Singer Christina Aguilera has sold more than 30 million albums; she is also a songwriter, performer, producer and now – actress.
In the new musical Burlesque, she portrays Ali, a small-town girl with a big voice, who decides to go to Los Angeles to follow her dream of a career in show business.
What’s she finds is a unique venue called ‘The Burlesque Lounge’, run by Tess (Cher).
Vowing to be on stage performing there one day, Ali befriends the bartender there, Jack (Cam Gigandet), and talks herself into a cocktail waitress job, which of course eventually leads to an opportunity to be onstage.
After having such a spectacular career in music, how hard was it for you to decide to do this as your first movie?
There have been a lot of attempts at making movies like this that haven’t turned out so well, and I definitely had to think it over to do Burlesque.
They had to rewrite the character because I was like, “This girl doesn’t have a lot of drive. She doesn’t have enough meat. I think you should give it to someone else. I just don’t think she’s for me. I want someone with more bite and more passion for what she wants in life.”
And so, they rewrote it.
I also had to have a balance of starting out very vulnerable and wide-eyed and naive. I put that energy into how I really was feeling, approaching acting in the first place, which was wide-eyed and as a newcomer who was open and vulnerable to everyone’s opinions and ideas, and ready to learn.
Does preparing for a movie like this, where there’s so many musical numbers and dances to learn, compare at all to preparing for a tour?
It’s different. Even though I was a performer first and did music first and foremost, and my first love is my singing, doing this movie was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was so much work, and I knew it would be, going into it. I knew there would be a lot of challenges that would rise up. I had to wear so many different hats.
When I went in to write the music, I wasn’t just writing it from my own point-of- view. I had to look at the scene and look at what the motivation was behind the scene. I had to look at Ali and see what makes her tick and what makes her feel this way, in the moment. I had to look at all those bullet points and write it from her perspective. Then, I had to record the songs and figure out where I wanted to come from in my vocal approach.
Then, there were intense dance rehearsals. I never danced in my life before Burlesque. [In my stage show] I’m vocals first, so I’m very much about my mic and working everything around my vocals. But here, everything was pre-recorded, so I fully had to solely concentrate on the dancing, and I really haven’t ever danced before so much, in my life.
Did you intentionally make sure that Ali didn’t come across as a hardened person at the end of the film?
There was a fine line. I definitely wanted to portray Ali in a very likeable sense. In some of the scenes, I have to yell at Cher and there are moments that are explosive, and I never wanted to come across bitchy, but rather believable. I was very fearful of that.
I put forth my best effort in making Ali someone that every girl could relate to and every girl wants to be, in the sense that she starts out really vulnerable, scared and afraid.
She wonders, “Is this going to work? Should I really leave my small town?”
Then, she ends up conquering what she goes for, kicks her foot in the door, takes risks and ends up taking over the club and changing it for the better.
How many songs did you write for the film?
I wrote Express, Bound to You, the big ballad of the movie, and Burlesque, the finale.
During the production of this film, what were your girl talks with Cher like and what did you learn from her?
I learned priceless information and valuable stories for days.
We would talk about love and relationships a lot. She’s been there and done everything, before any of us. How could you not learn from Cher with her work ethic and the way she commands attention when she walks into a room, but exudes such peaceful tranquility and love for everyone.
She just makes you feel warm and welcome and more inspired to do a better job because you want to step up to the plate.
What was the best bit of advice you got from Cher that you’ll remember the most? Did she give you any good relationship advice?
In her case, she was like, “Husbands come and go, but [I’ll] always be Cher.”
Did you and Cam Gigandet have a lot of fun together?
Yeah, we had a blast. We teased each other a lot. There was a lot of cat-and-mouse stuff.
Were you the cat or the mouse?
I’m the cat!
With Christmas and New Year’s Eve coming up, do you have any plans to celebrate the holidays?
My actual birthday is December 18th and I’m turning 30 years old this year. It’s a big one. It’s the next chapter of my life. But, because I’m working so much on the movie, I’m postponing my birthday party, so New Year’s Eve will be my big 30th birthday party.
I’m looking forward to spending the holidays with my son. I’m doing a lot of travel for the movie, and I just can’t wait to be home with my son, playing Santa Claus.
Is being 30 any different? Is it just another year or is it a new era?
Well, it’s better than being 20, I’ll tell you that. The lessons I’ve learned and how I’ve grown is incredible.