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SYFY WIRE Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum soldiered hard for his character to die early in ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’

Tatum tried to escape his Duke role altogether… before the story provided the ultimate answer.

By Benjamin Bullard
Channing Tatum GI Joe Rise Of Cobra YOUTUBE

If knowing is half the battle, then Channing Tatum must’ve been coasting through his role as Duke (aka Conrad Hauser) in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. That’s because the burly actor absolutely, positively knew he didn’t want to play the part to begin with, happily inviting his character to be killed off early in the 2013 followup to 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Speaking recently with Vanity Fair, Tatum shed some light on the widely-known account of his initial reluctance to soldier forward with the franchise, confessing he attempted to turn down the role of Duke multiple times before finally relenting — all thanks to an inescapable, three-movie option deal he held at the time with Paramount Pictures. 

“The first one I passed on seven times,” said Tatum of his leading role in The Rise of Cobra. “But they had an option on me and I had to do the movie. So the second one, I obviously just didn’t want to do that one either.”

RELATED: Channing Tatum eyeing remake of 'Ghost' as he gives up the ghost on his 'Gambit' movie

That would explain why Tatum’s totally cool with registering far less screen time in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which dispenses with Duke almost as soon as the movie starts. Affirming that he indeed had requested that his character be killed off for good in Retaliation, Tatum — who was taking part in Vanity Fair’s fun “Lie Detector” video series — flatly answered “No” when asked if he had any lingering regrets about Duke’s on-screen demise.

It’s not that Tatum isn’t down with such a real American hero, mind you; it’s just that he had a different G.I. Joe hero in mind before finally acquiescing to portray Duke. Looking back on his time in the franchise in a 2015 Howard Stern interview (via The Guardian), the actor confided, “I f***ing hate” Rise of Cobra, and that he’d originally hoped to be cast as stealthy ninja assassin Snake Eyes (a role that instead went to Ray Park). 

“…I love G.I. Joe: ‘Can I play Snake Eyes?’” he recalled of his plea to the studio. “And they’re like, ‘No, you’re not playing Snake Eyes, you’re playing G.I. Joe.’ The script wasn’t any good… And I didn’t want to do something that I… was a fan of since I was a kid and watched every morning growing up — and didn’t want to do something that was, one, bad and, two, I just didn’t know if I wanted to be G.I. Joe.”

Tatum’s current A-list career means he’s far better positioned these days to pick his own roles, and with Duke long gone from the scene, there’s little chance he’ll ever form up for a future G.I. Joe outing unless he’s calling his own shots. In the meantime, there’s a ton of fun stuff on the actor’s plate, including the Feb. 10 premiere of Magic Mike’s Last Dance in addition to upcoming sci-fi movie projects at both Apple TV+ and Netflix. Looking farther ahead, Tatum’s even scaring up plans to star in a feature film remake of the Oscar-winning 1990 supernatural classic Ghost.

In the mood for some more Channing Tatum drama? Check him out in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, now streaming on Peacock!