It wasn't until she landed the female lead in Craig Brewer's remake of FOOTLOOSE that I began to take notice of Julianne Hough. Not being a fan of reality TV and not being compelled to watch DANCING WITH THE STARS (you know, since it has no actual stars on it), Hough's name meant nothing to me until she turned out to be the most watchable part of FOOTLOOSE. Playing the role originally portrayed by Lori Singer, Hough brought an edge to the part that Singer just wasn't able to capture back in 1984.
Along the way, Julianne has also released two Country music albums, topping out with a number one album on the Billboard Country music charts and winning the Academy of Country Music Awards for Top New Female Vocalist and Top New Artist back in 2009. Between her singing prowess and her dance experience, her abilities convinced director Adam Shankman she was right for the lead role of Sherrie Christian in his big screen adaptation of the Broadway musical ROCK OF AGES.
Director Adam Shankman is best known for adapting the movie-turned-musical-turned-movie musical HAIRSPRAY, after toiling behind the camera with such works as A WALK TO REMEMBER, THE PACIFIER and BEDTIME STORIES. He began his directorial career with THE WEDDING PLANNER after serving as a choreographer on THE ADDAMS FAMILY and BOOGIE NIGHTS, in addition to music videos for Whitney Houston and the B-52s.
I had the chance to sit down and talk with both Hough and Shankman together recently for ROCK OF AGES. Due to some scheduling issues, I wound up with a lot less time than originally expected, but that didn't stop Adam and Julianne from keeping the discussion going long past when we should have been wrapping up... and who am I to stop them from giving me some real insightful answers? However, in our limited time, we got into the more positive shift in tone from the stage show to the movie and ultimately the price of fame. Enjoy.
Adam Shankman - Bring it on, Ain’t It Cool. What’s your name?
The Infamous Billy The Kidd - Billy. Nice to meet you. The Broadway show is actually a lot darker than the film is, in terms of, especially Julianne’s character and Stacee Jaxx’s character. At what point in the development did you just decide to take it in more of this positive tone as opposed to where the play goes?
Adam Shankman - I felt like it was, and I thank you for noticing... I think in a movie where the play actually goes would have gotten really, really, really dark, and we would have lost a huge amount of audience, a younger audience, and I think it would have been very confusing tonally to actually say what really happened. Because, you know, I can’t...we actually cut out the part... in the play, you know, Stacee goes, and she beats him up.
The Kidd - Yeah.
Adam Shankman - And Tom... Cruise, actually...Tom, my friend Tom.
Julianne Hough - T.C.
Adam Shankman - The T.C. Actually, he said to me, he goes, "Okay, let’s get real for a second, there is no audience on this planet will believe Julianne Hough can beat me up."
Julianne Hough - What?
Adam Shankman - He said, "I’ve spent thirty years developing this persona as a bad-ass, and it would just look super weird." And we actually talked about different ways, well, "Maybe she hits you with a bottle, in your head," and it just felt weird, and it felt false. And so what it turned into in the movie, which was dark...
Julianne Hough - It was dark, but it was sweet. I actually really loved it.
Adam Shankman - Well it ended sweet but it started dark where she comes back from the Hollywood sign and she’s dancing on the pole, and Tom actually used to go to the...
The Kidd - And there’s a lap dance scene...
Adam Shankman - And there’s a lap dance scene where she’s accepting $10,000 he's giving to have sex... to basically have sex with him, and she’ll get the money and be able to go home, but the older women just literally turned off to her at that point for compromising herself.
The Kidd - So it is shot though...?
Julianne Hough - It is shot.
Adam Shankman - Oh yeah, and it will be on the extended.
Julianne Hough - On the director’s cut, because, here’s the thing, like I completely got it and it actually does work better without that scene in there, but it’s...you know, it’s a little like a... not upsetting, but like, “Aww, dang,” because...
Adam Shankman - They worked really hard.
Julianne Hough - Yeah, we worked really hard on that. Tom was incredible. The vocals, the choreography - the whole number was really spectacular. It’s one of the most, I think amazing numbers in the movie.
Adam Shankman - It was one of the best numbers.
Julianne Hough - Especially because it wasn’t a lot of production of dancers and stuff like that, it was just two of us. So, it was really good, and that’s why I was disappointed, because like, “I can’t believe nobody is going to see that!”
The Kidd - How hard is it to cut that then?
Adam Shankman - It was really hard. It was brutal. It was absolutely brutal, and I will always wonder... a part of me will always wonder about that, other than in two tests after that her numbers just went way up in terms of how they felt about her, how they felt about the overall movie.
The Kidd - Well there’s a different... It changes the character entirely, because the way it plays now, which would be this sweet innocent girl, whereas where it would have been before it would have been a little bit more in tone with what you did with FOOTLOOSE.
Julianne Hough - Yeah, yeah.
The Kidd - We have kinda this darker character that starts and then kind of has this change in the arc.
Adam Shankman - Can I tell you the other reason it felt fine to cut at the end was that the movie is on a very specific trajectory, and once she takes the tape and they sing "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," you really feel, in a sense of pacing, you really want her to get those records, and then to go like, "Oh God, it was... I should be with him," and that... he makes that gesture during "Every Rose Has its Thorn," and he... Diego is really good in that scene, where he’s feeling the records and he finds them. And you just suddenly feel that the movie’s on a path, and at that point, in order to set up the scene, do the scene and get them out of the scene took about twelve extra minutes, to veer out of the story and get us back into it. So, anyway, we love the scene, because at the end of this scene, they’re doing this ferocious dance, at the end, she ended up straddling him, and holding onto the pole and then they have this long took into each other’s eyes and she says, “We shouldn’t be doing this, we don’t want to do this,” and he just shakes his head and he brings her off it, and he looks very emotional and very drained. But like I said it’s a lot of... shoe leather. But I’m very happy to say it will be available, not only on the DVD, but like on Netflix and all that, if you go to the director’s cut, so it will exist. [To Julianne] I just sort of want to give it to you as like a present, on a separate disc, actually.
Julianne Hough - I know, I just want to play it over and over and over again when Ryan’s not home.
The Kidd - Well, let me ask you one more thing. There’s a lot in there about the price of fame and Stacee Jaxx speaks a lot about it.
Adam Shankman - He’s a cautionary tale.
The Kidd - About this projection of what people have and what people expect him to be. Doing DANCING WITH THE STARS and having a music career, and I know you’ve been around a lot of musical artists, how true is that to what Stacee Jaxx is? How pressured do these stars, musicians, actors, feel to kind of feed into this persona opposed to what they actually are?
Adam Shankman - Highly intelligent question.
Julianne Hough - Very. I love this interview.
Adam Shankman - Yeah, me, too.
Julianne Hough - Well, no, becaue...- and I don’t want to speak for anyone in particular, but I kind of feel like Tom was the perfect person to play Stacee because he’s been a movie star for thirty years. Nobody knows what it’s like to be Tom Cruise, and yet we got a taste, a little bit, of who he is, and he’s like a little kid inside, just happy and excited to do his work.
Adam Shankman - Because he lives at work and that’s his safe place.
Julianne Hough - Yeah.
Adam Shankman - Yeah, and, you know, he has his family and he has work and that is it. And he loves that, and I can actually speak to it... it could not be more accurate, the way a lot of these people feel, because where we started to do a very real thing was, I said to Tom, "This is what I want you to start with - the lyrics for 'Dead or Alive.' That’s when you’re talking to Malin Akerman about your story, and you’re talking to her because you see yourself in your drunken deluded state as this lonely cowboy walking through the desert, trying to just keep it together while people are just biting at your soul, and like, you know, everybody wants a piece of you but you’re really out there alone. Truth of the matter is, in that character, you’re never freakin’ alone. You have women everywhere, managers, handlers, entourage, bodyguards, monkeys. You have never spent a moment alone but this is how you see yourself." And I do believe almost everybody I know who has achieved a nice piece of fame feels very lonely in a crowded room, because what we do is, at the end of the day, kind of personal, and it’s very exposed. And we all know we’re not allowed to be self-pitiful, do you know what I mean? Because our lives are kinda frickin’ great.
The Kidd - Because then you’d be criticized for it. How could you be thankless about...
Adam Shankman - About everything that we’ve gotten. What’s changed, because I grew up around all these people in the 70s and 80s that my dad represented, and even in the early 90s, you know... I lived with Robert Downey and Sarah Jessica Parker when they were together in the early part of their career, and it was mayhem back then. The truth was there was no internet.
The Kidd - Now everything is magnified.
Adam Shankman - Everything is not only magnified... exploited, exposed it’s -...
Julianne Hough - In like seconds... minutes.
Adam Shankman - And it feels really, really, really intense.
The Kidd - Well you can’t do anything. There’s always someone with a camera or a recording...
Adam Shankman - I would be on set and I would get an alert and it would be a picture of Julianne walking onto set. You know what I mean? That was online. So I mean, that tells you how frightening it all is. And, you know, there’s... and this is the truth... reality television is such a... talk about a cautionary tale... weird thing. Why you’d want fame without doing a lot of personal work in there is really weird because fame is super unnatural.
The Kidd - And now it’s just people want to be famous. They don’t want to do anything. They just want to be famous.
Adam Shankman - Yeah. Yeah, and I don’t know...I’m not sure what the value of that is. Because, a new thing has arrived - people’s personal brands, do you know what I mean?
[Publicist informs everyone that they're out of time.]
Adam Shankman – Oh... sorry, we just were loving this.
The Kidd - It's okay. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
ROCK OF AGES opens in theatres this Friday, June 15. The original motion picture soundtrack featuring Julianne Hough on such tunes as "Sister Christian," More Than Words," "Here I Go Again" and "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" is now available.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
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