'Rock of Ages': Director Adam Shankman on casting Diego Boneta, putting Tom Cruise through 'rock-star boot camp' -- EXCLUSIVE


Image Credit: Anna Webber/WireImage.com

Following along while director Adam Shankman casts his Rock of Ages movie has been like seating a dinner party for a who’s who of Hollywood: So far, everyone from Mary J. Blige to Tom Cruise to Alec Baldwin and Julianne Hough have signed on for the hot-hot-hot flick, which begins shooting May 19 in Miami and will hit theaters next year. And now, meet the show’s leading man: Diego Boneta, who you might have seen recently on The CW’s 90210 or ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars. Boneta will play Drew, a budding musician who falls for a small-town girl (Hough) who shows up on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip and expresses his emotions through songs from ’80s hair-metal songs. EW caught up with Ages director Shankman, who talked about casting Boneta, putting Cruise through rock-star boot camp, and why he didn’t choose Constantine Maroulis — who originated the role on Broadway — to be Drew.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What about Diego made him perfect to play Drew?
ADAM SHANKMAN: It’s very difficult to say, but it’s one of those instincts you have when you see somebody. I had the exact same thing about Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray. We had the same thing about Channing Tatum, Zac Efron. You say, “Oh my god, it’s them!” Because there’s an It factor. There’s an honesty about it that you can’t see — you can’t put your finger on. It’s just that they’re behaving — they’re not acting like the character, they just are the character.

Diego definitely isn’t an A-Lister like the rest of the cast you’ve assembled so far. Did you want to nab someone you could “discover”?
Yeah, I talked about wanting to discover somebody like I did in Hairspray. That was something I wanted to do, but I wasn’t holding myself to anything. I was open to everybody. I found that it was very exciting to find this person.

What was his audition like?
It was grueling and endless, basically. I put Julianne through it, too, to be perfectly honest, but with Diego, he came back to audition a second time for the casting director and he came back and auditioned for me. And when he came back and auditioned for me again, he had to do a different scene each time and he had to sing those songs which are so hard and so high! People in that era — in 1987 — sang like freaks of nature. All the music is written so high, so it was also difficult to find somebody who could find all the music.

Did you put Tom Cruise through the ringer while casting, too?
Here’s the thing about Tom Cruise: I knew in my heart he would never put himself in harm’s way about taking on a part if he didn’t think he could deliver. So it wasn’t until our first go around with his voice lesson that we sort of looked at each other and went, “This is gonna work!” And we were basically dancing around the living room and high-fiving each other because he actually has a fantastic voice. His grandfather or his great-grandfather was an opera singer, so apparently he’s genetically predisposed for this sort of thing. He’s having the time of his life and he is so grateful in a strange way that I even thought of him for this, because this is so outside of what he does. He is going to create an incredibly indelible character, because I told him this needs to be so far out there that it’s startling.

He’s going against type, it’s great.
The truth of the matter is, he knows he’s part of an ensemble. But he’s the driving force — it’s almost like he’s more into it than me. When he commits to something, it’s a commitment level I’ve never seen: He’s singing five hours a day; he’s gonna start doing rock-star boot camp. It’s crazy. And that’s following Mission: Impossible.

Constantine Maroulis, who was nominated for a Tony while starring in the Broadway version of Rock of Ages, made it known he wanted the role in the movie, too. Why didn’t you cast him?
Constantine is the absolute perfect human being. But I am deeply committed to casting at authentic age — I don’t want to have to ask anybody to act like they are 23. I wanted a 23 year old. Just like when I made Hairspray, I wanted a young girl, and when I cast Nikki she was literally still in high school. When you’re dealing with this heightened reality business, I think it’s better to go with what is as authentic as possible, and Diego is absolutely that. He is kid who came to Los Angeles with a dream and who sings and has an amazing voice, and drive. And he’s also as honest and sweet as you can possibly make him and he’s authentically the age. It creates a piece of something on screen that I don’t have to fabricate.

So you love Constantine?
I love Constantine. Constantine was a total inspiration, and he was fantastic, and I still have every intention of using him in the movie. I’d love to cameo him or have him say something — I think it would be a great show of support. We had the same thing with Ricki Lake in Hairspray. This was not about shutting out Constantine; this was about this is the next evolution of the project.

There are lots of rumors about other possible castings in the movie. Can we expect other big names?
We will be making some big announcements deeper into the week. I read some rumors that made me laugh, they are so not true. They are so super crazy and not true and have never been discussed.

Like who?
I read today that Katy Perry is starring as a barmaid slash stripper in the movie and I was like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Nothing could be further from the truth. And then some other people that are said to be in talks are legitimately in talks.

Who is in negotiations?
Russell Brand is in negotiations, Amy Adams is another negotiation. Paul Giamatti’s in negotiations. But they are in negotiations still, so confirming them would be silly. What I will say about this movie is that things fall apart just as fast they come. Not all the time, but I’m basically at 100 percent of my first choices so far, but lots of other things come and go.

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

Read more:
Is Russell Brand joining ‘Rock of Ages’ movie?
Paul Giamatti set to star alongside Tom Cruise in ‘Rock of Ages’
Alec Baldwin joins ‘Rock of Ages’
Tom Cruise to play rock star in ‘Rock of Ages’
Julianne Hough on ‘Rock of Ages’ casting: ‘It’s just a dream come true.’
Julianne Hough ready to rock ‘Rock of Ages’
Julianne Hough is hot in Hollywood after leaving ‘DTWS’

Comments (50 total) Add your comment
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  • Judo Thong

    Russell Brand is a definite no-ticket buy for me.

    • Jethro

      Just hope Adam doesn’t judge on SYTYCD this summer, because he is directing this movie. His judging goes on and on and on and on….

  • Becky Anne Leaman

    I loved ‘The Pacifier’, ‘Cheaper By the Dozen Part Two’, and ‘Carrie Underwood’s Holiday Special’, so I can’t wait to see Shankman unleash his magic once again.

    • Strepsi

      Oh Becky Anne, bazinga!

      But one thing Adam Shankman knows, it is discovering the very very pretty boys who have the “it” factor. So this Diego is one to watch. And when I say “One to watch”, I probably mean with a jar of vaseline and some kleenex.

  • Summer

    How can he compare Ricky Lake in Hairspray to this situation?!?!? He certainly doesn’t know or appreciate the major hard work (for almost 3 yrs) Constantine put into creating and layering the character and promoting the Show. Constantine is a MAJOR reason for Mr. Shankman even having this wonderful movie to make. Bottom line is he could have made it work with Constantine as Drew and it would have been amazing.

    • Ann

      Uhhh..Ricky Lake originated the role Tracy Turnblad. So yes, he can comepare Ricky Lake’s role to Constantine’s. Shankman is right. I don’t want a 30 year old who looks older to play a young 23 year old. It’s okay when it’s done onstage because we don’t have close-ups. Having 30 year olds play young people in their 20’s is what totally ruined the movie verion of Rent. I’m glad Shankman has the good sense to go with a young man in the lead…

      • Mr. Holloway

        …also hurting the movie version of “Rent”: the complete lack of imagination or ba!!s from Chris Columbus.

      • Chelsea

        I agree with what he’s saying here about not casting a 30-something for a 20-something role, but with that in mind, why did he cast the almost 50 Tom Cruise as Stacee?

      • Snsetblaze

        Because Cruise is still a guaranteed box office draw.

      • Katie

        Ugh, I’m not even bothering with this movie because he cast Cruise. Blech…

    • anonymousey

      Always interesting to hear from people who like some people and not others. If Constantine were in this I would not go in a million years. Yuck!

  • MDEP

    My only disappointment so far is the casting of Sherri. I have heard Julianne’s singles and heard her perform them on TV. I was less than impressed and am really skeptical that her voice can handle carrying the movie. That being said, I am still plan on seeing the movie, but I am not as excited as I originally was.

  • Jason

    Constantine was great in the show (pretty good in the Wedding Singer too) and I would have liked to see him in the movie, however, it’s very rare that the movie version of a broadway play has the same actor play the lead role (or any role for that matter).

    • Strepsi

      I truly hope that this happens with a film of Daniel Radcliffe in “How To Succeed In Business” !

  • mara willoughby@sbcglobal.net

    I was just talking to someone about the casting of Drew. Constantine is in his 30’s and he looks even older. When you are on stage a 45 year old can play 20 because the stage lights are dark and that actor is at a distance. It would be uncomfortable to watch a an older actor play a younger person on a huge lighted screen. Unless it’s a comedy. The movie would invovle more acting than singing. Box office wise you must cater to your average movie goer. Diego and Julianne has the potential to be a hot couple. Big bucks. Love Constantine in the theater version but that’s the theater. I Love the theater, I go almost every week. I have seen almost everything. Less than 5% of movie goers go to the theater. So Constantine not being in the film will not hurt the boxoffice AT ALL!

  • Stephanie

    Aw I saw Diego on a spanish teen show: Rebelde, didn’t think he was all that and mostly overlooked him- I wish I hadn’t though! He’s been on a steady rise in this industry. I hope he does very well!

  • Zach

    I love how Katy Perry’s casting is considered so far from the truth and yet her husband is in negotiations.

  • Summer

    I have seen Constantine on stage live in ROA a few times and have met him up close in person. He looks about 25. Anyone that says he actually looks older than his age is clearly biased against him. He doesn’t look 20- 23 BUT when then the hell did Drew become 20?????
    And Dear Mr. Shankman, 22 yr old women do NOT date 20 yr old boys. Or is Drew now Sherrie’s kid brother. BTW, the Hairspray movie was made many years after Ricky Lake did the BW show. Geez!

    • Stacey

      Of course 22 can date 20. Women often love younger men. 20 is not 18. But Drew is supposed to early 20’s. Someone who is trying to get his start in the business; but hasn’t gotten there yet at the beginning of Rock of Ages. The actor who will play Drew does look like he can play someone in his early 20’s…
      I like Constantine but he doesn’t look 25. It’s too bad he’s not going to be in the movie; but he’s doing really well in the theatre production.

    • Dennis

      He looked about 28 when he was on American Idol and that was six years ago.

    • anonymousey

      I have seen Constantine many times and he looks like a bloated-faced, balding 40+ year old.

  • jen

    Besides Diego Boneta , The only two people that have actual singing talent are Mary J. Blige ( but, she cannot act) and Amy Adams ( decent singer ) . I expect some massive problems with this film production. Why can’t an actor with acting & singing talent be a prerequisite for feature film musicals- it is definitely required for theatre musicals. This is what hurt ‘ Nine ‘ and ‘ Phantom of the Opera ‘.

  • Aurora Johnson-Gamez

    The movie is about a young aspiring rocker. IMO, Constantine does not look fresh enough to play it up close. On stage is one thing. I’m sure he will get other roles doing other things. But, there is no way he looks 20-25 years old. I’ve never seen Diego before, but he certainly seems more appropriate for a young person trying to make their way in the world.

  • Kendra

    I’m okay with this new young Drew but I would LOVE to see Constantine in a small role in the Movie. Constantine is the heart and soul of ROA and made it a hit. I won’t see it unless he has a part.

  • Me

    If we’re talking about reality here, I can see no possible way that Julilanne who looks to be about 28 or 29 can possibly be attracted to a Mexican kid who looks about 14. I won’t be padding Skankman’s pockets with my money. No way will I waste money on this trainwreck.

  • Aurora Johnson-Gamez

    What? He is 20, and she is 22. That’s not exactly what I’d call an age gap. And what does it matter if he is Mexican? Does anyone care if Constantine is Greek? He could be African-American for all I care…get out of the dark ages already!

  • Donna

    OMG ladies – I love Constantine–I am huge fan. But he does not look 25. Please—its more embarrasing for him when you say something that ridiculous. He’s got something going on –that’s for sure and I love his voice and work ethic -He’s a hottie. But hes 35–not 30 and he cannot play a kid on a 40′ movie screen. I am dissapointed as well but you will have to find another way to fill your wet dreams. Constantine is Broadway beautiful–just not movie star beautiful. Its okay – its not a bad thing. Its just a truth thing….

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