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Channing Tatum talks about his voice role in animated film 'The Book of Life'

Channing Tatum says director Jorge Gutierrez "told me the story of 'The Book of Life' and I was like, 'Man, this is punk rock and cool and I would love to go down this rabbit hole.'"

By Karen Butler
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Channing Tatum talks about his voice role in animated film 'The Book of Life'
Channing Tatum arrives for the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of 'Foxcatcher' at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, Canada on September 8, 2014. UPI/Christine Chew | License Photo

NEW YORK, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Channing Tatum says he was eager to act in the animated feature The Book of Life after meeting its director Jorge Gutierrez, who described for him in detail the epic love story steeped in Latin tradition.

"He told me two stories. He told me one very personal story that I won't share here, but it moved me almost to tears and I knew that if this movie had any amount of that in it, it was just going to be truly alive and emotional and real and beautiful and then he told me the story of The Book of Life and I was like, 'Man, this is punk rock and cool and I would love to go down this rabbit hole,'" Tatum said at a recent press conference in New York.

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"There are no wrong answers when you are doing an animated movie," added the 34-year-old Alabama native. "You could [just babble] and they'll use that. They'll just create something in the world that it fits. You don't know. It might be in the movie. So, you just kind of let go."

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Produced by Guillermo del Toro, the movie is about the extraordinary lengths to which reluctant bullfighter Manolo, played by Diego Luna, goes to be with his beloved Maria, played by Zoe Saldana. Tatum plays Joaquin, the accomplished suitor the woman's father wants her to marry, while Ron Perlman and Kate del Castillo lend their voices to Xibalba and La Muerte, powerful spirits who wager on who will win Maria's heart. The film also features the vocal talents of Placido Domingo, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube and Gabriel Iglesias.

Asked what it was like to immerse himself in Mexican culture for the film, Tatum replied: "I think I'd always heard of the Day of the Dead, but I was just an American kid from the South and I, obviously, didn't really know anything about the Mexican culture and this was an education.

"I'm not saying this for this [press conference.] It is something I am going to adopt into my own [life.] I'm not a religious person, but I am a very spiritual person and I think the idea of life and then whatever comes after... the idea of when someone moves on to whatever's after, if people that are still in this world treat them as if they're there -- cook them their favorite meals, serve their drinks that they used to like, if they liked apple juice, or tell their stories and their jokes -- it's like as if they are there. They are really there. They do exist. I think that's one of the most beautiful traditions that I've heard of."

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So, as a new dad to daughter Everly, did Tatum consider how children might react to the way death and the afterlife are depicted in The Book of Life?

"When I heard it was going to be about the Mexican Day of the Dead, I was like, 'How are they going to pull this off as a kids' movie?' And I think it is such a beautiful way of looking at it. It doesn't deal with it as death, as in, like, they're gone. It's, literally, the Land of the Remembered. They don't go away. They can really still be with you. And I think some people will maybe be afraid to teach this to their children. But I don't know. I think it's a really safe and beautiful way to talk about it, if you feel like you want to do that. Because 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. First."

The star of Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street and the upcoming Foxcatcher admitted it is nice to have a movie his little girl will be able to see before she is 18.

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"Step Up, she's going to end up watching a lot," he joked, referring to one of his first films, a young-adult dance flick, which came out in 2006 and also featured his wife Jenna. "That's going to be [Everly's] punishment. I don't know. It's not a conscious decision. If some great stories come along that are appropriate for her. ... I mean, I'm not going and looking for that type of thing. It really is whatever comes across that is really just a great story. I just love stories and characters and things that I think I can service maybe better than anything else that's going on."

Pressed to discuss the challenges of making a film when one is essentially sharing a performance with the animators, Tatum declared, "Animated movies are like vacations for actors.

"You don't have to work 12 hours a day. On a live-action movie, you're generally there for 12-15 hours. [For animation,] I get to show up in my sweats and Zoe jokes around. She's like: 'I don't even brush my teeth when I go in. I just go right in!' ... It was play. It was a really playful thing and it was nice to kind of give the reins to somebody else and really let them run, then come back and say, 'OK, this is what we've got so far.'"

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The Book of Life is in theaters now.

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