In director Adam Shankman‘s Rock of Ages, Diego Boneta plays Drew Boley, a twenty something rocker with dreams of making it big in the late 80s Los Angeles music scene. Based on the hit Broadway musical, Rock of Ages also stars Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Mary J. Blige. For more on the film, here’s the recent trailer and all our previous coverage.
Last August, I got to participate in a group interview with Boneta on the Miami set. During a break in filming, he talked about how he landed the role, what it was like working with Tom Cruise, what he did to prepare for the role, the costumes, what it’s been like working with the rest of the cast and Adam Shankman, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
Diego Boneta: Man, I’m so sad. It’s been, honestly, the best time of my life. It’s definitely bittersweet. The one thing I’ve been thinking about this past week, is asking Adam [Shankman] to do more takes on my last scene Wednesday, and what excuses I’ll be inventing to do more takes, on that scene because I don’t want to finish.
What is your last scene?
Boneta: My last scene is probably going to be one with Sherrie (Julianne Hough’s character) because we’ve had a lot of scenes together. It’s going to be Wednesday, and I don’t want it to be Wednesday.
Did you see Constantine [Maroulis] on Broadway? Did they want you to see it, or did they want you to do your own thing?
Boneta: I told Adam when I met him that I hadn’t watched the show, and he said, “Perfect. I don’t want you to be influenced by the musical.” Probably one of the first things I’m going to do after I finish shooting is go and watch the musical. I met Constantine, because he is doing a cameo in this movie. He’s a great guy, and I told him, “I hope you like the Drew that I came up with.” He saw some stuff and he really liked it.
Did he give you some tips?
Boneta: No, we just became friends. He asks me if I rap, in the movie. Basically, thanks to him, I join a boy band in the movie, so it’s his fault. His character gave me bad advice.
What’s your favorite song you perform in the movie?
Boneta: That’s hard to say. I really like shooting “Jukebox Hero,” which is the last one I did. It’s a mash-up of “Jukebox Hero,” by Foreigner, and “I Love Rock and Roll.” It’s like a rock and roll version of “Greased Lightning.” It’s just great. Adam showed me some of the cuts, and it just looks amazing.
You said you didn’t watch the musical, but did you go back and look at any 80s music videos, or boy band stuff, to get the feel of the 80s?
Boneta: I started out singing, and I released two albums in Latin America and Brazil. My influences are basically the bands from the songs I’m singing in the movie. Ever since I was a kid, the music that my parents played was 80s music, from U2 to The Police to The Rolling Stones, and then, I liked it so much, I started listening to more 80s bands when I was growing up. Two years ago, all I listened to was Duran Duran, A-ha; I have an 80s playlist in my iPod, and that’s all I listen to. These songs and these bands are my influences. It’s really a dream come true, being a part of this movie, and singing the songs that I grew up listening to.
Boneta: No. The one thing that we all went through was the preparation of the movie, which was really intense. It was five weeks prior to shooting. Vocal rehearsals, movement rehearsals, I learned how to play guitar for the movie, which is something I had always wanted to do, but never had time to learn. Now, that’s all I do, I don’t even watch TV when I get home, I’m practicing guitar. Vocally, the challenge was learning to sing with that rasp-y-ness, without hurting my vocal chords, which is all thanks to Ron Henderson. He’s the vocal coach in the movie, and developing that higher range that all the singers had back in the 80s. Lou Graham and Steve Perry and Freddie Mercury, all those guys, their range is crazy. Ron was the gatekeeper to really help me find my voice. It was not only learning how to do that stuff, but also finding our own rocker voice. I didn’t want to sound like Steve Perry or Lou Graham. It’s not that I don’t like them, they’re amazing, but you want to find your own voice, and that was a very cool adventure to go through.
What was the first meeting or first audition with Adam like? What was the first thing you had to do for him?
Boneta: It was after four readings. The whole audition process was like a month. It was very intense. I met him towards the end of the process. I read the scenes for him, sang the songs, and it was great. There was an instant connection. He’s a really fun guy so in the room things just flowed really well.
Do you think learning how to play guitar, and finding your own rock voice might influence you, if you plan to make another album?
Boneta: Absolutely, and that’s another thing I’m going to do after this movie. I’m starting to work on my third album, even now, finding the right producers, finding the right people. Yes absolutely for my concerts, taking out the acoustic guitar and singing a couple of songs. And vocally, it adds more dynamic, I have more options. Yeah, it’s definitely going to help me, and it has changed a lot of things. This movie changed my life.
Boneta: A little bit… (laughs)
Did you get any good advice from them, as you move on with your acting career? Who influenced you the most, as far as becoming a professional on the set?
Boneta: Everyone did in different ways. Like I said, this is a dream come true for me, and I’m really humbled to be a part of this movie, and grateful towards Adam and working with these amazing actors and people has helped me a lot. I’ve learned so much. I think Tom Cruise really inspired me a lot. This was the first time he has ever done a musical, and just seeing the way he prepared for this. I heard you guys saw “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” I don’t know what you guys thought about it, but I was there that day. I wasn’t even shooting, I just wanted to check it out. Every single person in the audience was 100% connected to whatever it was he was doing. That’s something you don’t learn, that’s something you have. All the preparation he did, all the rehearsals, vocally, choreography, guitar-wise, was really inspiring. Because second he got to the stage and got to perform, he just lost fear and committed 100% and connected to an audience. It was a rock concert, it truly was. Me being a performer and a singer, I got chills every single take.
Boneta: Yeah, during our five-week preparation and rehearsal. The best way to describe that is it’s a rock star college. That’s truly what it was. The best vocal coaches, the best choreographers, Mia Michaels is a legend in her world. Eric Jackson was teaching us how to play guitar, and we really had time to get to know each other. We really became great friends. I know that I can count on her, as a friend, independently of what we did together. She’s awesome.
We have heard about some of the artists themselves coming on set, like Def Leppard. Have you been around to meet any of those guys and talk to them?
Boneta: I was not on set the day that Def Leppard came in, but I will tell you what was really cool to watch. I had a week off shooting, and I went back to L.A. for my sister’s birthday. A friend of mine invited me to a Journey/Foreigner concert. It was great to see the actual band members perform, and what was even cooler, was to see the audience who attended the show. There were guys my age, couples, people my parents’ age, my grandparents’ age. I just kept thinking, “Wow, this is the audience these songs communicate to. It would be amazing to get this audience to watch the movie.” It was not only girls, not only guys, not only old people, it was everyone. That was really cool.
Boneta: Yeah, there are a lot of people I want to share this with, because this is definitely something that changed my life, and there are a lot of people that helped me and believed in me. My family, for sure, they’re all in town now and they’re going to swing by the set. They’re involved in my career every step of the way. Couple of friends as well, special people.
Since this is such a high-profile project, have new offers already started to come in, even though you haven’t wrapped yet? What kind of approach do you want to take with your career, after Rock of Ages?
Boneta: Yeah, it’s been great to see how a lot of doors have started to open. I’m all about working. I’m a really hard worker, and I’m taking advantage of all those different opportunities, on the music and acting side, because I love both. Different acting projects are starting to come up, and I’m starting to work on my third album, so I’m going to have to balance out whatever my team and I think will be best.
Boneta: Yeah. My character’s stage name is Wolfgang Von Colt. I know, very subtle. Yeah, I have my band with me. It’s not a band, per-se, it’s just me and my buddies who work at the Bourbon Room, which is the legendary club on Sunset where all these bands perform at.
They do have a house band in the movie, though, right?
Boneta: Yeah, the house band is my band. We all work there, we jam together. We sing “I Wanna Rock” together, we sing “Nothing But a Good Time” together.
Do you actually play with them though, play guitar with them?
Boneta: Yeah, yeah. Which was something that was very cool. It was not just learning songs for the movie, and that’s it, those are the only songs I know how to play. E.J., who was the coach, it was awesome because Tom and I shared the same coach. It got to the point where it was like, “Let’s just take guitar lessons together.” So we’re jamming together, and he’s playing the solos, because he’s the rock star and he does all the solos. I do more of the rhythmic guitar. We’d be singing together, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
Do you have a surreal moment, when you realize you’re playing guitar with Tom Cruise?
Boneta: Yeah, dude, of course. Two months before this movie, I was watching Risky Business with my siblings. I was just thinking, “damn, if I could only find a script like this, to do a great movie and launch my acting career.” And two months later, not only am I acting with Tom, I’m jamming with him. He’s giving me advice on what to do in different takes. It was the week before we started shooting. We have a great relationship, and I truly admire him as a person and as a professional.
Boneta: I had someone to pinch me to make sure I was in Miami. I wasn’t born when the Sunset Strip looked like this, but I think [the production designer] Jon Hutman has done an amazing job portraying these sets and the Sunset Boulevard and the interiors. He has really set the mood for us, and helped us so much. As actors, it really helps us to get in the zone if we have a great set and other things to help us. Jon really killed it.
Can you talk about what you get to wear in the film, the costumes?
Boneta: My character is pretty simple. He doesn’t have a lot of money, so he’ll wear the same pair of jeans. I think I wear the same pair of jeans throughout the whole movie, with different concert t-shirts; Journey t-shirts, REO Speedwagon, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and that kind of stuff. The coolest outfit, I think, is the one I wear at the end. Which is when Stacee invites us on stage, when he’s playing Dodger Stadium. We all sing ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ which is the song that my character writes in the movie. Sherrie and I come out as Wolfgang Von Colt, and we have these crazy rocker outfits. I had these amazing leather pants with combat boots, metal shinguards, and bandanas. It was crazy.
Boneta: It’s not at the Dodger Stadium; we did it at the Hard Rock Casino. How crazy was that wardrobe? Sherrie had this white outfit. I had this crazy leather jacket, all pimped out, with no shirt underneath and leather pants. It was just really cool.
Are you kind of mad that the Glee kids got to “Don’t Stop Believing” before you guys did?
Boneta: No. I think all these songs are timeless. If it wasn’t Glee, it was going to be someone else. I was singing “Don’t Stop Believing” before Glee, and there was someone before me too. These songs are timeless. That’s what I think makes this movie so special. Both acting and singing are great artistic ways to communicate things to people. In this movie, we have both, with great actors and amazing songs, so it’s the perfect combination. Hopefully people are as excited as we are to see this movie.
Boneta: Miami is such a boring city (Laughter). No partying, no dinners. No, it’s a great city to be working in. I love the beach. I was there this afternoon, and I’m there everytime I can be, because the water is so warm. In L.A., the water is freezing. Yeah, the restaurants are great, the people are very nice. They’re Latin, I’m from Mexico City, so we have that kind of warmth. Yeah, it’s just a fun city. I went salsa dancing a couple of times.
You said you haven’t seen the musical, but at some point, they pass out beer (to the audience). Have there been any days where you have delved into that aspect of the production?
When you’re making a project, things change as you’re filming. I would imagine, with something like this, everything is very rehearsed and more rigid than other projects. Can you talk about how things have shifted or not shifted while you have been filming?
Boneta: Yeah, things change. We rehearsed pretty much every single musical number until we shot it. Maybe the day of the shoot, Adam might say, “I don’t know if this works, because the cameras are here and it’s not going to work out, we need to change it.” That’s why we have incredible people taking care of every aspect. Like Mia, with the choreography. Adam is also a dancer and a choreographer, so he knows what looks good too. We have quarterbacks making sure every corner is good. It makes us feel very comfortable.
Boneta: Awesome. I’m spoiled, very, very spoiled. We’ve all been. He’s been involved in every single thing, from the rehearsals, to us recording the soundtrack, to wardrobe, to our looks, everything. He’s 24/7, and his heart and soul is devoted to this movie. I think that’s what’s really amazing about Adam. He’s the captain of the ship, and having so many big personalities and big actors in this film, I think sometimes that could be risky. But he made sure that, every single one of us, our main goal was to look out for what’s best for the movie and the story, not ourselves individually. It’s very healthy it’s good teamwork.
We were talking to Adam earlier, and he was saying how he wanted straight guys to like this musical, as opposed to many other musicals. Can you maybe elaborate on that? What do you think the average guy would really enjoy about Rock of Ages?
Boneta: I think the music is number one. You know, do you guys like Journey and Foreigner and Def Leppard and Twisted Sister? I love them, and I think that’s something that’s going to attract people to watch the movie. There are also a lot of hot girls, so hopefully that will help. Julianne looks beautiful, Mary J. (Blige), and Catherine (Zeta-Jones). I hope this is a musical for everyone, straight guys, not straight guys, girls of all ages, guys of all ages.
Can you talk about the specific songs you sing? How many do you sing total? Do you have a favorite of the ones you sing?
Boneta: I think I sing nine. I sing “Nothing But a Good Time,” I sing “I Wanna Rock,” I sing “Waiting For a Girl Like You,” “Jukebox Hero,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” “More Than Words,” “Heaven,” “Here I Go Again,” “Don’t Stop Believing.” Yeah, nine songs. Which is my favorite? The one I’m doing today, man. That’s what I’m focused on. Today I’m doing “Every Rose” and “Waiting For a Girl Like You.”
Boneta: First of all, Adam Anders, who is the producer, is a genius. He really understands and knows how to produce the songs and mix them together. The mashups he’s done are great. “More Than Words” and “Heaven,” “Jukebox Hero” and “I Love Rock and Roll,” just the way he makes things work, it seems natural. Working with him in the studio was really a pleasure. He’s great at directing vocals, a fun guy. Him and his team were just really passionate about the music and the project, and it worked.
But how was it different or similar than what you have done before?
Boneta: I think every project is different. When I’m working on my albums, I’ve worked with different producers and they’ve all had different personalities. The recording studio sets the vibe, and that changes as well. It was a different experience, and I wish I could do it all over again.
What do you think is going to be the most surprising thing about the movie to viewers?
Boneta: Seeing me in a boy band wig. No, hopefully that is not the most surprising. I think watching Tom do his thing. That’s one of them, for sure. Watching Alec [Baldwin] and Russell [Brand] sing. I’d say, watching all the actors who have never sung before, watching them perform. Paul Giamatti, Alec, Russell, Tom; all the people that you’re like “He sings?” You see them perform and hear them sing, and you’re like, “Wow, this sounds so good.”
We’re hearing a lot about the boy band scene. What can you tell us about it from your perspective, shooting a music video with Eli Roth as this video director. Can you set that scene for us?
Boneta: First of all, as an actor, it was a great scene, because Paul Giamatti is in it. It was a long scene, like two or two and a half pages, and Eli Roth was the director. Just working with amazing actors is such an honor. Like I said, I’m just so humble to be having scenes with these guys. I couldn’t stop laughing with Eli Roth, and Paul is just like… everything he does. It’s like having the best dance partner: it just works. Something that I learned on this project that really surprised me was the same way I studied and rehearsed the songs, meaning the intention, the feeling, the interpretation, the intensity, and the way I approached the acting scenes; their both so similar. Like, do you start off-beat when you’re singing, do you go sharp or flat at the end, breath or no breath; certain things like that that you think of as a singer and then doing the same things acting wise. Tom and I were having this conversation, when we were practicing guitar. “Dude, it’s so crazy how after learning to sing and record at the studio, it’s just the same way you approach acting.” I had never realized that before, because it was the first time I had ever done both at the same time. That was really cool, and it really helped both. Thinking of a scene as a song, the same way I would approach each line to make it dynamic, it was just very cool.
Boneta: Yeah. The band is Z-GuyEE (editors note: not sure if this is the spelling), like double E, double Z, double the flavor.
What is the song called?
Boneta: “Undercover Love.” One of the things that Eli Roth said in one of the takes, he goes, “Look, you skinny Marky Mark.” (Laughter).
Are there some embarrassing dance moves you have to bust out?
Boneta: Yeah, yeah. It’s all over the top. We’re all wearing a spy outfit, with our magnifying glasses and our coats and our hats. It’s completely the opposite of the rock leather pants and the bandanas and earrings. And then going to boy band with the huge echo jeans and Nikes, it’s just the complete opposite. The whole joke is being in a boy band is worse than being a stripper. Sherrie goes to the strip club, I join a boy band, and in the end, we reunite and talk and realize it was just a misunderstanding why we broke up. The whole joke is it’s worse being in a boy band then being a stripper.
You mentioned singing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” and we were told that Bret Michaels was on the set before. Did you get a chance to talk to him?
Boneta: I didn’t. For some reason, I wasn’t working on those days, and I was really bummed I wasn’t here. I did get a chance to meet Mick Jones from Foreigner, when I went to the concert, and all the guys from Journey, all guys from Foreigner, all the guys from Night Ranger. Which Julianne sings “Sister Christian.” It was amazing.
Hypothetically speaking, have you been able to “borrow” anything from the set?
Boneta: All the guitars. I’ll continue “borrowing” them, until they say something.
Will you play guitar on your next record?
Boneta: For sure, man, for sure. For Julianne’s birthday, I was wondering what to get her for a birthday gift. I decided to sing Las Mañanitas, which is Happy Birthday in Spanish, playing the guitar. I learned how to play that, and I just serenaded her as a birthday gift. Literally, when dad visited me first, he said “You only have five channels on the TV.” I never even turned the TV on, because I was always just practicing guitar and learning new songs. The other day, I learned how to play “Sympathy for the Devil,” which is a song I don’t even play.
For more on Rock of Ages, here’s my on other set interviews with the cast and set visit:
- 20 Things To Know About Rock of Ages From Our Set Visit; Plus Video Blog Recap and Behind-the-Scenes Pictures
- Julianne Hough Talks Singing with Mary J. Blige, Giving Tom Cruise a Lap Dance and More on the Set of Rock of Ages
- Director Adam Shankman Talks Turning Tom Cruise into Stacee Jaxx, Choosing Songs, and Much More on the Set of Rock of Ages