Adam Shankman


“Hairspray” helmer Adam Shankman is back on the beat, so to speak, with “Rock of Ages”.

You described this as a musical for non-musical lovers. It’s more accessible.

Yeah. I think it has elements in it that non-musical lovers can hook into definitely. Certainly, the comedy is really important in this and the nature of the music. What is is that it’s a musical where every demo knows the lyrics and the songs. It was really funny. I heard on the radio, Pour Some Sugar on Me. I was saying, here we go. It’s nice. It sort of in a weird way harkens back to the old days. I remember when Grease came out those songs were on the radio. This will be the first time that that kind of thing happens in a while.

The success of TV shows like Glee and reality TV shows do with singing. Are we seeing some kind of musical type bible on the small screen?

I think what happened is, honestly, we don’t have variety shows anymore but what we do have are the talent competition shows. I think that American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars etcetera kicked open the door for Glee. And then I think Glee made it much more household. But in reality, those competition shows have shoved music and dancing in everybody’s face every week of the year. They’re just not resistant as they had been for a while. Even Mama Mia was hugely niche. I would look at the numbers from Mama Mia and I doubt that they had a huge male impact. You know what I mean? It was just ladies going over and over and over again on top of which it had been touring internationally. It was a huge hit for a decade. I don’t have that benefit but what I do have is these songs.

How did you discover Diego Boneta, by making tests? He kind of stars in Mexico and Brazil?

I’m not aware of the stars in Mexico and Brazil though because when I saw his audition on my casting website, I had no idea who he was. I’ve never heard of him. I was like, “This guy seems kind of special.” I had no awareness of his background and then I thought, when it sort of came out of his past and who he was in South America and Latin America, I was thrilled.

Everybody knows him.

With him what was really funny though is I went on YouTube and I saw some of his concert footage and all that and I was laughing. I was like, “I’ve got to kick the boy band out of this kid.” When I was doing Hairspray with Zach, I was like, I’ve got to get rid of all that Disney. I don’t mean these things like I’m saying them like they’re bad words. They’re not bad words. They’re just not right for the movie. God knows, I was the first one in line buying the ‘N Sync Pop Up.

Do you think there are teenagers who will like this movie or it’s for the people from the 80s?

I think teenagers will like the movie once they discover it. I think that that’s going to be the hardest group of people to get because they don’t have the nostalgia but they do know the music because the music is on the radio. Diego doesn’t have in America what Zach had which was High School Musical. He’s going to be more of a discovery. Certainly, I think it’s fun for teenagers. I mean it pushes it – the scene with Tom and Malin on the air hockey table. That’s actually fine for teenagers. It’s like under teenagers because the audience for Hairspray goes all the way down to like four and five year olds. I’m not sure that I would take a four year old to this movie but… but believe me the extended version makes this version look like It’s a Wonderful Life. I cut down a lot of the sexy stuff. I mean I was surprised at myself at how sexy I kind of allowed it to get.

I think we saw that in the ensemble piece in the striptease club.

In Any Way You Want It?


What about it?

I think one can see it that you were very cautious not to go too sexy.

Yeah. Like I said, there was a lot more. I cut around how risqué it was. The big number that I cut out Rock You Like a Hurricane is quite something because Julianne is very intense and she’s only wearing a thong and a bra and she’s pole dancing and lap dancing with Tom and it’s all about her crotch. By the way, she was fantastic at it. In fact, she was too good. I think the great irony of having Julianne in the movie is that she’s not dancing. By the same token, I think it’s actually kind of exciting that we didn’t end up exploiting her dancing and that she can carry the movie and she’s a really good actor and she’s a really good singer and she’s adorable. Those two kids have the hardest time because there was nothing wacky about their characters. Everybody else was bad shit crazy in the movie. Everybody had some quirkiness to play and something really out there. Those two just had to be the boy and girl who fall in love and fall out of love and fall back in love. That was all they had particularly Diego. I really felt the responsibility to put in the boy band thing with Diego because [A] I think it’s funny, but [B] I needed him to bottom out the same way she bottomed out. It was him to lose his integrity in order to get it back. She kept laughing, why is the only place she can get hired is places where she’s naked? Sometimes I laugh at the movie. There things but that’s from the play.

Why you cut the scene where she danced for Tom Cruise in the room?

Why did we cut that?


It really upset mothers. We really lost our moms. In the play, he comes in and she beats him up because she’s angry. In the play, she sleeps with him. She actually does sleep with him. He doesn’t sleep with the reporter, he sleeps with her. Already from the beginning, you don’t want her and Drew to get together because she’s like whore. So I changed that because I wanted audiences to root for the relationship. When she realizes in the play that he’s coming – in the play, he gets her fired after he sleeps with her. Stacee does. Tom and I were like, why would he care? She’s just another girl. He would never just go and randomly get her fired. That makes no sense. After he sleeps with her, he probably doesn’t even know who she is. So we changed that. In the movie, what it was, is that he’s so distraught and alone after he’s fired Paul and he doesn’t know who he is and he’s thinking about Malin Akerman’s character. He goes to the Venus Club to get – his character, his go-to is sex for comfort. She’s just had a scene which I also cut with Mary J. Blige after Every Rose Has a Thorn where I just need the money to get home and I’m out of here. She goes up and he picks her off the pole and says, “I’ll give you $10,000 to have sex with me.” She’s looking at the money and she’s like, “Fine, why not” because she’s at the bottom of the barrel and they do this song, Rock You like a Hurricane, which is this huge number. At the end of it, they’re looking at each other and she’s straddling on him on the pole and they are sort of staring at each other. It was a little bit of a cheap [inaudible 9:28], she says, “Neither of us want to do this.” He just sort of looks at her and says no and he helps her up and she leaves and that’s when she gets the records. That’s how it was in the script and in the movie.

Her losing her integrity that much really upset mothers and it was so sexy they were like, “I’m not going to bring my daughters to see this.” Her character was way too compromised because she was going to fuck him for money to get home. It really was upsetting to keep the movie buoyant. On top of which it was a very big deviation. The whole plot was moving towards getting the act together and getting her to get those records and going to the bourbon room like the movie had a trajectory. And then suddenly we stopped to compromise everybody’s morality, do a number which doesn’t actually end up being anything. It doesn’t go anywhere so then she goes. It was an easy lift. It was heartbreaking to tell Julianne and Tom because they worked so hard on it. But it will be on the extended version on the DVD and on Netflix extras. It’s there.

Do they understand…

Tom is at the test when he saw the numbers. He saw her numbers. It didn’t hurt him. It hurt her. He did not like that it hurt her.

We see Tom do all these crazy stunts but I think it was during Rock of Ages where I thought he’s truly fearless, like he’ll do anything.

No joke. He said, this was way scarier than running on top of that building in Dubai. {laughing} He’s like that was nothing. He said this was like the most challenging thing he’s ever done.

Did you give him any examples of frontmen from bands? Because I can see a little Axl Rose, a little Brett Michaels.

Yeah. Those were the two who I said, this is kind of where we’re headed because they’re sort of more slithery. I was a doing Skype costume fitting with him on my iPad. I was watching. He had on the fur coat and the leather pants. They were just tying the Brett Michaels bandana on him. He had the sunglasses on. Because Rita, the costume designer is short, in order for him to reach, he had to like put his head back, he arched his head and he was sort of going like that and I captured it on my iPad. I emailed it to him. I said, this is who you are. This is who I need you to be for the whole movie. That’s where all that swagger and all that arched back came in. By the way, it did not come naturally to him. He had to will that on his body.

It looks natural in the movie.

Isn’t that weird. This is a true performance. There is no Tom in there which is exciting like I sort of can’t believe it. He was so exhausted. It was like he was almost getting hurt doing the dance rehearsals and I thought, “Oh my God, it’s going to be the musical that takes him down.” That’s amazing. He just had the best time.

There is a lot of boob grabbing on his part.

Yeah. It’s funny because I hadn’t actually told him to do it to the guys. It was scripted him doing it to Julianne and then when Catherine was out there, I was like, “You got to grab Catherine’s teat.” I mean come on. He said, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. Just tell her.” He goes, “You tell her. I’m not just going go up and grab Catherine’s boob.” I was like, “Oh yeah, I supposed I was. Can Tom grab your boobs?” She says, “Yeah, whatever.” That was that. But then he started doing it to Alec. Because Tom never wants to be like overly lewd. I was like, I get what you’re doing. You’re searching for their soul. You’re testing their heartbeat. It’s all that.

How was the scene in the trailer that a girl comes screaming and yelling…

I’m going to be really honest, I know that was fantastic except the girl was terrible. We couldn’t get the top open right. It’s only in kind of video cutting because it was like just sign her boobs already… I mean it took forever to do it and then to get her out and she wasn’t good. In tight cuts, it’s funny but for the movie, it didn’t work. It just took forever. It just took forever.

How much did you have to put an eye on the funniness coming out, the comedic plot?

I knew if everybody – I have a baseline philosophy from my particular kind of comedy that I do which is it’s not funny if it’s not real. I like comedy to come out of the character and the situation. That’s why I didn’t put anybody in absurd costumes. I didn’t want them chasing the jokes of the wigs and the makeup and the hair and the colors and all that. Comedy truly came for me out of the character and the situation. I knew that I had Russell and Alec. I knew that if Tom really did his thing he would be really weird and funny. Catherine, I knew was going to be hilarious because she really was the crazy one. I was like your Eva Peron go. That’s why she started doing that. I said, I literally want to be that at the end. She was like, “Alright, whatever you say.” That’s my part of my doing. I wink at other musicals in it. Just like in Hairspray when I had Tracee on the garbage truck singing Good Morning Baltimore. That was from Funny Girl, the tug boat. In Hit Me With Your Best Shot, the pals are from West Side Story. I’m saying thank you and I love you to musicals all over the place. Those were not random moments.

Can you talk a little bit about replicating the late 80s LA.

It’s just out. It’s literally out of my photo album. It’s my memories. There is millions of books out there documenting this period in Los Angeles. Jon Hutman, the production designer, I said to him, I don’t want this to be a joke. I wanted it to look as much as we can. If you actually walk along the strip there is a lot of just dumb businesses in there that are non-iconic. So I said just press everything together that’s actually kind of cool. Sort of that’s what we did.

Was much of it actually shot on the strip?

None. Not one. It was all Miami. Like the hills and all that, that’s digital because there is like condos in the background of the actual picture. We had to erase Miami and put in the hills and all that.

The club…

That’s in Fort Lauderdale.

What inspired the real club here in…

I wanted it to be a combination of The Whisky but the interior for more camera angles would be like House of Blues. Those were my inspirations for Jon about it. The balconies in House of Blues are great. I needed as many camera angles as possible.

Why in all the posters and the trailers show all the characters except for Bryan Cranston.

I’m going to tell the truth about that. Bryan Cranston initially said, I don’t have that much to do in the movie, I’m not even going to take a credit. We developed a campaign without him and he wasn’t even in the credits. And then when he saw the movie, he flipped out and he said, you got to put me…he’s not in the front credits. We couldn’t put him because we’ve locked picture on the front credits but I gave him that ending cartoon. That was him. Before he shot the movie, he put it contractually. He’s like I’m just not in the movie so let’s just not do that. And then he was like, “Oh shit, I’m in the movie and I like the movie…”

He said to me, he was like, “Why do you want me to do this?” He’s like “I’m just there for a prop.” I said, “No, you’re not. I know it reads like that. I promise you when the movie is there, you won’t.” He was like, “Okay, I just think I’m going to get cut out but it sounds kind of fun, and yeah, it would be great working with Catherine.” And then…

You went at it.

Yeah. I was like, “You didn’t listen to me buddy. I told you.”

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Alicia Malone is a Film Reporter, TV Host, Producer, Writer, Editor, and all around movie geek. She developed her taste for film at a young age, spending many a heady Friday night pajama-clad at the video store, picking out her 7 films for 7 days for $7. Bargain! While at school she created a Film Club, electing herself President. Eventually the School Principal asked her not to get up in assembly to talk about movies anymore.