Julianne Hough Talks Singing with Mary J. Blige, Giving Tom Cruise a Lap Dance and More on the Set of ROCK OF AGES

     May 30, 2012


Julianne Hough didn’t want to do another musical after Burlesque and Footloose, but when she heard director Adam Shankman was going to direct Rock of Ages and he’d already cast Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin, she said, “Alright.  Maybe I can do one more.”  In the upcoming musical that takes place in the late 80s, Hough plays Sherrie Christian, a small-town girl that wants to make it as an actress in Los Angeles.  The musical is full of hits from the decade, and also stars Diego Boneta, 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 visit the set when the production was shooting in Miami.  During a break in filming, I participated in a group interview with Hough, and she talked about landing the role, had she seen the Broadway musical, what it was like to give Tom Cruise a lap dance, the tone of the film, working with the stellar cast, singing with Mary J. Blige, the music, and so much more.  Hit the jump for what she had to say. 

julianne-hough-Rock-of-Ages-imageQuestion:  You seem to have unlimited energy.  It is pretty amazing seeing you do this over and over again.  Are you drinking energy drinks or anything to do this?

JULIANNE HOUGH:  It is five hour energy drinks all the way.  This is coffee right here.  I mean, I am just jacked up on caffeine.  No, I’m kidding.  I’m really not.  Honestly, I am just having a good time.  Wow, that was such a cliché.  Nothing but a good time.  I’m totally living in paradise right now.  Honestly, it is so fun.  The crew and everybody – they are such characters.  We are having such a good time.

Is it kind of a rite of passage to do films like Burlesque and this where you are playing a character who is working her way to becoming a star while at the same time you are doing the same?

julianne-hough-image-Rock-of-AgesHOUGH: Yeah.  My role in Burlesque was a little role, but it was such a way for me to just learn the logistics without feeling like the weight of the movie was on my shoulders.  So it was a kind of easy one to do.  Footloose is obviously something that I am definitely excited about.  I can’t wait for that to come out.  That one is a little bit more real than this one.  But this one is pretty crazy.  I am pretty similar to Sherrie in the fact that everybody has a dream, they go for it, they are ambitious.  They are wide-eyed, excited, naïve at the beginning. They make a few mistakes along the way like becoming a stripper, and then they learn from those mistakes.  So, yeah, it is crazy.

We have been talking to everybody, but we actually haven’t talked about the plot.  Can you talk about what it is about for the people that don’t know about it?

diego-boneta-Rock-of-Ages-movie-imageHOUGH: Well, it is kind of set through Sherrie’s eyes.  We start with Sherrie arriving in L.A. on Sunset Blvd.  It basically starts out with her getting mugged.  She gets a job at the Bourbon Room.  The Bourbon Room is basically where every major band that has made it has gotten their start.  So she knows who Dennis Dupree is.  She is a singer and wants to meet him and be involved.  But she needs a job to start out with so she ends up working at the Bourbon Room.  She meets Drew, who takes care of her a little bit—they end up falling in love.  It is so hard, because there is so much.  It is like seven movies in one.  Stacee Jaxx is the biggest rock star out there and he is coming to do his last show with Arsenal before he goes solo.  While he is there, there is a miscommunication that happens and Drew thinks that Sherrie slept with Stacee, but it didn’t happen.  So they have this argument and she quits.  So dramatic.  The Bourbon Room is going under because they haven’t paid their taxes so the Mayor and his wife, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, are trying to get rid of the strip and clean it up.  So it is totally in their favor.  So they are just trying to get enough money for the Bourbon Room to stay open.  Meanwhile, I am Mr. Burn Out and Drew has gotten a manager and he is basically not a rock star anymore.  He has turned into this boy band guy.  So we are both doing separate things that we do not want to do.  In the end, it all works out.  I will leave you with that.

Rock-of-Ages-movie-imageDid you have to go to stripper camp for the role?

HOUGH: I did not, but I was very interested.  Did you see some of the stuff?  I guess Adam [Shankman] showed you some of Shadows in the Night?  Those chicks up there – that is some serious athleticism.  I mean, they were insane and they did it take after take after take.  Their bodies were amazing! I was like, “Oh, I am jealous!”  I would like to take stripper classes just for that, but I did not.  The choreography is amazing so maybe she did.  I don’t know.

Did you look back on your first experiences of being in L.A.?

HOUGH: Are you kidding?  I was skipping down the Sunset Strip singing at the top of my lungs when I first came to L.A.  It is obviously a heightened reality.  I think when I got to L.A. I wanted to go see the Hollywood sign.  I wanted to go see Rodeo Drive.  I wanted to do all of that.  I think everybody… you see those iconic places in L.A. and it is like, “Oh, my gosh.  I am here.”  But, yeah, it is fun.

Rock-of-Ages-tom-cruise-movie-imageBefore you got the role, had you already seen the musical?  Did that inform your performance in any way?

HOUGH: Yeah.  I actually had met Adam when he did my music video “Is that So Wrong?” which we apparently can’t find online.  So he kind of mentioned that he was doing this film.  Then I did Footloose and I got the script.  At first I was like, “You know, I did Burlesque, which is a musical.  I did Footloose, which isn’t a musical, but it has great music.”  So I did Footloose and I thought, “Oh, man.  I can’t do another musical after this.  I want to expand as an actress and do more dramas or comedies strictly.”  Then I heard that Adam was doing it and that maybe a little guy named Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin.  I was like, “Alright.  Maybe I can do one more.”

In the original musical there is a lap dance scene.  Do you give a Tom Cruise a lap dance in this? Is that still part of this?

HOUGH: Sort of.  To kind of go back, I was learning that I might get this role, but the play was coming into town into L.A..  So I went and saw it before I technically had the role, but we were in talks already.  So when I saw the play I did see that part and I was like. “Oh….yeah!  Alright.  That is fun and it is Tom Cruise.”  So, yeah, I saw that part and there is a sort of lap dance thing that happens.  It is a little bit different.  There are some differences in the play and this movie.  I like the fact that Sherrie doesn’t sleep with Stacee and it is just a misunderstanding.  I think it is more likable for her in the end.  You kind of want them to get together—Drew and Sherrie.

As a singer, people are used to hearing you sing in a different style than this film.  Has that been a real challenge for you and how did you learn how to become a rock star?

HOUGH: Totally.  I tend to sing with a country accent.  I don’t ever really realize that I am doing it.  It is not even necessarily words, because I can finagle my vowels to sound a certain way.  But it is certain flips that I would do on certain notes.  I’m like, “I don’t hear what I am doing!” and they are like, “You are flipping it!”  So I definitely had to work hard on that.  But luckily enough I am in my cowgirl outfit now.  I just came from Oklahoma so it is not too farfetched.  But the songs are great.  If you think about it, a lot of the country songs today are like the same kind of melodies as 80s rock songs.

rock-of-ages-julianne-hough-diego-bonetaBut this was originally a Broadway play and there are certain ways that you treat Broadway music and sing it.  Were you specifically instructed to not try and sound “Broadway”?

HOUGH: Yes, by Adam Shankman.  Even though this is a musical, we wanted it to sound as original to the original songs, not the Broadway version.  Hopefully we did it justice.  I think we did, I think they’re pretty cool.

You mentioned that Footloose is more realistic than this.  Can you talk about the tone of this film?  How realistic are you making the performances or are they caricatures of ideas?

HOUGH: They are definitely caricatures.  But at the same time, it is definitely a heightened reality.  We didn’t want to go so far to make fun of the 80s era because that was a time… People were literally wearing their hair that way and dressing that way and being very free and open.  So we didn’t want to make fun of it because it was such a time for people.  You bring up memories from the 80s and their whole bodies light up because it was a great time.  So we definitely didn’t want to make fun of it and go too over the top, but sometimes we do.  Honestly, it is really fun, beyond entertaining.  It’s hilarious in some parts, it’s emotional in some parts, and it’s really funny in some others.

Rock-of-Ages-diego-boneta-movie-imageYou sing with Diego a few times, but who are some other people that you have duets with in this?

HOUGH: Mary freakin’ J. Blige!  It is kind of ridiculous.  We were at the read through before anything started and not a lot of the vocals had gone on yet.  Tom actually started singing during the read through and we were like, “Crap.  We all have to start singing now.  Okay.”  So we all started singing and at the end of the read through Tom was like, “You know why I did that?” and I was like, “No.  Why?” and he goes, “So that we could hear Mary J. sing live.”  I was like, “You are a genius!”   But literally, Mary J. is unbelievable.  I sing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and Mary J. has this huge part that goes over everybody’s vocals.  It is ridiculous.  It’s so beautiful.

What are the songs that you sing in the film?

russell-brand-Rock-of-Ages-movie-imageHOUGH: “Every Rose.”  I do “Rock You Like a Hurricane” with Tom Cruise.  We do “Here I Go Again.” I do “Waiting for a Girl” with Diego.  What else?  “Don’t Stop Believin’.” “Jukebox Hero” turned out so great.  We had so much fun with that number.  What else is there?  “Almost Paradise,” “Nothing But a Good Time,” “More Than Words,” and “Heaven.”  I love that one.  We almost cut that out because it was such a… it kind of stopped the flow.  But we were just like, “It is such a nice breather for this movie.”  Everything is so up, up, up—so we kept it.  Plus, Diego and I were like, “No!  This is the best song ever!”  The mash up between “More Than Words” and “Heaven” is just beautiful.

What has been your favorite one to perform in the movie?

tom-cruise-Rock-of-Ages-movie-imageHOUGH: Honestly, it is the very last number when we are up on stage singing “Don’t Stop Believin’.”  It is with Stacee Jaxx, Sherrie, and Drew.  We are on the stage.  At the time when we were shooting, it literally felt like we were the biggest rock stars in the entire world.  There was the whole arena that was filled and we were literally singing too.  It was so fun.  I had the time of my life on that.

Can you talk about your outfit?

HOUGH: My outfit was awesome.  It was definitely a take on Steve Perry with his tails.  So I had a little jacket and didn’t wear pants.  I just had a leotard on.  It was really fun, though.  There was a lot of fringe and stuff.  [Choreographer] Mia Michaels said, “You look like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.”  Because there is white and fringe.  But it was really fun.

catherine-zeta-jones-Rock-of-Ages-movie-imageAre there a lot of dialogue scenes because it seems like you are going to be covering all of these songs?

HOUGH:  There are.  But what is cool about this musical is that there is so much storytelling within the songs and the numbers that some of the scenes are literally two lines and that is it.  I thought the same thing, though.  I saw the screenplay and I was like, “Wow.”  I have a lot of scenes, but they are short because you do all of the storytelling during the songs.

Are there a lot of montages?

HOUGH: A lot of montages.  Yeah.  Like I said, there is so much it and I feel like it is seven different movies.  There is the Sherrie and Drew portion, the Mayor portion, the Bourbon Room portion, the strip club portion, everything.  It is insane.  I feel bad for the editor because there is so much.

Rock-of-Ages-movie-imageWhat preparation did you do for the role?

HOUGH: I wish I would’ve learned the guitar.  I should have done that.  I actually changed my diet and exercise routine a little bit.  Because in the 80s the women were not twig thin.  They looked like they were 18 years old and they had curves.  It was all real, you know?  So I definitely beefed up some of my exercises and weights.  Yes, I am going to be in a bra and underwear on a pole.  I definitely had to focus on that.  Then my vocals and dance rehearsals.  Hanging out at the beach because we haven’t done that at all since we started shooting.

Who are some of your musical icons, female singers?  And has that changed at all after coming into this movie?

rock-of-ages-posterHOUGH: I grew up my whole life listening to country music.  So it was Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Reba, and Dolly Parton.  It was all of the females in country music.  I don’t know.  It hasn’t really changed that much.  They still are my heroes.  But I think I have a better appreciation for the women in rock music after doing this just by researching and looking up things online.  Just how hard they had it because they were girls.  And the fact that they really were, balls out, these awesome girls rocking it out.  That totally changed my perspective for these women.  It was awesome.

You obviously had some background in singing and dancing.  Before this film you had done Burlesque and Footloose.  What was the most challenging thing about taking on this role after having all that experience before?

HOUGH: I think the scariest thing to me… How do I explain this?  I didn’t ever want to see like I was overacting because it is a musical.  There is a fine line of being in a heightened reality or being in reality.  Being in reality and going up against all of this, you are just going to look dull.  So I think the hardest thing for me was that I was so scared that I was going to overact.  I didn’t want to be super corny, you know?  But I still wanted to obviously match everything that was happening.  So I think that was the hardest thing for me.  I didn’t want to overact.

Adam and the crew have done an amazing job recreating the Sunset Strip.  What was your reaction when you first saw it and how has that helped you get into your character?

HOUGH: I am such a visual person and being in the surroundings helps so much.  We saw this all being built as we were here and we were doing things on other locations, but we would always come back to this location for rehearsals and stuff.  We would see little bits come up and it was so exciting.  It was like, “Wow.  We are recreating the Sunset Strip in Miami in, like, a crack addict location.”   Hopefully this does Miami good in this location.

For more on Rock of Ages, here’s my on other set interviews with the cast and set visit:

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