Discovered on the streets of Miami, Alabama native Tatum soon models for Nautica, Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch. "So many funny things will happen when you're at a photoshoot," he tells Teen People. "The photographer will [say], 'Be a horse, frolic in the hay!'...You're like, 'What the hell?' But I guess it's good training for acting." He also scores TV commercials for Pepsi and Mountain Dew (right) – in which he utters the famous line, "Gotta have my Dew!"
Tatum wins his first real acting gig on an episode of CSI: Miami. He decides to pursue acting full time, quickly landing a role opposite Samuel L. Jackson in 2005's Coach Carter (left). He also lands smaller roles in Havoc (opposite Anne Hathaway) and Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds.
Tatum appears in the gender-bending Amanda Bynes comedy She's the Man. Offscreen, the two costars are linked after they’re reportedly photographed kissing. (At the movie’s premiere, he gushes to E! News that she was "hysterical...and beautiful as always.") But in an interview with Teen People, Bynes (right) denies there were sparks with any of her hunky costars: "They all had girlfriends!"
Tatum stars in the gritty coming-of-age drama A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, with Shia LaBeouf. The cast wins the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and Tatum scores nominations for both Gotham and Independent Spirit awards. Rolling Stone likens Tatum – "shirtless and oozing physical and sexual threat" – to a young Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. "Man, when I read that, I couldn't speak," Tatum tells PEOPLE. "My dad called me up like a giddy schoolgirl when he saw that."
Tatum breaks into the big time with his role as a tough-but-tender dancer in Step Up. Despite its unknown cast, the film brings in an impressive $20.7 million in its opening weekend. "There was one scene where I had to wear tights," the actor (who spent most of the movie "free-styling") tells PEOPLE. "That was a plus." Another plus? His off-screen romantic relationship with costar Jenna Dewan (right), whom he asks to marry him in Maui in 2008.
Tatum costars with Ryan Phillippe (left) in the Iraq war drama Stop-Loss, which PEOPLE recognizes for its "impressively heartfelt" performances. He also begins filming a pair of high-profile projects: G.I. Joe (costarring Sienna Miller) and Michael Mann's Public Enemies, with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
Tatum stars as underground street fighter Shawn MacArthur in Fighting, opposite Terrence Howard (right). When it comes to his own tough guy reputation, the star reveals that if he were to run into a sinister person in a dark corner, he'd "probably run, more than likely. Or I'd be like, 'Wanna dance? Let's have a dance off!'"
Tatum, 29, and Dewan, 28, become husband and wife at a private estate in Malibu. The two–the groom in Giorgio Armani; the bride in a Reem Acra gown–exchange vows in front of 220 guests, including maid of honor Emmanuelle Chriqui and bridesmaid Haylie Duff.
Despite low expectations, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra tops the box office with $56.2 million during its opening weekend. Tatum, who plays military leader Duke, credits his performance to his favorite action star. "I always loved Bruce Willis," he says. "He was always the 'normal guy.' He wasn't this bionic man, but he was that regular guy that could whoop ass."
Tatum gets in touch with his softer side as the romantic lead in the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks's novel, Dear John – which ends Avatar's 17-week reign at the box office. "In my head this was always about that very first love," Tatum says of the wartime love story, which costars Amanda Seyfried. "Whether you had the relationship and saw it to the end or if you never got to have it, you can't get that first one right. It's impossible."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Everett Collection; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic; Walter Thomson/Xingu Films; Touchstone Pictures; Paramount Pictures; Rogue Pictures; Jay Clendenin/Lara Porzak Photography; Everett; Scott Garfield/Sony