Julianne Hough first became known to millions of fans as the two-time professional dance champion on the ABC hit series Dancing with the Stars. After leaving the show, her self-titled debut country music album hit the Billboard Country charts at #1. Now, she is making a name for herself in the world of acting, with a supporting role in Burlesque, which she will then be following with one of the lead roles in the remake of Footloose.
During a roundtable at the film’s press day, the rising star talked about focusing on the performance aspect of Burlesque and working with a group of dancers instead of just a partner, being starstruck by Cher, and the similarities and differences in her version of Footloose. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
You’re a blonde, but you had red hair in Burlesque and you’re a brunette in Footloose. Do you enjoy all the different looks?
JULIANNE HOUGH: As a brunette, I feel just a little bit younger. In Footloose, I was 17 years old, and my character is definitely still a little wild. The red hair was also fun. I really felt like a vixen with it.
How did you get picked for Footloose?
HOUGH: Actually, Footloose had been an ongoing thing for the last year and a half or two years, with Kenny Ortega being attached and the different scripts. It was going to be more of a musical. It was going to be Zac Efron, then Chance Crawford and now it’s a guy name Kenny Wormald. He’s an unknown, but he’s fantastic. I was attached to Footloose before I was attached to Burlesque. It was just an ongoing thing. I was glad it happened the way it did because I got to do Burlesque first, which really helped prepare me for Footloose. I had a small, supporting role in this film and I got to ease my way into it, learn the logistics of filmmaking and that world, and have fun and take it all in. With Burlesque, it was all about the performance.
Did your character in Burlesque change after you were cast?
HOUGH: Oh, absolutely! In fact, it was rewritten so many times. It was like, “Well, let’s see what she’s going to be like today.” No. You take your character and you make her your own, even if the dialogue changes. My interaction with Cher was one of the first scenes I did in the movie.
Were you starstruck around Cher, or was she generous with you?
HOUGH: She was wonderful. I was definitely intimidated, like most people would be. But she was just so down to earth. She really makes people feel so comfortable. Even Kristen [Bell] said the same thing. She just knows exactly what to say to get you to that place that you should be in, in that moment. It’s pretty cool.
What was it like to work with Christina Aguilera?
HOUGH: It’s funny, you see her shows and her music videos, and she dances in them, but there are so many people around to distract from that. This was the most dancing she’s ever done. I know she also says it’s the hardest she’s ever done. She really worked hard and did a great job.
With this being her feature film acting debut, how was she on set?
HOUGH: She was great. We have the same management, so we had met each other a couple of times and been able to interact before. We knew each other a little bit. I think people will be surprised and taken back by her. She’s so stripped down with no make-up, and she’s really real.
Who was the biggest jokester on this film?
HOUGH: Stanley Tucci, for sure. Oh, my gosh, he was so funny. It was not even that he would pull any pranks or jokes. It was more like he always kept you laughing and kept you in good spirits. No matter how long the day was, from the moment you saw him to the minute you left, he was on it, all the time. He’s so sweet.
You got to dance with Alan Cumming, who is a great Broadway guy. Do you have any desire to do Broadway now?
HOUGH: Not right at this moment, but I would love to originate a role on Broadway, and maybe not even do a musical, but do a straight play. I think that would be fun. I’m definitely focusing on film right now, rather than Broadway, but I definitely want to go there some day.
Was making Burlesque as much work as “Dancing with the Stars” was?
HOUGH: Yes. The difference with “Dancing with the Stars” was that we choreographed, we danced, we taught the routines to our celebrity partner, and we were like their therapists. We were doing dances that were hard for the stars, but not that challenging for me. So, coming to do this was like getting back to the grind and really pushing myself to my limit, to do as much as I could do, keeping up with the other professional girl dancers. It was really fun for me.
What was it like to dance with a bunch of different people, as opposed to just dancing with a partner?
HOUGH: It is completely different. For me, it was more fun because I really got to push myself. I got to focus on me for once, and not focus on my partner and make sure he’s okay. When I would do that style, I would bring my dancing down for my partner, so we looked equal and it wasn’t over the top, where I was dancing around him. So, it was fun for me to feel like I was among great dancers and I got to shine. I got to push myself and challenge myself.
What did “Dancing with the Stars” do for your career?
HOUGH: It opened every door imaginable. I moved out to L.A. when I was 18 to sing and act, but the dancing was an avenue to where I wanted to be.
You didn’t come to dance?
HOUGH: No. It was a wonderful opportunity and I just went for it. I never realized the success it was going to have, or the opportunities it was going to bring for me.
When did you realize what a big hit it had become?
HOUGH: It was my first season with Apolo [Anton Ohno] and it was our Samba. I came out wearing that tiger outfit and that was the coming out party for Julianne. After that number, I felt a little more on the radar. Maxim magazine called and I was like, “Dad won’t approve of that too much.”
Have you kept up with the show since you’ve left? Do you have any thoughts on who could win this season?
HOUGH: I was shooting Footloose, so it was very hard to watch each week, but I would catch it, here and there. Now that it’s the last dancers, I can’t believe it.
HOUGH: That’s the thing I was a little confused about. That definitely goes to show what the show is about. It’s not necessarily about the dancing. It’s about the fan base and the people watching. I can definitely testify to that. I would not be where I’m at today without the fans of the show. They’ve followed me since day one. I hope my brother (Derek Hough) and Jennifer [Grey] win. I think she’s fantastic. I hope my brother wins because I’m biased, but at the same time, I hope he doesn’t because right now we are tied. We both have two wins.
Whose career do you look up to and would like to emulate?
HOUGH: When I first met my music manager, before I was ever on “Dancing with the Stars,” I said, “Maybe not the style of music or the same movies, but I like Olivia Newton John, or maybe a country version of J. Lo. I want to be able to sing, dance and act without people saying that I have to choose one. I love all of them. They all mean something to me, and I couldn’t do one without the other.
Is your Footloose going to be radically different from the one in the ‘80s?
HOUGH: No, it’s very similar, but with more explanation. You understand why there is a ban on dancing. You see an accident happen. In the first one, you really didn’t know what happened. You heard about something happening, and then you heard about them banning dancing. This is much deeper. If the name Footloose was gone, it would be a movie about the relationships between parents and kids, and trusting and freedom and wanting to rebel. And then, there’s that moment of them wanting to do this for us and to give us those wings. It’s definitely a drama with dancing in it, like the original. It’s not a dance movie.
What will the dancing be like?
HOUGH: There will probably be moments, especially with Kenny because he’s a fantastic dancer, where you are going to go, “Wow!” The three other dances are more about kids getting together and just having fun. I’m in those three, but you don’t see me dance too much. For me, it was all about the performance. Dennis Quaid plays my dad, and he was really fun to work opposite. He was really great.
When will it come out?
HOUGH: We just finished it, so some time next year.