Rock of Ages Set Interviews: Julianne Hough & Diego Boneta

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It would be quite a bit later in the day before we’d have a chance to talk to the film’s two lead actors, Hough because she’d been working so hard on set, and we were shocked that she was so bubbly and energetic despite having done numerous takes of the scene we watched earlier, which probably needed a lot of energy in itself.

And that’s exactly how we started our interview with her…

Q: You seem to have unlimited energy, and it’s amazing to see you do the same scene over and over again.
Julianne Hough:
(laughs) It’s five-hour energy drinks all the way. (holds up a thermos) 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. But it is 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.

Q: Is it a rite of passage to do movies like this and “Burlesque,” playing a character working her way to becoming a star?
Hough:
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, then they make a few mistakes along the way like becoming a stripper, and then they learn from those mistakes. So, yeah, it is crazy.

Q: Did you look back on your first experiences of arriving in L.A. when you play this scene?
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 definite 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 sees those iconic places in L.A. and it is like, “Oh, my gosh. I am here.”

Q: Had you already seen the musical before you got the role and 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 and 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 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 guy named Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin. I was like, “Alright. Maybe I can do one more.” (laughs)

Q: We haven’t really talked with anyone about the plot, so can you talk about that for those who don’t know?
Hough:
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 and then 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 at. 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 for a little bit and they end up falling in love. It is so hard to explain because there is so much. It is like seven movies in one. Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) 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 dramatically. 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 just 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.

Q: In the original musical there is a lap dance scene, so 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.” (laughs) 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 than there is in the 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 her and Drew to get together.

Q: Did you have to go to stripper camp for the role?
Hough:
I did not, but I was very interested. Did Adam show you “Shadows of the Night”? Those chicks up there, that’s 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.

Q: As a singer, people are used to hearing you sing in a different style than this film. Has this film been a real challenge for you and how did you learn how to become a rock star?
Hough:
Totally. I tend to sing in a country accent, and 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.

Q: But there are certain ways that you treat Broadway music when singing. Were you specifically instructed to not sound “too Broadway”?
Hough:
Yes, by Adam Shankman. (laughs) Even though this is a musical, we wanted it to sound as original to the original songs and not the Broadway version. Hopefully we did it justice. I think we did; I think it is pretty cool.

Q: Who are some of your musical icons when it comes to female singers and has that changed at all after coming into this movie?
Hough:
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 musicI don’t think it hasn’t changed that much. They are still 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.

Q: You mentioned that “Footloose” is more realistic than this. Can you talk about the tone of this and how realistic you’re making your performances?
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 and people were literally wearing their hair that way and dressing that way while 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, hilarious at some parts, emotional at other parts, and really funny at others.

Q: What are the songs that you sing in the film?
Hough:
I do “Every Rose,” “Rock You Like a Hurricane” with Tom Cruise, “Here I Go Again,” “Waiting for a Girl” with Diego, and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” “Jukebox Hero” turned out so great and we had so much fun with that number. What else is there? There is “Almost Paradise,” “Nothing But a Good Time,” “More Than Words,” and “Heaven.” I love that one. We almost cut that out because it kind of stopped the flow, but we were just like, “It is such a nice breather for this movie.” Everything is just so 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.

Q: What has been your favorite one to perform in the movie?
Hough:
Honestly, it is the very last number when we are up on stage singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” with Stacee, Sherrie, and Drew. We are on the stage and 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 just the aspect that we were literally singing, too. It was so fun. I had the time of my life on that.

Q: You sing with Diego a few times, but who are some other people that you get to sing with?
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 through 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, “Do 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 Mary J. is literally unbelievable. I sing “Every Rose Has a Thorn” and Mary J. has this huge part that goes over everybody’s vocals. It is ridiculous and so beautiful.

Q: Are there a lot of dialogue scenes? Because it seems like you’re doing a lot of singing.
Hough:
(laughs) 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.

Q: What 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 lifted weights. Yes, I am going to be in underwear on a pole and I definitely had to focus on that. Then it was just my vocals and dance rehearsals. Then it was hanging out at the beach because we haven’t done that at all since we started shooting.

Q: You obviously had some background in singing and dancing, so what was the most challenging thing about taking on this role after having so much experience before?
Hough:
I didn’t ever want to see like I was overacting because it is a musical and 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.

Q: 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. Mia Michaels said, “You look like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.” (laughs) because there is white and fringe. But it was really fun.

Q: 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.” (laughs) Hopefully this does Miami good in this location.


Next up we have Diego Boneta, who has appeared on shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “90210” but who never has appeared in a major theatrical release like Rock of Ages . Boneta is a musician and singer in his native Mexico, having recorded two albums, and as a fan of the music in the movie, it was a thrill for him to be able to take on a role that allows him to perform the songs he loved.

Q: So you’re almost done. How’s it going so far?
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 to do more takes on my last scene, and what excuses I’ll be inventing to do more takes, on that scene because I don’t want to finish.

Q: What’s your last scene going to be?
Boneta:
My last scene is probably going to be one with Sherrie. We’ve had a lot of scenes together. It’s going to be Wednesday, and I don’t want it to be Wednesday.

Q: 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 really liked it. He asks me if I rap in the movie, and basically, thanks to him, I join a boy band, so it’s his fault. His character gave me bad advice.

Q: You said you didn’t watch the musical, but did you go back and look at any ’80s music videos?
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. I liked it so much, I started listening to more ’80s bands when I was growing up. A couple of years ago, all I listened to was 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.

Q: So you didn’t have to do a lot of research then?
Boneta:
No, the one thing that we all went through was the preparation of the movie, which was really intense. Five weeks of 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 raspiness, without hurting my vocal chords, which is all thanks to Ron Henderson, the vocal coach on the movie, and developing that higher range that all the singers had in the ’80s. 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.

Q: What did you have to do in your first meeting or audition with Adam?
Boneta:
It was after four weeks. 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, and he’s a really fun guy. In the room, it flowed really well.

Q: He’s obviously a very energetic guy, so what’s the experience been like having him as a director?
Boneta:
Spoiled, very, very spoiled. We’ve all been. He’s been involved in every single thing, from rehearsals, to us recording the soundtrack, to wardrobe, to our look, 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 can be risky. Our main goal was to look out for what’s best for the movie and the story. It’s very healthy and there’s a lot of teamwork.

Q: Can you talk about the specific songs you sing and do you have a favorite one?
Boneta:
I think I sing nine. I sing “Nothing But a Good Time,” “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 Believin.'” 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.” I really liked shooting “Jukebox Hero,” which is the last one I did. It’s a mash-up of “Jukebox Hero” 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.

Q: Can you talk about recording the songs in the studio, and how that process was done? Was it similar to what you did with your own albums? Or was it different?
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 terrific. “More Than Words” and “Heaven,” “Jukebox Hero” and “I Love Rock and Roll,” the way he makes things work, it seems so natural. Working with him in the studio was really a pleasure. He’s great at directing vocals. Him and his team were just really passionate about the music and the project, and it worked.

Q: What was your first reaction when you saw the Sunset Strip recreated the way Adam had done it?
Boneta:
I wanted 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 (production designer) Jon Hutman has done an amazing job with these sets on the Sunset Boulevard, and the interiors. He has really set the mood for us, and it has helped us so much. As actors, it really helps us to get in the zone. If we have a great set, it’s another thing to help us. John really killed it.

Q: Can you talk about what costumes you wear in the movie?
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. The coolest outfit, I think, is the one I wear at the end. Stacee invites us on stage when he’s playing Dodger Stadium. We all sing “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which is the song that my character writes in the movie. Sherrie and I come out as Wolfgang Von Colt, and we have these amazing leather pants with combat boots, metal shinguards. It’s crazy. Sherrie had this crazy leather jacket, all pimped out, with no shirt underneath. It was just really cool.

Q: Can you talk a bit about working with Julianne? Did you have any time before shooting to develop a rapport with her?
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. She’s awesome.

Q: There are a lot of veteran actors in this cast. Did you get any good advice from them, as you move on with your acting career? Who influenced you the most on set?
Boneta:
Everyone did in different ways. Like I said, this is a dream come true for me, and I’m very 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 that day, 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 rehearsals he did, all the preparation, vocal, choreography, guitar, was really inspiring. The 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.

Q: We’ve heard about some of the musicians who’ve come by the 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.’ There was not only girls, not only guys, not only old people, it was everyone. That was really cool.

Q: I would imagine you had a lot of friends who wanted to visit you on the set.
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.

Q: You mentioned singing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” so did you get a chance to talk to Bret Michaels when he was on set?
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 to meet Mick Jones from Foreigner, when I went to the concert, and all the guys from Journey, and all the guys from Night Ranger. It was amazing.

Q: Stacee has Arsenal behind him. Do you have your own band of musicians and have you jammed and practiced with them?
Boneta:
Yeah, our stage name is Wolfgang Von Colt. I know, very subtle (Laughter). 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.

Q: 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.

Q: Do you actually play guitar with them?
Boneta:
Yeah, yeah. That’s what was really cool. It wasn’t 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 actually shared the same coach. It got to the point where it was like, ‘Let’s just take guitar lessons together.’ 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 rhythm guitar. We’d be singing together, Every Rose has it’s thorn.

Q: Did you have a surreal moment, when you realized you’re playing guitar with Tom Cruise?
Boneta:
Yeah, dude, totally. Of course. Two months before this movie, I was watching “Risky Business” with my sisters. I was just thinking, if I could only find a script like this, to do a great movie and launch my acting career. Two months later, not only am I acting with Tom, but I’m jamming with him. He’s giving me advice on what to do in certain takes. We have a great relationship, and I truly admire him as a person and as a professional.

Q: Have you liked being in Miami? Do you have any time to hang out off set? What are your favorite things to do here?
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 as much as I can, because the water is so warm. In L.A., the water is freezing. The restaurants are great, the people are very nice. I’m from Mexico City, so we have that sort of warmth. Yeah, it’s just a fun city. I went salsa dancing a couple of times.

Q: Adam said he wanted straight guys to like this musical. What do you think the average guy would like about Rock of Ages?
Boneta:
I think the music is number one, you know. Journey, Foreigner, Def Leppard, 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), Catherine (Zeta-Jones). I hope this is a musical for everyone, straight guys, not straight guys, girls of all ages, guys of all ages.

Q: 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. Watching all the actors who haven’t sung before perform–Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Tom. You see them perform and hear them sing, and you’re like, “Wow.”

And that was it for our visit to the L.A.’s Sunset Strip circa 1987.

If you want to experience it for yourself, then Rock of Ages opens nationwide on June 15.