St. Petersburg bar gets filmmaker Steven Soderbergh's 'Magic' touch

Extras line up to be filmed walking into what is normally Wilson’s Sports Lounge in St. Petersburg Friday night. The bar is playing a male exotic dance club in filmmaker Steven Soderbergh’s comedy Magic Mike.

LARA CERRI | Times

Extras line up to be filmed walking into what is normally Wilson’s Sports Lounge in St. Petersburg Friday night. The bar is playing a male exotic dance club in filmmaker Steven Soderbergh’s comedy Magic Mike.

ST. PETERSBURG — A new nightclub opened Friday on Fourth Street N, and was out of business by sunrise today.

The joint was called Xquisite, according to a streetside sign promising an "all male dance revue." Someone named Dallas Rising owned the place and didn't sell a single ticket or cocktail.

That's because Xquisite and Dallas Rising aren't real; they're Hollywood fantasies dropped into St. Petersburg for one night by director Steven Soderbergh.

Over the past week, the Oscar winner shot scenes around Tampa Bay for his latest project, Magic Mike, a comedy about male exotic dancing. Xquisite is their stage, and Dallas Rising is Matthew McConaughey's character. Magic Mike is slated for a 2012 release.

Drinkers, dart players and karaoke singers know Xquisite by its real name: Wilson's Sports Lounge, a baby blue watering hole at 3030 Fourth St. N. Owner John Turaniczo surveyed and smiled at what his bar became to passers-by. Even a code enforcer stopped by, fooled into thinking Wilson's had gone rogue.

"It's great, you know," Turaniczo said. "It became a little inconvenient when (the shooting date) got changed from Tuesday to Friday. But I got compensated." Part of the deal is not talking money to strangers.

Friday night, Soderbergh set up cameras in the parking lot, filming exteriors featuring actor Channing Tatum. Magic Mike is loosely based on Tatum's job as an exotic dancer after graduating from Tampa Catholic High School in 1998.

Production began at sundown, so the lighted sign touting Xquisite — actually a temporary wrap — looked flashier. Filming was expected to continue into the wee hours.

Inside, a couple dozen female extras — all sizes and mostly shapely — were dressed for a night of watching hunks strip. Nobody noticed Tatum playing billiards until he yelped in disbelief at a shot that beat him. Later they lined up outside as if to pay the $15 cover charge posted on the marquee.

McConaughey had returned to California, where Magic Mike commenced production in early September. He shot only two days locally, a beach party scene at Three Rooker Bar, a sand island in Tarpon Springs.

Joining him for that shoot were co-stars Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Joe Manganiello (HBO's True Blood), Olivia Munn (Iron Man 2) and Matt Bomer (TV's White Collar). Photos of them in skimpy swimwear have already hit internet fan sites.

The filming schedule for Magic Mike has been in flux all week due to weather conditions, timing and Soderbergh's whims. Thursday's day off was one of the few plans that went as expected this week. Other locations included Caddy's on the Beach in Treasure Island.

At times, keeping track of production plans seemed like a job for the Ocean's Eleven gang — the movie Soderbergh brought to St. Petersburg for two days of filming in 2001. A request for comment from the director was rejected by his publicist Spooky Stevens. "He never, ever talks to press when he's in production," she said. "For him, it's all about the work."

Soderbergh is expected to move his team across the bay to Ybor City for a few days of filming. Stevens wouldn't confirm that Friday. "That might be true, I don't know," she said. "We're down to the very end."

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8365.

St. Petersburg bar gets filmmaker Steven Soderbergh's 'Magic' touch 10/14/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 15, 2011 2:37pm]

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