Julianne Hough is normally a little bit country, but in her latest big screen role as Sherrie Christian in “Rock of Ages,” the two-time “Dancing with the Stars” champ is very much rock ‘n’ roll.
“Rock of Ages,” set in the ’80s, is based on the Broadway play about Sherrie, a small-town girl who meets Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), a city boy, on the Sunset Strip while they are pursuing their dreams of becoming recording artists.
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Playing Sherrie was a natural for Hough, who has her own memories of moving to Hollywood with only $2,000 in her pocket and her dreams of becoming an actress. But she was determined to make it — and with this role, she has definitely arrived.
“There have been a lot of moments,” Hough says about her climb to fame, which was launched by her appearance on the ABC reality show. “Just being a part of the ‘Dancing with the Stars’ family. I think the first time I came back to that show to perform as a singer and as an actress — that was the moment when I was, ‘Holy cow! I feel like I am actually a part of Hollywood.’”
The movie, written by Justin Theroux and Christ D’Arienzo and Allan Loeb and based on D’Arienzo’s Broadway play and directed by Adam Shankman, isn’t just a story about young people who have dreams of fame and fortune; it also shows the dark side of fame in the ’80s — using humor — when successful bands were all about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — and no one said no to their every desire.
That is where Tom Cruise comes in, playing outrageous ’80s rocker Stacee Jaxx. “He really is a rock god,” says Hough, commenting on Cruise’s performance. “I would have loved to actually have seen him in the ’80s as Stacee Jaxx, because I think he would have been the most sought-after rock star if he had been there.”
“Rock of Ages” opens in theaters on Friday, June 15, but for more of Hough’s take on making the movie and her road to fame, read on:
What was it like when you came to Hollywood?
I had $2,000 in my pocket when I came to L.A. I told my Dad I had $5,000 so I could move out here. My rent was $800/month, so that 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 would have to go home, so I always somehow got it. I worked hard for it.
I remember I lived with a bunch of models. They would do a job and get like ten grand and I would be like, “This sucks.” They wouldn’t work for like a month and they would just be in their pajamas from when I left to when I came home. I thought they were so lucky. We are still really good friends now, but it was hard. I was working my butt off.
What commercials did you do?
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 stuff.
What from ’80s music did this get right? What would you never want to see brought back?
I think that Adam Shankman did this movie right, so there doesn’t need to be any more ’80s music movies. I think the music is so incredible and the melodies from the ’80s is really what 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.
Were the scenes where you had to pole dance tough?
It was extremely tough. I thought it was going to be a lot of bumping and grinding on a pole and then I come to find out that here is actual upper body strength that you need to have. My arms were totally ripped. I watch the movie … every time I see the girls up on the poles … the pole specialists … there is one girl that like walks down the air and like backwards hanging on by one hand. It was absolutely incredible.
Did you have any injuries?
I mean, bruises everywhere — all along the inner thighs and just lots of sore muscles.
Didn’t some of the original rock stars who created these songs come on set?
How did that go for you?
It was very cool. I think even some rock-star girls — [Lita Ford, lead guitarist for The Runaways] — 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 onstage. I wore one of the corsets.
Can you talk about working with Mary J. Blige, who runs the club where Sherrie ends up pole dancing?
I was star struck to work with Tom Cruise, but there is also this overwhelming nervousness that I had when I would sing with Mary J. because I don’t think there is anybody as influential, especially in R&B music, as Mary J. has been. Just the success that she has had and the human being that she is. I think the coolest part about working with her is we were on-set for hours in a strip club, right? A lot of the time we weren’t being used because they were shooting the other dancers, so there was a lot of down time where we just bonded. We are really close. She calls and leaves me messages out of the blue all the time. She is like, “I just want you to know that I love you so much Julianne and you are so amazing.” She just boosts my confidence every day. She is, “I am here for you whether I am your friend, your sister, your aunt, your mom. Whatever you want me to be, I will be.”
My dad was kind of obsessed with her. He hasn’t gotten star struck with anybody I have been around. He got to sing “Happy Birthday” to somebody with Mary J. Blige and he still talks about it even if he is talking about something completely else — something random — he will bring it up somehow because it is the highlight of his life.
Any songs that got cut that might be on the DVD?
Yes. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” is the duet that I did with Tom and it is bad freakin’ ass. Literally, this was the sexiest but rough performance in the movie and, I think, it was a little bit too much for people. I think people, especially women, didn’t like Sherrie after that, so they cut it out. But it will be on the DVD for sure. I like to say it is a musical lap dance. Take out the music and it was a little woo-woo, but with the music there, we were singing and dancing … this was the most physical dancing that I saw Tom do.
You didn’t dance in this movie and you just got announced for doing the new Nicholas Sparks movie, and it doesn’t sound as if you will be singing or dancing in that. Where do you both see your career going?
I actually just did another film. It was Diablo Cody’s directorial debut and I didn’t dance in that either. I just love to entertain. Dancing is just part of my life. When I don’t dance, I feel that there is something missing because I am 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 am passionate about a certain project, I want to do it, so I hope to stretch my acting skills. I got to a point in my dancing where I did so much hard work and I achieved a lot of great things that I wanted to try something else and put that same kind of commitment into something else that I was also passionate about. I have had so many opportunities with my dance. Now, I am just excited to get better as an actress.
You also have another album coming out?
I have a second record completely done, but we will see when that comes out. 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, so when the time is right.
Are you getting married?
Oh, goodness! (laughs) Eventually in my life. Definitely. That is what I was put on this earth to do — get married and have babies.