Director Adam Shankman Interview For ‘Rock of Ages’ – Talks Musicals, Tom Cruise….
Directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray), the feature film adaptation of the smash hit Broadway musical, ‘Rock of Ages,’ tells the story of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the classic 80s rock ‘n’ roll hits of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more. Arriving in cinemas June 15th, ‘Rock of Ages’ stars Julianne Hough, Malin Akerman, Russell Brand, actor/singer Diego Boneta in his feature film debut, Oscar nominees Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise and Paul Giamatti, Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, R&B queen Mary J. Blige, and multiple Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston.
Where does your love for musical theatre come from?
Adam Shankman: It’s in my DNA. I’m a teleholic, I’m a movie freak, and my parents literally raised me in front of musicals. It was my favourite thing. Then when I got out of school, that’s what I was, I was a chorus boy, so musical theatre was my life. It just sort of feels organic and natural to me, it’s the happiest I am when I’m making a movie, when I’m getting to shoot musical numbers, dancing and singing and all that (laughs).
With all the amazing musicals on Broadway, what was it about ‘Rock of Ages’ that got you interested?
Adam Shankman: The audience reaction. I’d never seen anything like it in my life, you know? I’ve seen billions of shows, but when I saw how the audience reacted to ‘Rock of Ages’….and straight guys, freaking out in a Broadway musical (laughs). It hits everybody and I just wanted to be a part of that experience.
Was there ever a consideration for you to bring on the Broadway cast?
Adam Shankman: It was the same thing that happened with ‘Hairspray,’ I wanted it to be its own animal. I had a great conversation before I made ‘Hairspray’ with John Waters, where he said, “You have to do your own, individual thing. You have to make it your own, you can’t do what I did, you can’t do what the Broadway show did. You have to tell it your way.” On top of which the studio wouldn’t have green lit it, it’s at a certain budget level and Warner Bros wanted movie stars. So I was down with that.
With this all-star ensemble cast, ‘Rock of Ages’ is lead by two newcomers to film in Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta….
Adam Shankman: They’re so beautiful and they’re so talented, that’s the thing that’s freaky about them. They have the hardest job in the movie because not only do they have to really carry it, but they have the least amount of quirkiness and craziness in this world. So they almost have to be this sort of weird stability of the movie. That’s a hard job, much harder than what people think. On top of which they’re thrown in and out of these scenes with these giant movie stars. They are my heroes (laughs). The energy and beauty and talent is all there in a really big way.
How was it having Tom Cruise on board, he really transformed into his character, into Stacee Jaxx?
Adam Shankman: When he decided to do this….he happened to have a fantastic voice, which we discovered and broadened with this brilliant vocal coach. But then he worked on it for four or five hours a day, for months! He was so committed, he literally physically and vocally willed himself into this character, because I think he just saw a challenge in front of him – and Tom Cruise is a guy who loves a challenge! I think he saw ‘Rock of Ages’ as something he’s never had an opportunity to do and may never again. So he just went for it, clearly he went for it (laughs).
He’s an amalgamation of so many rockers of that age, did you suggest he look at certain people….
Adam Shankman: We poured over….the big thing we watched together was ‘Decline Of The Western Civilisation: The Metal Years,’ which is a great documentary about the era. Great, GREAT interviews with rockers. There’s a brilliant interview with Paul Stanley from Kiss, where he actually does the interview naked in bed with a bunch of girls. And it’s a serious interview (laughs). I said, “This is you dude, I’m loving this.” It is a mash-up of people, but here’s the great thing, when we started I said, “Your starting point is the song ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, because you, who knows how it is to be famous, who knows how it is to be surrounded by people all the time, I want you to….even though you have girls, bodyguards, a baboon, managers, all of these around you. Unendingly you are never alone. I still want you to see yourself, in your deluded way, as this lonely cowboy walking through the desert. So take the lyrics of ‘Wanted Dead or Alive,’ knowing what it is to have people biting at you and wanting things but you’re still alone.” He laughed and that’s where he started, and I think did pretty freaking great (laughs).
Do you have a favourite moment from the filming of ‘Rock of Ages’?
Adam Shankman: I had a lot of expectations for the cast. But sort of the revelation seen for me was the first day that Tom Cruise shot, literally all day we shot ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’, which was a brilliant way for him to start because he got to live the rock star experience in front of those hundreds and hundreds of extras, all screaming, freaking out – and he was so brilliant. Then freakishly Def Leppard showed up that day. And I’m telling you, we were not expecting them, they were on tour, so Warner’s publicity, I think, just said, come on down. So there’s Tom Cruise, performing ’Pour Some Sugar On Me’, looking how he does, performing it as well as he does, Def Leppard there, going, “Oh my God, he’s fantastic.” I’m just there thinking, “Gosh, this might work!” (Laughs) It was great.
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