Director Adam Shankman curled up on the coach at Miami’s Mandarin Oriental hotel as he reflected on “Rock of Ages,” the ‘80s jukebox musical filmed in South Florida and opening in theaters across the country this weekend.
Locations across the region were transformed: North Miami Avenue became the Sunset Strip, Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale’s Himmarshee Village was rechristened The Bourbon Room, and even “Mt. Trashmore,” the monumental Coconut Creek landfill, got a cameo with the famous Hollywood sign. Hundreds of eager locals were on set day and night as extras, hoping for a glimpse of the film’s A-list stars.
After a long day of interviews with the local press, Shankman admits with a giggle this is the only city where he’s been asked about filming in Florida. Newcomer, Julianne Hough, familiar as one of the celebrity hoofers on TV’s Dancing with the Stars, sitting next to him, is quick to jump in.
“It was great staying on the beach,” she said, noting she began every day with a walk on the beach. When asked which she prefers, Miami Beach or California, Hough, making her debut as a leading lady, doesn’t hesitate, “South Beach.”
But, after the chit chat, it’s back to business as the two plug their movie.
Shankman acknowledged the challenges of adapting a Broadway musical for the cinema. Best known as a choreographer and one of the regular judges on Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, his last turn in the director’s chair was the campy 2007 adaptation of Hairspray, starring John Travolta.
While filming Rock of Ages,”he says he heeded advice offered years earlier by Hairspray writer/director John Waters.
“He told me not to even try to remake his film or the musical, but to make my own movie….,” Shankman recalls, “to be true to my vision.”
Rock of Ages, like Hairspray, was a hit on Broadway, but offered completely different demands.
The show makes use of the rock anthems of the ‘80s, including songs by Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and Poison. The story centered around the romance of Sherrie (Hough), a small town girl from Oklahoma, and city boy Drew (Diego Boneta), who dreams of a career as a rocker. They meet at The Bourbon Room, a legendary bar where the careers of Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) and his band Arsenal were launched. When the Mayor’s proper wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) launches a crusade to liberate the Sunset Strip from the evils of rock music, you can guess where the story goes.
While Hough and steamy brown-eyed Boneta were relative newcomers, Shankman recruited some of the biggest names available, including Cruise, Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Bryan Cranston, Paul Giamatti and Mary J. Blige. And, while Zeta-Jones and Blige are well known as singers, Shankman wasn’t taking a complete risk with his cast.
“Believe it or not, I had heard everyone else sing at some point before……except Tom Cruise!” he said,” but, he did a great job.”
Shankman then turned to Hough and asked, “And how was it getting felt up all day by Tom Cruise?” referring to one of the crucial scenes in the movie. A blushing Hough only mustered a giggle.
Talk about a hard day at the office. Judging from the results at a recent preview screening, it was definitely a job well done.