In Sabotage, the gritty new movie from End of Watch writer/director David Ayer hitting theaters March 28, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Prisoners‘ Terrence Howard, True Blood‘s Joe Manganiello, and The Killing‘s Mireille Enos star as members of a badass DEA task force who find themselves on a Mexican cartel’s hit list after $10 million goes missing in a bust. Check out our exclusive debut of the new trailer below.
Manganiello sees a certain horror movie structure to the film in that the team members are being hunted down one by one. And if you also watch the red band trailer, you’ll see there’s just as much blood. “David Ayer likes it dark, he likes it nasty,” Manganiello says. “[But] the violence in the movie is taken from what’s actually going in that world. The things that are done to people are gruesome and scary.”
Ayer encourages actors to bring something to the plate on set, and after spending about four months alongside real-life DEA agents as research, Manganiello literally had a notebook full of material. Hence him improvising a quip — “Clean-up, aisle three” — heard in the trailer. “That line is in response to a SWAT officer showing up on the scene and finding that we’ve now made a mess in his jurisdiction,” he says. “So I have this whole notebook full of sayings that these cops that I worked alongside and observed would say to each other, and a lot of them were dealing with the fact that when local cops and federal agents show up and there’s a shootout, the federal agents are allowed to leave the mess. They can get into a huge gunfight and just jump in their cars and take off, and then the locals are left to clean up.”
Manganiello refers to his character, Grinder, as the equivalent of the enforcer on a hockey team. “If somebody goes after Arnold, if somebody goes after one of my team members, I’m the one who’s gonna jump in. I’m the guy in the bar you don’t want to spill a beer on,” he says. But having Schwarzenegger’s back in the film doesn’t mean the two didn’t have to get into each other’s faces. “Whenever I have to fight with someone, it helps if we’re friends. The friendlier we are, the nastier I can get,” Manganiello says, laughing. Schwarzenegger became such a good friend and mentor that he even wrote the forward to Manganiello’s 2013 fitness book Evolution: The Cutting Edge Guide to Breaking Down Mental Walls and Building the Body You’ve Always Wanted. (It’s been so successful that Simon & Schuster is talking to Manganiello about penning another.)
That comfort also gave Manganiello, who could quote every Schwarzenegger movie growing up, the courage to eventually do things like try a Predator line out on Schwarzenegger right before a take of Arnold kicking in a door for the team to storm. “We’re crammed on this tiny metal fire escape, all stacked up in a line on the back of this building in Atlanta,” Manganiello has recounted to EW. “My character chews tobacco, so I had this huge chaw full of Red Man. I spit and said in my best Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura, ‘This sh– makes Cambodia look like Kansas,’ and simultaneously the AD yelled, ‘Rolling!,’ and Arnold turned to me and went [in Schwarzenegger accent] ‘If it bleeds, we can kill it.’ And I looked at Worthington, and he looked at me, and they yelled, ‘Action!,’ and we were so pumped up….It was awesome.” (And yes, if you’re wondering, Manganiello has done his Arnold impersonation for Schwarzenegger. “On many occasions,” Manganiello says, laughing again. “It’s hard not to. He does impersonations of himself whenever we’re out. If I had a nickel for every time I was with him and somebody screamed, ‘Get to the chopper!’ I would probably be able to buy a sports franchise.”)
On an equally light note, the red band trailer also shows the team blowing off steam at a strip club. Did shooting that scene result in any Magic Mike ribbing? “Constantly,” Manganiello says, chuckling. “But I’ll tell you something interesting: The girls who were dancing had all seen Magic Mike, but none of them recognized me because I have the cornrows, the beard, the tattoos. I put on about 20-25 pounds for [Sabotage]. One of the girls was sitting on my lap at one point talking to me about Magic Mike because Terrence had jumped up on the pole and started dancing. She was like, ‘Oh, are you gonna try out for Magic Mike 2?’ And Terrence said something to me in reference to Magic Mike and she was confused. She didn’t understand that he was saying that to me because I was that guy in the movie that she’d just watched last night. It was kinda awesome.”
With Magic Mike 2 in the works, Manganiello jokes that all the women who came to his Evolution book signings hoping to cash in Channing Tatum’s jacket blurb — which claims that each purchase comes with a lap dance — can get their chance. “I encourage all the people who bought my book to call Central Casting and sign up to be an extra in Magic Mike 2, and I will do my best to catch up,” he says.
In the meantime, Manganiello, who’ll return for True Blood‘s final season debuting this summer, is also prepping the summer theatrical release of his directorial debut, the male-stripper documentary La Bare. He’d made a plea on EW for the Flaming Lips to license him their song “Free Radicals,” and he’s happy to report they’re on board, as are Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, Poliça, and Active Child. Still, Manganiello admits not everything went smoothly where the potential soundtrack’s concerned: After the picture was locked, Christian artists who wrote four of the film’s featured tunes “found out the subject material of our documentary and yanked their songs out,” he says. There’s a happy ending, though: “Marilyn Manson is a really good friend of mine, and I happened to mention it to him, and he heard that these Christian groups pulled their music out. He said, ‘Oh man, anything of mine you want to use, use it.’ So he was cool enough to give us one of his songs ["I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)"] to patch up one of those holes, which is kind of funny.”
Speaking more to his passion for music: In addition to recently optioning the book Juilliard to Jail (about a Juilliard-trained actress who wound up performing plays in maximum security prisons in California and teaching Shakespeare and screenwriting), Manganiello’s production company is also developing a film called Shoplifters of the World. “It’s kind of like a Dazed and Confused,” he says, “and it’s about the day in 1987 that the Smiths broke up. Morrissey agreed to let us use the catalog of Smiths songs for it. We’re actually talking to actors about it right now.”