Back outside, Tatum walks past the Jacuzzi down to a gas fireplace. He turns a knob, then pokes at a log pile to get the blaze going. Lulu, chew toy in mouth, has assumed her spot on the picnic bench. Tatum says he loves that when he wanders out here at night, it's so secluded and peaceful he could almost be back home down South. Almost. He leans over, reaches into a plastic cooler, and grabs another Coors Light. "This is only out here because me and Jenna just had family and friends over for Thanksgiving," he explains. "I don't want people to think I'm a bigger redneck than I already am."

Tatum has recently returned from Scotland, where he was filming a Roman battle epic called The Eagle of the Ninth, directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland). The role is a familiar one: For the fourth time in his brief career, Tatum plays a soldier—this one from Rome's legendary Ninth Legion. "It's really a beautiful story of trust and honor and friendship," he says. He nods thoughtfully, then lets out a laugh. "But I'll never shoot a movie in Scotland again. Ever."

Tatum was pretend-soldiering one raw, wet October day in the Scottish Highlands. The action required him to wade in ice-cold water, which, despite a high-tech wetsuit, could be withstood for only a few minutes. "The only way to keep warm was by pouring a mix of boiling water and river water down your suit. We were finally done shooting for the day, and one of the crew guys asks if I want to warm up before I go. I'm like, Nah, I'm good. And then I thought, Why not? Thing is, he'd forgotten to dilute the kettle water. So he poured scalding water down my suit. And I was trying to pull the suit away from my body to somehow get away from the boiling water, and the more I pulled the suit away, the lower the water went. It just went straight down and pretty much burned the skin off the head of my dick."

Tatum was rushed to the nearest hospital—an hour away. Before long, the ice pack he was applying to the burn lost its chill. "I said to the driver, who was ex-special-forces Marines, 'You might have to knock me out, because I don't know if I can take the pain. Just grab something and hit me on the back of my head.'" Morphine finally KO'd the agony, and a team of doctors salved and bandaged his wound. "I had five guys looking at my shriveled, burned penis," he says proudly.

Sure, plenty of dudes love to natter on about their junk, but it's tough to imagine fellow superstars-in-the-making Shia LaBeouf and Ryan Gosling cheerfully sharing pictures of their gnarled rods with a reporter. Tatum is so unguarded it's almost unnerving. He rhapsodizes about one day writing a "fantastical dansical." When discussing the percentage of his films in which he's appeared shirtless (that'd be 100), he momentarily offers prideful resistance—"In Stop-Loss, I only had it off once"—before helping with the count. "All the time in She's the Man," he says, blushing. "G.I. Joe, too. And all the early films." I decide not to mention that the opening of the trailer for his upcoming romantic soldier drama Dear John shows Tatum bare-chested and dripping wet. How could I? While Tatum's sucking down Silver Bullets from a cooler, he insists on dashing inside to beer me with higher-end brews.