Burlesque - Cam Gigandet
Jack (Cam Gigandet),© 2010 Screen Gems

Cam Gigandet has certainly had an eclectic career, appearing in several genres, including sci fi, Pandorum, horror, The Unborn, martial arts, Never Look Back, fantasy, Twilight, playing the villainous vampire, James, and switching sides, a vampire killer in the upcoming Priest. But he’s never done a musical on screen. That’s been resolved with his new movie Burlesque.

In it he plays Jack, a songwriter who is paying his bills by bartending at The Burlesque Lounge in Los Angeles, run by Tess, Cher. When a small-town girl and wannabe singer named Ali (Christina Aguilera) wanders into the club and befriends Jack their lives and the future of The Burlesque Lounge will never be the same.

Did you audition for the role of Jack?

Burlesque - Cher and Cam Gigandet
Tess (Cher) and Jack (Cam Gigandet),© 2010 Screen Gems

No, I didn’t. I was working on another movie at Screen Gems called Priest at that time, and so I was all dirty in a leather cowboy outfit, killing vampires, and then I’d go straight over to the Burlesque stage and I’d listen to Christina Aguilera songs, and at that moment I was like, ‘Alright, I have to be a part of this movie.’ And (it was) such a complete reversal of roles. Fortunately, they enjoyed what I had done on Priest enough to give me this job.

Cher has had a film career, but Christina hasn’t, what was it like working on dramatic scenes with her?

She has such an amazing work ethic that if she was on set and if she was there to work, whatever scene it was, she was fully there. She was open to learn. There was no ego surrounding her as a music artist when she came on the set to be an actress. So it was such a pleasure to work with her and to be able to watch someone finding their own process and figuring their way through how they work. She learned things so fast. And to be able to help in whatever way I possibly could, it was kind of cool to say you were working with Christina Aguilera on her first role.

In the movie both Jack and Ali say that they left home because there was nobody there whose life they wanted. When you were a teen or a young guy, whose life did you want?

No one that I had known. I was the same way. I respect so many people where I’m from, but it was more that I have to try something new. I knew this world was huge and I knew that I didn’t really know anything at that point living in such a small little city up in Washington.

So I just chose L.A. I think the main reason I chose L.A. was because it was on the same time zone that my parents were living in. It was just on a whim, right out of high school. That was quite an experience and after being here for a few months someone said, ‘Hey, you should try an acting class’ And that night I knew that this is what I was going to be doing.

Were you uncomfortable being nude in front of Christina for one scene?

Burlesque - Cam Gigandet, Stanley Tucci and Cher
Jack (Cam Gigandet), Sean (Stanley Tucci) and Tess (Cher) © 2010 Screen Gems

It’s your job, it’s what you have to do and so why not have fun with it? I think it’s so strange when people say that it was so difficult and so hard, it’s a perk of your job really. You get to kiss Christina Aguilera, which is not a bad thing.

Do you really play the piano?

No. A few days prior I said, ‘I can learn it. (All you have to do is) remember to push that and that, then that, then that.’ I was wrong. It’s very difficult to play the piano. I can’t hear music, I don’t understand it; it’s so above and beyond me. I tried as much as I could, so I had to (play) really fast (for a couple of notes) and they panned up to my face.

Can you talk a little bit about meeting Cher for the first time? Were you nervous?

I was nervous meeting Cher, because it’s Cher obviously. When I was walking on my way to meet her, I just had so much anxiety, and within 30 seconds of meeting her all my nerves were gone. She had my guard down. I’m sitting there talking to her and she’s just so relaxed. She was one of the coolest chicks I have ever met. And I kept having to remind myself, ‘Wait, you’re talking to Cher.’ It was a surreal moment.

Did Cher give you any career advice?

I know that Christina and Cher had a number of talks. I think Christina called them their girl talks. And it was such an exciting thing to see, because you would hear or see Christina and Cher talking and you’d seen Cher give Christina a piece of advice, even if it was just in passing, and Christina would just light up and she would just be glowing for the rest of the day, because she’s such an idol of Christina’s. Her confidence would be boosted.

The greatest thing for me was just to able to watch somebody as experienced as Cher have as much freedom and play around. She set such an example for the entire cast. Also watching Stanley Tucci work, they’re such pros and they make it look absolutely effortless. I can take that with me forever.<

What did you think burlesque was before you did the movie? Did you think it was strippers or a dead art – what did you know about it?

I did not know a lot. I knew it was not a strip show but I knew it was dancing, I knew it was sexy, I knew it was entertaining. What I didn’t know was how humorous it can be. It’s an actual art form, which actually made it even sexier, because there is that mystique and that playfulness there.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.