I found an article by Michael Guillen of the blog The Evening Class in which he interviewed the writer and director of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. In the interview we get more insight on Channing Tatum’s breakout performance as Antonio from Dito Montiel.
Here is a snippet from the interview:
MG: Having had similar issues as Robert’s, I appreciate that he has survived the chances he’s taken in life and carried on to do such great work. The big breakout performance in Saints is Channing Tatum‘s.
MG: His stunningly virile performance in Saints leads me back to talk a bit more about the hardcore punk scene, specifically something I didn’t have the chance to ask Paul Rachman when I interviewed him, which I’ll ask you: the hypermasculinity of the hardcore scene and in your film, is glamorized, almost eroticized. Was it like that on the streets? Was that toughness a glamorous ideal?
Dito: Channing, in particular, what he did with the role was special. I didn’t want Channing at first because he sounded all wrong to me. I had found this kid in the street that was the perfect messed-up mangled kid that was impossible to love that reminded me of the person I was writing about. Channing is a Bruce Weber model who is as goodlooking as a guy can possibly be, he’s six foot tall, he’s from Alabama, it makes no sense that he’s in this movie and I’m like, “No, this is crazy.” Then the thing that was really special about him and I am so glad that he ended up in the film is because—to answer part of the question—he went from being this great looking guy to a wounded, sort of beautiful person for me. That’s difficult. He brought this Mice and Men quality to the character that I wrote that was slightly more interesting than what I think I wrote. He brought a guy who breaks your neck and then tries to put it together because he didn’t mean to do that. As far as the hypermasculinity, the strange thing that happened with him that was really important with this film in every aspect of the word and way was one of the first scenes we’re filming, he’s walking down the street where he sort of beats this kid up and he just does this dumb little thing as he’s walking down the street….
MG: …and he’s laughing.
Dito: And he’s laughing and everything. We’re walking away—and, of course, because we’re filming in the neighborhood where a lot of these things took place, there’s always critics everywhere and directors all over the streets—and one of them walks over afterwards and he says to Channing, “I knew Antonio and he would have spit in that guy’s face and thrown him over that thing and laughed all the way home.” Channing, of course, was worried about that. I said, “That guy would have made a terrible film” because he thought Antonio the character was a big joke. He thought he was out there to amuse everyone. Antonio was a wounded person. When he laughed, he laughed because it was pain. He did these things because he was doing the right thing. It didn’t seem like the right thing but he believed they were. That hypermasculinity in the hardcore scene is another story. Maybe similar in a way, but, there’s just a truth to what we tried to get and what Channing brought to that character that was … I don’t know if it’s all real. The truth isn’t always real.