At the core of “Rock of Ages” is a boy-meets-girl love story woven into classic, only-in-Hollywood dreams of fame. Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta portray the young couple — small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew — with stars in their eyes at the center of the story. They are joined by an all-star cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Mary J. Blige, Malin Akerman and Catherine Zeta-Jones. And playing the rock god of “Rock of Ages,” Arsenal lead singer Stacee Jaxx, is Tom Cruise.
At the press day for “Rock of Ages,” we sat down at a roundtable interview with Hough and Boneta to talk about being a part of the Broadway hit that now goes from stage to screen under the direction of Adam Shankman. They told us what it was like when each of them first came to Hollywood, what makes Tom Cruise a rock god, how it felt to have the original rock stars on set while they performed their songs, and how much they enjoyed working opposite Mary J. Blige. Julianne also discussed her racy “Rock You Like a Hurricane” musical lap dance duet with Tom Cruise that got cut from the film but will appear on the DVD.
They also revealed their upcoming projects. Hough will star opposite Russell Brand in an as yet untitled film that marks Diablo Cody’s directorial debut and she is also working on her second album. Boneta is currently shooting an MTV show in Chicago called “Underemployed” created by Craig Wright and he is working with Adam Levine on his third album.
Q: What about ‘80s music did this get right, and what would you never want to see brought back?
JH: I think that Adam Shankman did this movie right so there doesn’t need to be any more ‘80s movies, right? No, I think the music is so incredible and the melodies from the ‘80s are what really made the songs so iconic and classic. I wish there would be more melodies like that today in music. As far as what shouldn’t be brought back, the high-waisted bikini bottoms.
Q: You don’t think LMFAO has good melodies?
JH: I mean, it’s definitely something to rock out to in the club. Look, I’m not doggin’ on non-melodic pop music because I love it, but I’m just saying that’s why the timeless songs are still here, because of the melodies.
Q: Was the pole dancing tough?
JH: It was extremely tough. I thought it was going to be a lot of bumpin’ and grindin’ on a pole and then I come to find out that there’s like actual upper body strength that you need to have and my arms were totally ripped. Yeah, I watch the movie, every time I see those girls, the pole specialists. There’s one girl that like walks down the air and backwards and hanging onto one hand, I’m like that is absolutely incredible. So it was tough.
Q: Did you have any injuries?
JH: I mean, bruises everywhere all along my inner thighs and just lots of sore muscles.
DB: I have many injuries from all the pole dancing. It was terrible. I’m never going to do that again.
Q: What was it like when each of you came to Hollywood?
DB: It was tough, man. I moved in from Mexico City with my family and it was starting again from ground zero. You’re moving to LA where there’s a lot of competition. It’s the Mecca of the entertainment business, and I realize how much I loved what I did and how much I wanted it. It was all about the perseverance, the discipline and preparing, and not giving up that made all this happen.
Q: Wasn’t it odd to be a superstar from 14 in Mexico and come to LA and be unknown?
DB: It was crazy. It was very weird. I felt like I was Bruce Wayne. I was going and doing concerts in Latin America and I was like Batman, and then coming back and no one knew who I was here. It was very humbling and I started appreciating getting recognized a lot more because no one did here and no one really cared. So yeah, it was very weird.
Q: Julianne, what was it like for you coming to Hollywood?
JH: Well, mine was again very unconventional. I had $2,000 in my pocket when I came to L.A. I told my dad I had five so I could move out here and my rent was $800 a month so it was not a lot of money. That was one month’s worth basically. But I was lucky. Everything that I went out for, whether it was booking a commercial or doing something for choreography, I just knew I had to get it. Otherwise I’d have to go home so I just always somehow got it and I worked really hard for it. I remember I lived with a bunch of models and they would do a job and get like 10 grand. I’d be like, “This sucks.” They wouldn’t work for like a month and they would just be in their pajamas from when I left, and when I came home they’d still be in their pajamas from when I’d be working and trying auditioning and everything. I thought they were so lucky and everything but we’re still really good friends now. It was hard. I was working my butt off.
Q: What commercials did you do?
JH: Oh my gosh, I did this one commercial for shoes. It wasn’t like a national commercial but I danced in it. It was a lot of dancing.
Q: During the struggle, where did you go that made you go, “Yeah, I’m here and I’m stoked to be here” like The Bourbon Room?
DB: That’s a good question. I think just being here and knowing that each audition was a step closer to whatever was going to be coming next and just having that thing in mind, and not only looking at that one audition that you were going out for, but what could happen after that. This is kind of a crazy story but summer of 2010 I auditioned for “Glee,” for the role that Chord Overstreet got. It was three finalists and Chord was one of them. I was another one of them and I didn’t get the part. I was very happy for Chord and I was very bummed because I thought that was the perfect job. Then, a year later after I get “Rock of Ages,” Adam and I are talking and for the “Glee” audition I had to put myself on tape singing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Adam said, “You know, Diego, I knew it was you when I YouTube’d you, Diego Boneta. That darn ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ video came up” and I said, “I auditioned for ‘Glee’ with that.” Never in a million years would I have thought that that video was going to get me “Rock of Ages.” There’s something brilliant that Steve Jobs said in a speech. He said, “You can never connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking back.” That’s one of those examples, you just never know.
JH: Oh my gosh, there’s been a lot of moments. I feel like just being a part of the “Dancing with the Stars” family. I think the first time that I came back from not being on the show, I had to perform as a singer and as an actress and be on the show that started everything, that was kind of the moment where I was like, “Holy Cow. I feel like I’m a part of not just a reality show but a part of Hollywood, I guess.” As a part of the entertainment world I should say.
Q: Can you talk about Tom Cruise as a rock god?
JH: You said it. He really is. I mean, he is a rock god. I would’ve loved to have seen him actually in the ‘80s as Stacee Jax because I think that he would’ve been the most sought after rock star in the ‘80s if he would’ve been there.
DB: Like Joe Elliott from Def Leppard said on set when he performed “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” he went up to Tom and goes, “You’re a movie star, you’re a rock star. I effin’ hate you!” What can’t Tom do? And not only is he very talented but he’s just as humble as he’s talented which is my favorite combination.
Q: How did you feel having the original rock stars on set while you performed their songs?
JH: It was very cool. Even some rock star girls, which I didn’t really know her name. I will probably find out and probably get slaughtered for not knowing her name, but she brought some of her clothes that she used to wear on stage. I wore one of the corsets and stuff. I don’t know why I’m blanking. It was not Pat Benatar. It’s like Debbie Gibson, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, I know those girls.
DB: All in the scene in the mashup of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” it’s all the rockers. Sebastian Bach is there and Nuno (Bettencourt) from Extreme is there too. They’re all with Russell. All the rockers you see there, and they performed for us at a lunch break once which was insane.
Q: Julianne, what was it like working with Mary J. Blige?
JH: Oh my gosh. I mean, yes, I was starstruck to work with Tom Cruise, but there’s also this overwhelming nervousness that I had when I would sing with Mary J. because I don’t think there’s anybody who’s as influential in especially R&B music as Mary J has been. Just the success that she’s had and just the human being that she is. I think the coolest part about working with her was that we were on set for hours in a strip club, right? A lot of the times we weren’t being used because they were shooting the other dancers, so there was a lot of down time where we just bonded. I mean, we’re really close. She calls and leaves me messages out of the blue all the time. She’s like, “I just wanna let you know that I love you so much, Julianne, and you are so amazing.” Just boosts my confidence every day. And she’s like, “I’m here for you whether I’m your friend, your sister, your aunt, your mom. Whatever you want me to be, I’ll be.” My dad’s kind of obsessed with her. He did not get starstruck over anybody and hasn’t with anybody that I’ve ever been around. He got to sing Happy Birthday to somebody with Mary J. Blige and so he still talks about it. Even if he’s talking about something completely else, he will bring it up somehow because it’s the highlight of his life.
Q: Did you have any songs that got cut and we might see on the DVD?
JH: Yes. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” was the duet that I did with Tom and it is bad frickin’ ass. I mean, literally ass. No, literally this was the sexiest but like rough performance in the movie and I think it was a little bit too much for people. I think that people, especially women, didn’t really like Sherrie after that. So they cut it out but it will be on the DVD for sure. I like to say it’s a musical lap dance. I mean, take out the music and yeah, it’s a little woo, but with the music there we were singing and dancing and this is the most physical dancing that I saw Tom do and so I can’t wait for you guys to see that too. He was amazing.
Q: But Malin Akerman’s scene was okay?
JH: I know, right? Well, that was like funny and it was funny and sexy. Ours was like pure sexy.
DB: It was just too good. It’s too good.
Q: Where do you see your careers going, with roles where you don’t dance?
JH: Yeah, I actually just did another film with Russell too. It was Diablo Cody’s directorial debut and I didn’t dance in that either. I just love to entertain. Dancing is a part of my life where when I don’t dance I feel like there’s something missing because I’m such a physical person who loves to express myself through dance, but I love to act. I love to sing. I love to entertain so if I’m passionate about a certain project, I wanna do it. So I hope to stretch my acting skills. I got to a point in my dancing where I felt like I did so much hard work and I achieved a lot of great things, and I wanted to try something else and put that same kind of commitment that I did into my dancing into something that I was also passionate about. I had so many opportunities with my dance and now I’m just excited to get better as an actress.
DB: I am working on my third album. I’m working with Adam Levine. He signed me to his label and we’ve been working together, finding just the right songs for this album which will be hopefully coming out later this year. I’m also in Chicago right now shooting an MTV show called “Underemployed” which was created by Craig Wright who’s an amazing writer. It’s my first time playing the comedic levity of a project which has been a lot of fun and there’s a lot of funny scenes. It’s been a great learning experience.
Q: Have you been recognized in Chicago walking around?
DB: Yeah, after the “Dancing With the Stars” performance, it was like, “Where’s the eyeliner? Where’s the guitar? Where’s Julianne?”
Q: Julianne, you have an album too?
JH: I have a second record completely done but we’ll see when that comes out because again I want to be able to give the right time and commitment it takes to promote an album the way it does for a movie. When it’s the right time, I think.
Q: Are you getting married?
JH: Oh, nice. Eventually in my life, definitely. That’s what I was put on this earth to do, get married and have babies.
DB: Me too. The babies part too.
“Rock of Ages” opens in theaters on June 15th.