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'Rock of Ages': Tom Cruise tries something really scary: singing

November 7, 2011 |  5:00 am

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise risked life and limb filming action sequences at the top of the world's tallest building for "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," but he said that wasn't any scarier than the singing required for his first musical, the just-wrapped "Rock of Ages."

"They all have their risks," Cruise said with a laugh of playing rocker Stacee Jaxx in Adam Shankman's adaptation of the Tony-winning 2006 musical, which featured songs by jukebox heroes such as Bon Jovi, Styx, Journey and Pat Benatar. Among the tunes Cruise belts out in the film: "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

Shankman is coming off the foot-tapping success of "Hairspray," while Cruise, inspired by his dance-loving wife, Katie Holmes, is taking a true genre gamble even as he celebrates the 30th anniversary of his first screen appearances ("Endless Love" and "Taps" both came out in 1981). The action star said Holmes' influence is also why he added some memorable dance-floor moves to his Hollywood agent performance in "Tropic Thunder."  

"I had started dancing because I was inspired by my wife. She kept saying, 'You've got to do a musical sometime,' " Cruise said. "Kate's a dancer, so she would say, 'Let's go to dance class,' and she would take us and that's how I kind of came up with the idea of Les Grossman doing hip-hop. And then to take it to this level with this? It was really fun."

Shankman has said Cruise is a natural and has music in his genes thanks to an opera singer in his family tree. The filmmaker has shown a flair for the unexpected: Shankman pulled a signature performance from John Travolta in his gender-flipped role in "Hairspray." So perhaps "Rock of Ages" will be one of Cruise's acclaimed "experiment" roles, such as in "Magnolia," "Collateral" or the aforementioned "Tropic Thunder" -- even if the sight of the bare-chested, long-maned Cruise as Jaxx has already been jeered across the Internet.

The actor said he's just pumped to be working with Shankman.

"He's on fire," Cruise said. "What he accomplished with 'Hairspray' was amazing. My daughter has seen it 15 times and our whole family has watched it over and over and it's just enormously entertaining. To be able to hold that tone throughout is really something."

The cast of "Rock of Ages" also includes Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and much of the heavy lifting for the shoot was done in South Florida. Cruise said his singing and dancing work there was a different challenge than his "Mission: Impossible" job swinging out windows atop the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but in some ways more stressful.

"I was working on it when I was finishing 'Mission' and I was singing five hours a day and I was dancing five hours a day," Cruise said. "Adam said, 'Look, we're going to have a lot of fun,' and we really did.... I did six months preparing for the movie, and all my stunt training and all of those years doing that, it helped me with the choreography."

"Rock of Ages" hits theaters in June.

RELATED:

Why can't Tom Cruise escape himself?

'Ghost Protocol' looks for acceptance

Brad Bird: 'Mission: Impossible' opening early at IMAX

-- Geoff Boucher

Photo: Tom Cruise in "Rock of Ages." Credit: TomCruise.com, Warner Bros.


 
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