EXCLUSIVE ‘Rock of Ages’ Director & Choreographer Adam Shankman Interview

Dudes, here it is… To celebrate the release of the ‘Rock of Ages’ Extended Edition DVD (Order yours here!), we give you TomCruise.com’s EXCLUSIVE and revealing interview with the awesome Adam Shankman, director/choreographer of ‘Rock of Ages.’  Like Stacee Jaxx, he holds nothing back in answering your questions, and ours…ROCK ON!


Q1:  What’s the difference between ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Rock of Ages? (read transcript)

Q2:  Did you consider anyone else for the role of ‘Stacee Jaxx’?  (read transcript)

Q3:  Were you influenced by any music videos from the era?  (read transcript)

 Q4:  FAN QUESTION FROM @HamsaPas: Was it hard to choose this amazing ‘Rock of Ages’ cast?  (read transcript)

Q5: What’s in the ‘Rock Of Ages’ Extended Edition DVD/Blu-Ray?  (read transcript)

Q6:  What is the difference between shooting musical numbers for TV vs. Film? (read transcript)

Q7: FAN QUESTION FROM @sagarraha: Which rock stars inspired Tom Cruise’s look in ‘Rock Of Ages?’  (read transcript)

Q8:  What lessons did you learn from starting out working as a film crew member?  (read transcript)

Q9: How did the use of the ARRI Alexa digital camera enhance ‘Rock of Ages?’  (read transcript)

Q10: Were there any scenes you wanted included that you didn’t get to shoot?  (read transcript)

Q11: Were the actors singing live & your thought’s on the ‘Les Miserables’ approach?  (read transcript)

Q12: What was it like to work with your sister [Jennifer Gibgotas a producer on ‘Rock of Ages?’
(read transcript)

Q13: What type of movie would you like to make with Tom in the future?  (read transcript)

Q14: Is there anything new you’d like people to experience with ‘Rock of Ages?’(read transcript)

Q15: FAN QUESTION FROM @ChrisStackStacy: “What’s next for Adam Shankman?”  (read transcript)

To celebrate the recent U.S. release of the ‘Rock of Ages’ special Blu-ray/DVD Extended Edition…here is one heck of a surprise for you!  This is the full audio and transcript of the EXCLUSIVE interview we were privileged to conduct with the dynamic, funny and candid Adam Shankmanthe director/choreographer of ’Rock of Ages.’

Adam Shankman literally grew up around The Sunset Strip.  Combine that with his success as a director/choreographer for one of the best movie musicals ever (‘Hairspray‘), and you can understand why he was the perfect choice to bring the Broadway musical hit, ‘Rock of Ages,’ to the screen.  And dude, Adam’s work was head-bangingly brilliant, as proven by watching the movie again on the newly released special Blu-ray/DVD Extended Edition.  We had to speak with this well-respected filmmaker and find out, “What is it like being Director and Choreographer Adam Shankman?”

Though it wasn’t quite as rowdy as a Stacee Jaxx interview, Adam was candid, warm, enlightening and hilarious.  So dudes, hold onto your faces, we’re about to make ‘em melt with never before known secrets about the making-of ‘Rock of Ages.’

Be sure to pick up your copy of the ‘Rock of Ages’ Extended Edition DVD, Blu-Ray & Ultraviolet HERE to see all those smoldering hot scenes that were left out of the movie version.

The Full Transcript


Q1:  What’s the difference between ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Rock of Ages’?

ADAM:  Well, they’re incredibly different.  Listen, I think that ‘Hairspray’ for me was a great school for learning to trust myself with getting into and out of songs.  And the instincts I had about getting in and out of songs.  It’s obviously key to the genre.  It’s the only genre where that is of the ultimate importance because you’ll rip the audience right out if you don’t give them that.

Fundamentally, ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Hairspray’ are totally different because a) they are different time periods and b) one is about, something that is, I had to quite literally dance around the intensity of the social issues of diversity and racism.  We don’t have that in ‘Rock of Ages’.  So I didn’t have those kind of moral issues.  But I did have other moral issues that I had to kind of get around (Editors note: In preview interviews Adam discussed this as being censorship and Tipper Gore’s efforts in the 80’s to put warning labels on music.  This is what prompted the creation of the Catherine Zeta-Jones character, Patricia Whitmore).

I had a much more difficult schedule on ‘Rock of Ages’ and I think that’s partially because ‘Hairspray’ had been successful and so they said, “Oh, he can just do it again.”  So I was prepared.  I knew what the steps were going to be to go into making ‘Rock of Ages’ because I had done ‘Hairspray’ in terms of the scheduling of the recording, the rehearsals, getting actors in and out.  I think if I had been given ‘Rock of Ages’ first I would have never been able to do it because I think the actors would have smelled the fear and blood on me.  It would have all just been a little too haywire.  But I was always able to keep a sense of calm while I was making ‘Rock of Ages’.

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Q2:  Who else did you consider for the role of Stacee Jaxx?

ADAM:  Well, I actually never went to anybody else.  You know, I think there were, sort of, some of the more usual musical suspects, like Hugh Jackman.  He was the only person I can remember actually saying, like, was okay ‘Hugh.”  Because I had worked with him at benefits before.  But I approached Tom before we ever went to anybody else.  You always have to have a Plan B in your head, but Tom engaged so thoroughly right out of the gate, and he didn’t say ‘yes’ to doing it for actually almost a year, but we were talking about it on and off for so long that it never even got to the stage of looking at anybody else by the time he said ‘yes.’  I wish it could have been a long list.  But it really wasn’t.

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Q3:  Were you influenced by any music videos from the era?

ADAM:  Well, I am my own research.  I’m from that era.  I know all the videos from there.  You know, certainly there was a lot of stuff, you know ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ was an amalgamation of a lot of concert footage stuff I had seen, everything from Bon Jovi to, sort of everything…You know that snap-zoom style is very popular in the concert genre.  Like more particular, when you think about stuff that was more influenced from music videos Malin Ackerman’s whole look in the first part of the movie was sort of, you know, a wink at ‘I’m Hot For Teacher,’ ‘cause, you know, that lace colored thing.  So, I have to say, once again, I just had to go on instinct and kind of just remember what that was like.  But not try to over do it and not try to make to gimmicky ‘cause I didn’t want the audience to get overwhelmed by the gimmick of  an 80’s thing.  Cause if you look at stuff from the 80’s, like the Van Halen videos and all of that, they’re not pretty.  They’re just fun.

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Q4:  FAN QUESTION FROM @HamsaPas: Was it hard to choose this amazing cast?

ADAM:  It was not hard to choose this amazing cast.  The hardest person to choose was Diego Boneta because I wanted somebody who I never heard of before and I found him.  But I saw hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people.  After we announced that Tom Cruise was playing Stacee, it was mostly incoming phone calls about who, meaning like, we got a call from Alec Baldwin’s agent saying, “God, he would be great in this.  Would you like him to do it?”  And I knew Alec, so I was like, ‘Yeah.”  And then I talked to Alec for ten seconds and he said, “Yes.”  And the same thing happened with Russell Brand.  I was very quick to get Catherine Zeta-Jones.  She was in like a flash.  So, it was sort of at a certain point, anybody I wanted, I got.  So it was not difficult to get them.  I was just really lucky to get them.  And it was by and large based on Tom.  People were just so freaked out that he was doing it they just wanted to be around to see it.

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Q5: What’s in the ‘Rock Of Ages’ Extended Edition DVD/Blu-Ray?

EDITOR’S NOTE: An ‘Easter Egg’ is a hidden item (scene, song, etc.) not listed on the special features.

ADAM:  Certainly from an extended version, the most obvious stuff is that I took out almost all of Julianne Hough’s dancing because audiences, particularly mothers, found it to be too sexy and they turned away from her character.  Which is so funny because that [her dancing] was a big part of how she got the movie.  That’s what she was best known for.  So her dancing is put back in.

Straight out of the play there’s a scene in ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ where Drew has a fantasy about Sherrie and we shot it and it’s back on the DVD now and it’s not in the movie.

And then the big seduction scene with Sherrie where she’s getting the money to go home because Stacee Jaxx offers her $10,000 if she’ll dance for him, we have that scene in there, which is ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane.’

There’s some additional stuff with the boy band.  There’s A LOT!  I mean, as I recall, I was like, we cut out a lot of scenes from this movie.  So we put back almost everything we cut out.  I don’t think there’s any Easter Eggs in there.  I’m pretty sure there’s nothing I was hiding in there.  I mean, this was not a movie you hide things in.  That’s the whole point of it.

Well, you know, that was part of the problem with the source material.  I was trying to be as faithful as to the original play as possible.  And in the play she does turn away from him.  And in a movie it just made it really difficult for an audience to root for them.  To get back together.  And so, even though Tom worked for months and months and months on getting all the choreography down, and doing it, and we loved shooting it so much, we ultimately all had to look at each and go, “Okay, it’s probably best for the movie if it’s not there.”  But it’s a great treat for the Blu-ray for sure.

TEAMTC- One of our female staff members was fanning herself after it was done.  After we saw it.

ADAM:  When I showed it to early press they all said [he assumes a breathless tone], “Can we please just see it again?!”

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Q6:  What is the difference between choreographing musical numbers for TV vs. film?

ADAM:  Well, not a lot in terms of the way that it’s conceived.  But really what it boils down to is schedule.  How much time you have to rehearse?  And how much time you have to shoot?  I mean, in like ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ to do the scene and the musical number I had two and a half days to shoot it.  And Tom legitimately had a couple months to learn it.  And like when I do ‘Glee’ or when I’ve done TV, you have about 3 or 4 hours to rehearse it and then you have about 3 hours to shoot it.  So what you have to do is, you have to kind of choreograph hopefully to make it possible to do that.  For example, in ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ they’re running all over that room, dancing, and it’s very specific shots, and you’re getting in tight.  On ‘Glee’ it’s just mayhem.  You know, you’re just like, you get three cameras out there and you’re just, “Go, go, go, go, go!”

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Q7:  FAN QUESTION FROM ‏@sagarraha: Which rock stars inspired Tom Cruise’s look in Rock Of Ages?

ADAM:  Well, the bandana was very much so Bret Michaels.  Bret is on the DVD, as well.  And Axl Rose with the bandana.  And the fur coat was for sure Axl.  The cowboy hat was Axl.  There’s a lot of Axl.  A lot of the denim was Bon Jovi.  I mean, we really tried to cherry pick from, kind of, certain iconic looks.  We kept away from a lot of the real hard core hair metal get ups that were more circus-y, so they ended up being almost like clown-like.  But like the codpiece was based on the lead singer of Wasp.  Tom just laughed so hard and he was like, “I gotta get me one of those.”

I didn’t convince him to wear assless chaps.  The chaps were just part of an outfit.  There were jeans under them originally.  And he just didn’t like the way that the jeans looked. And so I got a call from the costume designer [EDITOR’S NOTE: Rita Ryack- featured in our #AspiringToActWriteDirect series on Costume Design].  She said, “Can you come here?”  And I said, “Sure.  What’s going on?”  And I went over to the costume shop and she said, “He doesn’t wanna wear the jeans!”  And I said, “Well, what’s he gonna wear?”  She said, “The chaps.”  And I said, “Well, then that means he’s in-“ And she says, “Yes.  That means he’s….Yes!”  So then when he walked onto set I said, “Are you sure?”  And he said, “This is real man.  Let’s do real.”  So, I sort of looked at him, gave him a fist bump and said, “Let’s do it.”

It was very realistic.  The one thing I thought would kill the comedy in this would be, and I knew that we would have huge ratings issues, we would have been an instant R [rating], if we showed any drug use.  Warner Brothers was very, very firm that they wanted a PG-13.  And so, you know, we had to, sort of imply that there are drugs going on.  When in fact, I never showed any.  And Tom’s whole ‘out of it’ demeanor was based on him just being this sort of lost guy in a lost world and sort of in a booze fog.  One of the things that was really, really important was, like, the Keith Richards story, which was basically on stage he was heaven, he was a human force of nature.   And then off stage it was just a train wreck during a lot of that.  You know, so, that was a lot of what we based Tom’s character on.  Not particularly on Keith Richards, but on that notion that on stage he’s completely alive and in control.  And off stage it’s completely out of control.

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Q8:  What lessons did you learn from starting out working as a film crew member?

ADAM:  Yeah.  You’re all in this together.  Your crew is as important as your movie star.  Everybody’s there to support you.  Treat everybody with the utmost respect.  Listen and learn what everybody does!  And really, really do that.  Pay attention to that most of all because everybody is so important in what they do, is essential to getting ultimately what it is you want.  And everybody certainly deserves to be treated with the utmost respect.  That’s what I demanded when I was working as a choreographer.  That’s what I always felt.  That’s what every member of the crew deserved.  You know, they’re there spending hours of their lives putting this stuff together and its really hard.  And so, it’s really important to respect everything that everybody else does.  And know what it is because you never know who is gonna be a great asset to you.

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Q9:  How did the use of the ARRI Alexa digital camera enhance ‘Rock of Ages?’

Well, what the Alexa did was allow us to make our schedule because it just demands less light.  The camera can just register things that the human eye can’t see.  So you just don’t need to spend time tweaking lights.  For example, a really prime example is when we were shooting the scene at the Hollywood Sign, you know it was just ink black outside other than the lights of Miami which looked like LA, frankly.  So, we’re seeing that, but when the dailies came back I could actually see clouds in the sky.  In the night sky.  Which was incredible that that camera could record information that the human eye couldn’t see.  And so, that’s sort of what that did.  And because it required less lighting I was able to make my schedule.

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Q10:  Were there any scenes you wanted included that you didn’t get to shoot?

ADAM:  Well, you know, if I was trying to be more true to the play I would have tried to shoot more of the songs that were actually in, you know, the play is like 45 minutes longer than the movie.  But I knew, in order to tell the story, you know to sustain the audience’s attention, to keep it tight, and together and not let it wander off track I ended up making the decisions beforehand that I just lived with and I was fine.  As you will see with the extras a bunch of stuff left anyway, you know, for time and appropriateness.  So there’s nothing I would have really killed myself to see other than what we saw because I really feel like we cherry picked the greatest moments, the greatest hits.

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Q11: Were the actors singing live & your thought’s on the ‘Les Miserables‘ approach?

ADAM:  Yes.  The actors HAVE to sing while they’re performing to the tracks because their throats have to express the proper amount of tension.  So that it looks real.  So everybody was in fact singing the whole time they were shooting.  But they were able to sing without worrying if they were going off pitch and all of the technical stuff.  Again, because of the nature of it…like, I know on “Les Miserables” each actor, each of the lead actors had their own vocal coach for months, and everybody was assigned one.  We didn’t have the luxury of that kind of time and rehearsal schedule or build up to that.  We could get somebody there [a vocal coach] just enough to get them [the actors] to be able to record it.

We did shoot Diego at one point singing live. But we also had the track.  So we did it kind of both ways.  When he does it at the Hollywood Sign.  ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’  When he’s just doing it with the acoustic guitar.  But again, he and Tom had to learn to play the guitar identically to what they do on the film.  You know, just because of the schedule there was never gonna be time and I would be very surprised if at the end [of shooting] of ‘Les Miserables’ there wasn’t any rerecording and any of that because it’s very imprecise.  They are not professional singers and I’m not saying that they didn’t do it, I’m just saying I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some doctoring.

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Q12:  What was it like to work with your sister [Jennifer Gibgot] as a producer on ‘Rock of Ages?’

ADAM:  Well, I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years now so it felt normal.  I love it because there’s just a great connection.  It’s always fun to have our parents be so proud of us.  And the difficult matter is when we disagree we disagree and fight like brother and sister.  So that means we can get pretty dirty ‘cause we know each other’s spots.  But by and large, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I mean, what more beautiful way to be with my family than to share the thing that I do the most in my life, which is work.  She and I are so bonded over our love of what we do.  It’s a wonderful thing to be able to share that with my sister.

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Q13:  What type of movie would you like to make with Tom in the future?

ADAM:  A remake of ‘Yentl!’  No!  I think, that I would love to do some really gritty, fun action movie.  I am fortunate enough to have seen ‘Jack Reacher’ and I was really excited because that was really nuts and bolts action.  That was meat and potatoes action.  There’s really very little visual effects.  It was really good fight sequences.  Really good chase sequences.  And I would love to get down and dirty in that way.  To do something that is like that.  Maybe something with the kind of intensity of ‘Collateral.’  Also, you know, just working with Tom on this [‘Rock of Ages’] where he wasn’t working every day almost killed me ‘cause he exhausted me so much because he’s so into it!  He challenges everybody he works with to be their best so much, that it’s literally like, I’d go home and collapse because I was like [assumes a mock crying voice], “I can’t do this all the time!”  It’s such an incredible experience.  And I think just doing something like that would be incredibly fun.

One of the things that’s kind of interesting is that what I think made him so good in this movie is that he isn’t from the background so he put so much more into it.  But we all have these characters, we all have these other stories we that want to tell, we just don’t always get hired to tell them.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to.  So, coming clean, it’s something I would love to do, it’s just not come my way yet.

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Q14:  Is there anything you’d like people to experience with ‘Rock of Ages?’

ADAM:  I think I just wanted everyone to throw away any expectations and just sit back and enjoy the incredible fun that is the movie.  I think that, in the moment [when the movie first opened] all eyes were on, you know, because the movie stars were so big it was like the expectations were like, something I didn’t even know.  And I felt like, I don’t think the necessarily all the fun was appreciated and discovered in it, and I think if you just watch it again you’ll see it this time.  Because, you know, we all take our jobs very seriously.  But it’s not like we were trying to tell the story of ‘Les Miserables.’  We’re telling a simple, slight story about people who are just looking for something and they all find it in the notion of ‘love.’  They all get to move on with their lives because they have accepted that.  That’s what’s most important to them.  So if you just kind of let it go, like, what’s the intense meaning of this, let it just be about what am I looking at, am I having fun, then you’ll have a great time.  It is for the fun.  It is for the enjoying it.  I hope people just get to appreciate it for what that is.

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Q15:  FAN QUESTION FROM @ChrisStackStacy: “What’s next for Adam Shankman?”

ADAM:  I have a very large kitchen full of things boiling right now.  I can’t say which movie project is gonna go next because I don’t know what’s gonna go next.  I’ve been hired to do a giant action-adventure version of ‘The Nutcracker.’  Like a la ‘Alice in Wonderland.’  We’ll see if that gets made.  I have this beautiful little movie called ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ that’s on the other end of the spectrum, you know, a complete tiny, indie dramity about a family pulling it together after their father dies.  You know, I’m looking at a lot of stuff.  I have so much in front of me and what happens in the business is that when a project is ready to go it tells you.  You don’t tell it.  Because there are so many things that have to come together.  Between cast.  And budget.  And studio appetite.  And timing and all of that.  You can tell Christopher Stacey…Christopher Stacey!  Is that Christopher Stacey from Florida?!  I think he was an extra in ‘Rock of Ages!’

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