By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Julianne Hough steps into the room sipping a tall glass of orange juice. Dressed in a black and white patterned jumpsuit, the stunning blond and former “Dancing with the Stars” performer looks perky and prepared for a full day of interviews. She stars opposite Tom Cruise in the big screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical “Rock of Ages.”
Hough doesn’t recall the ‘80s firsthand—she was born in 1988—but the singer-dancer-actress has a certain affinity for the era when rock stars were big, and their hair even bigger.
She plays a wannabe singer who leaves Oklahoma for the big city lights of L.A. in pursuit of her dream. She winds up working at a Sunset Strip bar where she meets a fellow dreamer (played by hunky Mexican singer and actor Diego Boneta), who’s also trying to get his big break in the music industry. Together they face a number of hurdles on their path to success, which they face while singing rock hits from the era. Complicating matters, Hough’s Sherrie is tempted by the irresistibly sexy aging rock star god Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) and gets some sage advice from a gentleman’s club owner (played by songstress Mary J. Blige in her big screen debut).
“Rock of Ages,” directed by “Hairspray” helmer Adam Shankman, isn’t Hough’s first big screen musical. She starred in last year’s remake of “Footloose,” and had a small role in 2010 Christina Aguilera starrer “Burlesque.”
The energetic beauty, who is reportedly dating “Dancing with the Stars” host Ryan Seacrest, discussed what it was like working opposite a screen legend, how ‘80s music influenced her and what’s ahead.
Front Row Features: What about ’80s music do you think this movie got right and what would you never want to see from the ’80s brought back?
Hough: (Director) Adam Shankman did this movie right, so there doesn’t need to be any more ’80s movies, right? No. I think the music is so incredible. The melodies from the ’80s are what really 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? High-waist bikini bottoms. (She laughs.)
Front Row Features: So you don’t think LMFAO has good melodies?
Hough: It’s definitely something to rock out to in the club. I’m not dogging on non-melodic pop music, because I love it. I’m just saying that’s why the timeless songs are still here.
Front Row Features: Was the pole dancing tough?
Hough: Extremely tough. I thought it was going to be a lot of bumping and grinding on a pole. Then I come to find out that there’s actual upper body strength that you need to have. My arms were totally ripped. There’s one girl in the movie that looks like she’s walking on air down the pole backwards and hanging on with on hand. I’m like that is absolutely incredible.
Front Row Features: Did you have any injuries or pulled muscles?
Hough: I had bruises everywhere all along my inner thighs and I had sore muscles.
Front Row Features: What was it like when you first came to Hollywood from Salt Lake City?
Hough: I had $2,000 in my pocket; I told my dad I had $5,000 so I could move out here. My rent was $800 a month, so it was not a lot of money. But I was lucky. Everything that I (auditioned) for, whether it was booking a commercial or doing something for choreography, I got. I had to get it otherwise I’d have to go home. So, I just always somehow got it, you know. And, and I worked really hard for it.
Front Row Features: What were those early days like?
Hough: I lived with a bunch of models. They would do a job and get like 10 grand, and I’d be like ‘this sucks’. They wouldn’t work for a month. They would just be in their pajamas from when I left to when I came home from work or an audition. I thought they were so, you know, lucky. But we’re still really good friends now
Front Row Features: What commercials did you do?
Hough: I did this one commercial for shoes. I danced in it.
Front Row Features: When did you realize you’d made it?
Hough: The first time I came back to “Dancing with the Stars” when I performed as a singer and actress. That was kind of the moment where I was like ‘holy cow, I feel like I’m actually a part of not just a reality show but a part of the entertainment world.’
Front Row Features: Can you talk about Tom Cruise as a rock god?
Hough: He is a rock god. I would have loved to see him actually in the ’80s as Stacee Jaxx because I think that he would have been the most sought-after rock star then.
Front Row Features: Can you talk a little bit about singing a duet with Mary J. Blige?
Hough: There’s this overwhelming nervousness that I had when I would sing with Mary J because I don’t think there’s anybody who is as influential in music, especially R&B, as she is. We shot our scenes together in a strip club and because there was a lot of down time for us, we just bonded. We’re still very close. She calls and leaves me messages out of the blue all the time. She’s like, ‘I just want to let you know that I love you so much Julianne, and you are so amazing.’ She just boosts my confidence every day.
Front Row Features: You didn’t really dance in this movie, which is surprising. And it doesn’t sound like you’ll be doing much dancing in your next movie (the big screen adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ “Safe Haven”).
Hough: Yeah, and I just did another film with (“Rock of Ages” co-star) Russell, where I didn’t dance either. Dancing is a part of my life, and when I don’t dance I feel like there’s something missing because I’m such a physical person who loves to express myself through dance. But I also love to act and I love to sing and I love to entertain. So if I’m passionate about a certain project I’ll do it.
Front Row Features: Where do you see your career going?
Hough: I hope to stretch my acting skills. I got to a point in my dancing where I felt like I did so much hard work and I achieved a lot of great things. I wanted to try something else and put that same kind of commitment into that. I’ve had so many opportunities with my dance. And now I’m just excited to get better as an actress.
Front Row Features: You released a hit country album in 2008. Are you working on another one?
Hough: I have a second record completely done, but we’ll see when that comes out. I want to be able to give the right time and commitment it takes to promote an album.
Front Row Features: Are there wedding bells in your future?
Hough: Oh, goodness, eventually in my life. That’s what I was put on this earth to do: get married and have babies. (She laughs.)