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'Rock of Ages' director Adam Shankman: Constantine Maroulis wasn't right for the lead role

April 4, 2011 |  6:00 pm

Adam Shankman decided a few days ago to bring on Diego Gonzalez Boneta, a Mexican actor on teen-friendly shows such as  "90210" and "Pretty Little Liars" -- and also an accomplished singer -- for the lead role of Drew in his filmic version of "Rock of Ages."

That disappointed fans of Constantine Maroulis, who scored a Tony nomination for his portrayal of the aspiring singer on Broadway and recently came with the production to the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. Shankman said he understood why fans felt strongly but didn't believe Maroulis suited his movie's needs.

"Constantine was perfection as Drew in the play," Shankman told 24 Frames. "But the truth of the matter is that I cast at age, and I wanted someone who doesn't have to act 20 or 23 but actually is 20 or 23 [Maroulis is 35]. The authenticity of someone actually being that age is important."

Diego Shankman said that he understood fans' attachment to the former "American Idol" contestant but believes others can and should be given a chance at the role. "It would be like saying Ethel Merman is the only one who could play Mama Rose. This is a great example of a torch being passed."

The filmmaker said he had reached out to Maroulis to see if he would be interested in a smaller part in the movie. Asked about Maroulis' reaction to the news that he wouldn't be playing Drew, Shankman said, "I can't put myself in anyone's shoes. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to hand over a role."

As for the man who did land it, the 20-year-old Boneta came out of nowhere, literally. He was one of about a thousand young actors whose name popped up in online auditions. But Shankman said he immediately felt drawn to the actor and singer, who's also recorded several hits in Spanish.

"The 'It' factor was impossible to deny," Shankman said. "Diego sang the ['Rock of Ages'] songs effortlessly, and they were written so high, for freaks of nature. But he handled them so easily. Everything about him was at ease. He was charming and innocent and guileless. He's a very handsome kid who seems to have no awareness of what he looks like."

Shankman said the move from the theater to the screen won't compromise the essential emotional ingredient of the story, in which, against the backdrop of the 1980s and the development of the Sunset Strip, aspiring rocker Drew and struggling actress Sherrie fall in love. "If you look at 'Avatar' or even 'Titanic,' " he said citing two cinematic blockbusters, "what's at the core of it is a little love story about people who are destined to be together and fate rips them apart. And that's right at the center of this."
While Shankman has been pestered by plenty of actors deluded about their own musical talents -- "you have no idea" -- he says his biggest name for the film, Tom Cruise, is a perfect fit.

The director said he, too, was skeptical until he saw the actor in "Tropic Thunder." "It was just the courage he showed as Les Grossman and how far he could go, and with this role [of veteran rocker Stacee Jaxx] the more out there the better," Shankman said. "Tom is so committed to the work; he would never expose himself if he didn't think he could do it. And he's from singing stock -- his grandfather and great-grandfather were opera singers."

The "Rock of Ages" cast -- which also includes Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige and, schedule-permitting, Russell Brand -- offers plenty of star power. But Shankman, who previously directed "Hairspray," believes there's a trove of musical talent here too. "You need to cast up in order to get movies of this size greenlit; we never could have made this movie with lesser-known people," the director said. "But I also think audiences are going to be stunned when they see it."

And yes, that stunning musical talent even includes Baldwin. "Alec sang on 'Saturday Night Live,' which was a joke, sure. But this guy can more than carry a tune."

--Steven Zeitchik


Photos: Constantine Maroulis as Drew on the Pantages stage. Credit: Chelsea Lauren / Getty Images; Diego Boneta as Javier Luna on "90210." Credit: CBS Television

Comments () | Archives (29)

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Hmmm....how can someone who ORIGINATED the role not be right for it? Constantine Maroulis sings the songs effortlessly eight times a week. He was nominated for a Tony. He's more than "right" for the role. Too bad Adam Shankman is a fool and can't see it.

I am very disappointed that Constantine won't be in the film. I believe you made a mistake by not casting him as Drew. You've seen the draw of the play, and much of this was because of Constantine. I feel as if you ripped him off (which you did). I won't be going to the theater nor watching the movie. Constantine is and was Drew.

News flash Adam: Constantine is not 'handing over' his role to anyone; he is the Tony nominated actor and singer who originated the role and promoted the musical for 3 years and will always be Drew.
In fact, he is the one that helped hand you and your stellar movie cast this opportunity.

The more I read, the more I am convinced that the movie will bear little resemblance to the stage version.
Disappointed all around.

So, instead you have to cast someone who has to pretend to be American???

Why is it that Constantine is too old and according to Shankman he didn't want anyone who had to "pretend" to be a younger age. YET, this guy what's his name, is Mexican.. So it's ok to "pretend" to be American? Yup, American's gonna love this trainwreck!! Maybe the plot has changed. In the play, in the last scene, the narrator says.. sometimes the dreams you come in with are not always the dreams you leave with. In the play, maybe since the story line has Drew as born and raised in Detroit, this Mexican who obviously was not born and raised in Detroit ( due to heavy accent), will be caught and deported back to Mexico. Hence.. the dream he came in with didn't work out and he was deported back to Mexico . Yeah, I can go for that!

"But the truth of the matter is that I cast at age"

Ya right - is that why you have cast 49 yr old Cruise for Jaxx and 53 yr old Baldwin for Dennis. And want 35 yr old Brand for Lonnie. Who are you kidding????

BTW Adam dear, 22 yr old women do not date 20 yr old boys. Or is Drew now Sherrie's kid brother? Or is Sherrie now his nanny? You are such an idiot!!!!

The character Drew can't be =that= young if he has been pounding the pavement and trying to catch a break forever. If the guy is 20, what, did he try to make it for a whole 20 minutes before taking the job cleaning toilets?
Constantine is Drew, anyone else is just playing him. By passing over Constantine, Shankman eliminated the one star I had any interest in seeing in this joint. Shankman's, and the movie's loss.

Shankman makes a good point that Constantine is 35. You can age out of a role, you know. If he played opposite Julianne Hough as his love interest, he would seem like a lecherous old geezer preying on young girls. Oh, wait...

You guys are idiots. Diego has no accent and he has a beautiful voice. Plus he looks like a white boy so get over it.

"Stunning musical talent"? Yeah right. The only stunning musical talent is the one you passed up on, idiot.

I think it's irrelevant that this kid is Mexican. So are millions of people who live here in the good old USA. The important fact is that Constantine was AND IS perfection as Drew. There was no need to cast "at age" except in Shankman's imagination.

Who is Adam Shankman fooling ? Alec Baldwin nor Tom Cruise have singing talent. Plus, Mary J. Blige cannot act, and Julianne Hough doesn't have the vocal chops to pull-off the rock song numbers. Anne Hathaway was absolutely right to turn her role down. I expect this movie to be a train wreck of epic proportions.

I fear that many, many people across the country, will disagree with Mr. Shankman. Anyone who has seen Constantine Maroulis in this show knows just how perfect he is in this role & would be thrilled to see him in the movie. The age thing doesn't make any sense. It's a movie. This character doesn't need to be that young. What a shame.

I totally agree with the idea that it is better to case someone who is age appropriate than to cast someone way too old for the role. It is passable on Broadway perhaps but less so in movies.

And for the record, saying someone has to act "American" is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard. America is comprised of many people of different ethnic backgrounds.

I'm thinking there was some casting couch nonsense going on here.

What a bunch of know-nothings. Adam Shankman knows exactly what he's doing and your cynical little whinings about the American Idol guy are juvenile at best.

Maroulis is a great singer and is perfect for this part. On stage. Film is not so forgiving and he'd look ridiculous as an almost middle-aged man playing the part of a twentysomething.

Shankman is right. Maroulis is 35 and may be a great performer, but he can't play 23 in a movie.

Constantine would not look good playing opposite Julianne. This is film, not theater. He can't pass for 25 with the scrutiny of the big screen.

And 20-25 seems like a good age for someone trying to be a rocker to me. Why should he be older? A 30-year-old trying to make on the Strip would seem pathetic and washed-up.

Lastly, it's really depressing to see what people think constitutes "American" on this blog.

Constantine's not handing over the role.. Skankman, you stole the role from him and gave it to a pimply faced little Mexican kiddy who if you play him as Sherry's love interest, you had better be prepared to make him look older. I have no idea how old Julianna is but she certainly looks much much older than this kiddy. How old is he about 14?

I'll not be padding your pockets with my money to see this fiasco.

Why is anyone surprised he didn't cast Constantine? It was the same when he cast "Hairspray." He wanted someone who could convincingly play a high school student. Marissa Jaret Winokur was great on Broadway but wouldn't have worked in the film. Same thing here.

Constantine was great in the musical but Adam was correct in not casting him in the movie. Although he originated the role. I don't believe he owns it. Let other actors take on the role and let them give there own interpretation. Constantine laid the foundation and I think it time for someone else to take stage or in this case become a movie star with this role.

Is he old enough to be in some of the scenes? Some may not be appropriate for a 14 year old? Will he have to have a double? And will they be dubbing in his parts, since I hear he has a very heavy Mexican accent?

Surely this is a joke and he's not casting this child in this particular movie? Is he even out of high school yet? Maybe in a few years he could grow into this role but at this time that's a baby in that picture up there.

I don't care to spend money watching a person as old as Julianne is or appears to be, seduce a baby.

Woah... sounds like Shankman's got a little crush on his new "find".. Him such a sweet little ol' babycakes.

Very Disappointed !!!
Constantine is Drew, you need to rethink this!

As a repeat visitor to "Rock of Ages: the Musical" I can attest firsthand that the show became a smash hit in no small part thanks to the talent and mesmerizing vocal abilities of Constantine Maroulis. Even Mr. Shankman admits Constantine is perfection. So I am deeply disappointed and saddened that he will not be allowed to bring the role he created and for which he received a Tony nomination to the screen. Sounds like this thing is being rewritten beyond all recognition, anyway, which further saddens me. Well, good luck with the movie, because without Constantine, this is one more "Rock of Ages" fan who won't be going to see it.

Constantine is Drew and Drew is Constantine. Myself, along with many others find this disappointing and will neither support your new "find", see your new "find" in your "movie", nor endorse your "movie".

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