New Line Cinema’s feature film adaption of the smash hit Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” comes to the big screen under the direction of Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”). “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 heart pounding hits of Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister and more.
We recently had the opportunity to speak wit director Adam Shankman about casting Tom Cruise as his rock God, how he approached him for the role, why Mary J just made so much sense, and cutting Tom’s provocative scene with Julianne Hough.
Can you talk about Tom Cruise the rock God.
Adam Shankman: Tom Cruise the rock God was a fantastic adventure and voyage for the two of us. He was so stunned that someone would ask him or had the nerve to ask him to do something outside of his box and there is no one who likes a challenge more then Tom Cruise. There was never a discussion of lip syncing or voice over or another voice because if the guy is not going to let someone do his singing for him. I think he was so thrilled to have the potential to learn a new skill. As a dad he’s changed a lot about how he feels about stuff. Suri Cruise rules the household but here is the difference it’s that he’s older now. There is just a lot more music in his house, his son Conner is now a DJ. “Hairspray” bought me a lot of credibility, in the comedy community and actors felt safe with me, so there wasn’t a lot of begging and asking actors to please come do this.
So why did you pick Tom he didn’t seem to be the most likely candidate?
Adam Shankman: For me he was the only candidate. His audition was “Tropic Thunder”, the second I saw him in “Tropic Thunder” I thought oh my God I didn’t know this guy could commit to a comedic role. When this became very really I thought oh my God did I just get one of the biggest movie stars in the world to play one of the biggest rock stars in the world. He would come with some knowledge of that discomfort of what is fame opposed if I just got someone else to do it. No one was more surprised then him when I asked and we both didn’t definitely say yes until we both thought he could pull off the singing. So we took him to a coach and we worked with him in once session and I heard him and it was amazing the range that was coming out of him and the size of his voice. Every note is him. The last challenge I gave him was “Paradise City” and he came in and he knocked it out. I now think that there is nothing else Tom Cruise can’t do.
How did you actually approach him for the role?
Adam Shankman: I was at Adam Sandler’s daughters first birthday party and Tom Cruise brought Suri there and he came up to me. I was sitting in a little baby plastic chair drawing with my niece and I felt someone pull up a chair next to me and I heard Hi I’m Tom Cruise. Then I look and it’s him and he’s sitting in one of those baby chairs and he said “I’m a big fan and I saw Hair Spray and you really nailed that tone”, and in my head I’m going to explode thinking this is how I’m meeting Tom Cruise, I’m in a baby chair. We talked for a second and told him give me a second I’m just going to go grab some food and I stood up with the chair stuck to my ass! I literally could not have looked more like an idiot. Then he said when are we going to make a musical, then I laughed and I thought in my head never. I just couldn’t understand what that would be. Then this project came up and I ran into him again at Adam Sandler’s Christmas party. So I told him about the part at the party and he thought it was insane and exciting but he was getting ready to do Mission Impossible so it gave us a full year to talk about it.
What made you think Mary J. Blige was right for her role?
Adam Shankman: She was the first person I asked I think I just wanted Mary J Blige to sing around me. I honestly felt like my other dear friend and colleague Queen Latifah had already done it twice. The studio initially asked me to cast Whitney Houston and I know Whitney but I thought that it just wasn’t the right fit for this right now. So I said I want Mary J. Blige and they said sure, sure, go get Tom Cruise then we can talk about Mary.
So how did you end up cutting the scene with Julianne Hough and Tom Cruise?
Ådam Shankman: Super easy to explain, it really upset mothers. Mother turned against Julianne’s character because her character sold out in the scene and she was an animal in it and played it too good. The scene was also placed at the top of the third act and it caused a hugh deviation from the story in order to do this number. It will be on the extended version and when you see it you’ll understand why it got cut.
How was it seeing Tom singing “Pour Some Sugar on Me” in front of Def Leppard?
Adam Shankman: That was freaking weird. I was scared out of my mind but Joe Elliot was standing behind me and he said, “Oh my God he’s fucking better then us”. That was also Tom’s first day of shooting.
Was he nervous?
Adam Shankman: Tom doesn’t know nervous, Tom doesn’t do nervous. Tom does preparation so he’s been working on that number for months. He’s choreographed to that number to his thumbnail.
There’s another Step us film coming up how does “Step Up Revolution” take it to another level?
Adam Shankman: It’s unbelievable, it’s the best dancing by far. It’s sexier and we more real story back into it because it started going off the rails a little bit. They just talked to me because they’d love this movie so much that they just talked to me about Step Up 5. I thought if I have to come up with one more reason for people to save the world one dance at a time I will kill myself. But if people keep coming they’re going to keep making them. These movie do really well internationally, it’s crazy.
“Rock of Ages” is in theaters June 15th.