Rock of Ages‘s director Adam Shankman has enjoyed success also as a producer and a choreographer. He began his directing career in 2001 with his debut feature The Wedding Planner, and went on to helm A Walk to Remember, Bringing Down the House, The Pacifier, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Bedtime Story and the popular musical Hairspray.
Set in the 1980s, his new movie Rock of Ages stars Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, as Sherrie and Drew, two young people who are pursuing their dreams to become rock stars in Hollywood, where they encounter music legend Stacee Jaxx, played by Tom Cruise.
What is it about the 1980s that you love so much?
My dad was a music business manager, and his office was on (Sunset) Strip. I grew up two miles down the road. His office was at 9200 Sunset, and I went there and looked out at this street my entire life. My first concert was at the Roxy, I went to Tower Records every week of my life until I was eighteen.
I knew a lot of the artists. I was choreographing music videos in 1987 and it was a world that I really understood and loved, so turning back that clock was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
What’s so special about that era?
The weird thing about the eighties is it’s an era that makes fun of itself. Everybody looks back at this period like it’s a joke, but I remember it as the best time I ever had, because there were no consequences to anything in my life. I could do whatever the hell I wanted and it somehow was okay.
That’s definitely [true] if you were a rock star. You could really do whatever you wanted. You could have as much casual sex as you wanted and there was no AIDS. There were mountains of drugs and there were no rehabs. And you saw it all on MTV news.
It was the last time in my life where I had no responsibility and all I thought I was supposed to do was have fun.
So that’s what I was trying to do with the movie. It was really important to me to achieve that and to tell the story so that it could connect to the audience, as opposed to just keep winking and nudging them. I didn’t want the actors to have to chase the joke of their hair or their wardrobe, making fun of it. They just lived in the world.
What was your reaction to seeing the show of Rock of Ages on Broadway?
The audience was having the best time I’d ever seen at a show. Everybody knew the lyrics to all of the songs and was out of their seats and singing along and having the time of their life. That enthusiasm, that sheer emotion, convinced me to make the movie.