As the theatrical business constricts, will people still go see an old-fashioned comic adventure where the actors lack any superpowers besides A-list charisma? It helps that “Dog,” which Tatum co-directed and starred in, was a recent theatrical hit, but Hollywood will also look to coming films like “The Lost City” and “Bullet Train” (a Pitt-led action comedy in which Bullock returns the favor with a cameo of her own) to determine whether there’s a path for big studio movies outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The hope is that audiences are still eager to see movie stars being movie stars, and as Bullock, Tatum and Radcliffe playfully ribbed each other during the Zoom call, their screen chemistry was evident. At one point, when Tatum was interrupted by the appearance of a Dutch shepherd straining to lick his face, Bullock rolled her eyes. “This is a plug for ‘Dog,’” she joked. “Beautifully timed, Channing.”
Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.
Channing and Sandra, what do you remember about the very first time you met?
CHANNING TATUM I’ve blocked it all out.
SANDRA BULLOCK There’s some PTSD attached to it.
BULLOCK We met through drama, in the principal’s office at preschool. We were called in together because Everly and Laila were trying to alpha the other one out, and we prayed it was the other’s child that caused the damage. But actually, I think we met for the first time at my birthday party. You were a plus-one.
TATUM That’s right, I think that was my first week in Hollywood. You were the first celebrity person I met. God bless his soul, Chris Huvane [the late talent manager] actually brought me there. I believe he was DJing at that point, he wasn’t managing.
BULLOCK Yes he was. All the Huvanes took over my party — I had no say in my own birthday. I went, “I have three friends here. I don’t know who anybody else is.”
Sometimes that can make for a successful party.
BULLOCK You would think, if it were in my favor. But I was like, “Is anyone here for me?”
TATUM I had a blast, personally. I was a kid from Florida, basically not even an actor at that point. I was still just a model, and I made it to her party!
BULLOCK You were never just a model, Chan.
Channing, after that first Hollywood party, could you ever have foreseen that you’d someday be naked in the Dominican Republic, letting Sandra pick leeches off you?
TATUM Look, I might have been convinced that I would be naked in the Dominican Republic. But yeah, when you shoot that, you just go, “Hi, everyone. My name’s Channing. I’ll be naked today. Let’s hit the red button.”
BULLOCK Then I get on my knees and I go, “Is this thing on? Let me just tap it, make sure it’s on.”
TATUM It was on. It was definitely on.
Daniel, what’s it like to play the bad guy opposite these two?
DANIEL RADCLIFFE It was a huge amount of fun. It’s weird because they worked really, really hard on this film and did quite a grueling physical shoot, and I was having a very chill time and being like, “Hey guys, you all seem really tired.” But Sandra, your kids also hung out a lot during filming, right?
BULLOCK That’s the reason we did this film, so they could have one long, Covid-safe play date. We even brought motorbikes down there. All we cared about is that Everly and Laila were just having the time of their lives.
“The Lost City” will be one of the titles that Hollywood looks to in order to gauge the future of theatrical moviegoing. Sandra, you produced the movie. Is that a layer of additional pressure?
BULLOCK We had until Feb. 9 to decide whether it was full theatrical or day-and-date, but we’re here to entertain in whatever capacity it can get out. It was the same thing during filming: We quarantined, fed and housed 650 people, 450 of them Dominicans, who voluntarily left their families for three months in order to be safe. The logistics were a bitch …
TATUM That’s an understatement.
BULLOCK … but you do this all so you can put a film up that feels like it has some escapism to it, and a location that deserves to be seen on a major scale. You’re prepared to release it in any way people can see it, but you keep your fingers crossed for theatrical.
You’ve all starred in some pretty huge box office hits, but how do you decide now whether you should do a project for streaming or for theaters? Does that distinction matter to you?
TATUM The rules are so amorphous at the moment that I don’t think it’s really up to us. I just opened “Dog,” and we weren’t sure if it was going to go to theaters when Amazon bought MGM. We were just like, “OK, we’re a small movie, we don’t really have control over whether this is going to go straight to streaming.” But I was confident that “The Lost City” deserves to be on a big screen, and I thought that Sandy was going to protect that.
RADCLIFFE With this film specifically, I hope people are in a place where they feel like they can go to the theater and enjoy it, because this is a grab-your-friends-and-go-cheer movie that lends itself to a big communal experience. But ultimately, I just want to make stuff that I like, and I don’t really mind too much where it gets seen. A lot of the stuff I do is so weird that I’m like, “Whoever’s going to let me make this, I am going to go with.”
Sandra, your thriller “Bird Box” was one of the first certified streaming blockbusters.
BULLOCK “Bird Box” originally was at Universal with Scott Stuber producing, and it was intended for theaters, but we couldn’t get the financing that we needed to pull it off. Scott had just been wooed by Netflix, and he said, “Would you consider doing it over here? We can make the film we want to make.” I was really intrigued by it because, as a woman, we are limited in what our choices are, but then you go to Netflix and they’re like, “We’ll give you whatever you need.”
It took three years for you to follow that up with another starring vehicle — the drama “The Unforgivable,” which was also for Netflix.
BULLOCK No studio would have made “Unforgivable” and put it on the big screen in this time that we’re in. I like being able to play in all the fields that I want to play in, and I don’t want to be limited. I just want people to see stories that they relate to, whether it’s at home or in the theater.
This film was originally called “The Lost City of D.” What happened to the D?
BULLOCK I’d like to think that Paramount became very evolved and thought they didn’t want to play favorites. Why does the D get all the attention? Why not “Lost City of V”? Not everyone’s into D. Some people really admire and like the V.
Channing, you’ll soon be starring in the Zoë Kravitz-directed “Pussy Island,” so maybe you can weigh in on that sort of title parity.
RADCLIFFE Best title.
TATUM It’s why I wanted to do the movie — it’s such a bold, bold statement. That movie specifically does need to be called this, I think. It’s not just for a joke, and I hope we get to keep it.
“The Lost City” features a lot of romantic comedy elements, and that’s a genre we don’t get as much of on the big screen anymore. Why do you think the rom-com fell out of favor?
BULLOCK Because they were bastardized and so undervalued — anytime someone said “chick flick” or “rom-com,” it was just disparaging. But when you go back to the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, anything with a base of comedy and adventure that also had romance in it wasn’t marginalized the way that it is now. I think when everything swung toward the very masculine action-adventure, women got relegated to the arm piece or damsel in distress. Then, when rom-coms came up, it was always like, “Oh, we’re going to let the women come back in, but it’s going to be this formula that we like, and it can’t be too edgy.”
Daniel, even when you starred in the 2013 romantic comedy “What If,” it felt like those films were already becoming a rarity.
RADCLIFFE Speaking of titles, good luck, because “What If” was once called “The F Word.” It stood for “friend” in that context and they were still like, “No, you can’t even imply that in people’s minds,” so they called it “What If,” which could be the title of any film about anything.
This movie is very much in the tradition of “Romancing the Stone,” an adventure with romantic-comedy elements. But “Romancing the Stone” was nearly 40 years ago! It’s surprising that it would take so long for Hollywood to mine that for more.
RADCLIFFE “Romancing the Stone” is obviously a big point of comparison, and also the first “Mummy” movie with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. That’s one of my favorite films, and this does feel like a classic adventure film where you’re rooting for the characters and rooting for the relationship, but also it’s that slightly heightened world where even in deadly, perilous moments, people are still being quippy and funny with each other and it’s a delight.
BULLOCK Comedy is really hard to come by, and having someone write a three-hander for a comedy? Impossible. Then add action and adventure and scope and depth, and we had three different tones going on that we had to merge, and if we didn’t merge, it wasn’t going to work. The studio kept saying, “There’s no comp for this.” And we were like …
TATUM … that’s the point. It’s such a bean-counter, studio exec note: “What’s the comp for that?”
BULLOCK I mean, it makes sense: What if they’re investing and it’s a huge bomb? I get it from a financial aspect, but I also know when to start getting on the phone and yelling and screaming, and I had to do it twice.
How did Brad Pitt get involved with “The Lost City”?
TATUM Brad’s in this movie?
I know it’s an uncredited role, but he is in the trailer.
BULLOCK Oh, totally. We’re abusing the amount of seconds we’re allowed to use him in the trailer because his contract was exactly the same as my contract for “Bullet Train.” Brad and I have been doing favors for each other back and forth over the years. Janine Thompson, who does my hair, also does Brad’s hair, and he got her on the phone and said, “Can Sandy come do ‘Bullet Train’?” When we saw this role, we said, “All right, Janine, talk to Brad. You’re right near his head right now — lean down into his ear and say, “You’re doing ‘Lost City.’” And he did.
It feels like he’s parodying his early persona as a buff, longhaired hunk.
BULLOCK He walked in, and I went, “What happened to your body?” He’s like, “I bulked up for the role.” I was like, “For this role? The one where you’re here for three and a half days?” He even gave us an extra day. I had to go into the trailer and go, “Mr. Pitt, I know you only contractually gave us three days, but do you mind?”
Channing, how soon until you shoot the third “Magic Mike” movie?
TATUM I leave for London tomorrow, and it’s going to be pretty bonkers. We’re kind of swinging for the fences — there never needs to be another stripper movie after this one. We’re trying to do a fish-out-of-water story where it’s a reverse-role “Pretty Woman” story that ends up with a lot of dancing in it.
Daniel, you’re making a movie about the pop parodist Weird Al Yankovic. How’s that going?
RADCLIFFE I could not be more excited for people to see it. I did one shot the other day and Al walked up to me afterward and was like, “Is that the weirdest thing you’ve ever had to do?” I was like, “It’s top two, with the only other one being Paul Dano riding me like a Jet Ski at the beginning of ‘Swiss Army Man.’”
TATUM I just love that he’s there on set.
RADCLIFFE Oh yeah, he’s there every day. And I’m pleased to report he is the nicest man.
BULLOCK I met him one time in New York when I lied to get a bartending job. He came in and ordered a blueberry daiquiri and I was like, “Um?” He goes, “Do you want me to tell you how to make it?” He saw the flops of sweat and he was like, “She has no idea what she’s doing.” And I didn’t. He was the loveliest.
RADCLIFFE I will 100 percent tell him this tomorrow.
Chris Columbus, who directed the first two “Harry Potter” movies, recently said that he hopes to direct you in a film adaptation of the play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” Having just revisited that world for an HBO Max reunion special, where do you stand on returning for a full film?
RADCLIFFE This isn’t the answer that anybody’s going to want, but I think I was so able to go back and enjoy it because it’s not a part of my day-to-day life anymore. I’m getting to a point where I feel like I made it out of “Potter” OK and I’m really happy with where I am now, and to go back would be such a massive change to my life. I’m never going to say never, but the “Star Wars” guys had like 30, 40 years before they went back. For me, it’s only been 10. It’s not something I’m really interested in doing right now.
And Sandra, what can you tease about “Bullet Train”?
BULLOCK It was a three- or four-day little role, nothing in comparison to what everyone else is doing. I just slide into Brad’s head and I stay there until the very end. I haven’t seen it yet — I think for now, I just want to become a moviegoer again and enjoy things as they come out and get excited. I can’t wait.
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