The musical “Rock of Ages” has been a big hit on Broadway for the past three years. Thus, it wasn’t surprising that Hollywood decided to adapt it for film. It’s fairly rare for Broadway performers to reprise their roles when their shows are adapted into big-budget films. “Rock of Ages” was no exception.
The film producers knew they needed actors who could sing and dance believably for the movie. However, they also needed some big names to bring in crowds and a healthy dash of sex appeal. To those ends, they decided on Tom Cruise and Julianne Hough to fill two of the principal roles.This decision made plenty of sense in certain ways-despite a few uneven periods over the past decade, Cruise remains one of the Hollywood’s very biggest draws. He attracted audiences in droves to “Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol.” He also received critical acclaim for his role as an overbearing Hollywood producer in “Tropic Thunder.” While some questioned whether Cruise still had mileage left as he entered his late 40s, he has looked hale and hearty in his more recent roles.
Hough, meanwhile, is one of the movie world’s top up-and-coming stars. She stole hearts for several seasons as a featured dancer on “Dancing with the Stars.” There, she partnered with celebrities as varied as comedian Adam Carolla, Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno and former child star Cody Linley. She had her first leading role in the 2011 remake of “Footloose.” It did well at the box office and received decent reviews from most critics.
While Cruise’s role as Stacee Jaxx is the most showy in the film, Hough’s love interest is played by Diego Boneta, a Mexican singer and actor best known to American audiences for small roles in the recent update of “90210” and the show “Pretty Little Liars.”
Cruise’s casting as Jaxx, a famous rock star in the film, which is set in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, makes a lot of sense. He’s been playing a huge star his entire life, both onscreen and off. He showed his facility for playing a flamboyant character before in 1999’s “Magnolia,” portraying Frank “T.J.” Mackey, an arrogant and even profane self-help guru who developed a system in which he coached men to “tame” women.
Roles that require huge levels of charisma are also quite familiar to Cruise, going all the way back to his star-making performance in “Risky Business.” His “Tropic Thunder” role as obnoxious studio executive Les Grossman was as broad and showy as it gets, and he even did some dancing.
Cruise’s age might have given people pause when he was cast in “Rock of Ages.” At the time of the film’s release, he was 49, somewhat older than the character was in the stage version. However, he looks much younger than his age. Cruise remains in amazing shape, as was showcase by the many stunts he performed in “Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol.” Critics have generally enjoyed his work as Jaxx, noting the energy and daring he brings to the role.
Hough, meanwhile, seems like a perfect choice for the role of Sherrie Christian, who comes to Los Angeles from her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, with dreams of making it big in the music industry. With her background in dance and country music, she fits all the necessary criteria, and it helps that she’s extremely beautiful.
Julianne Hough also has sufficient acting chops to handle the many highs and lows Sherrie experiences in her Hollywood adventures, including dealing with the city’s seedy side when her career doesn’t take off the way she’d hoped. It’s the kind of story that’s common in the L.A. entertainment scene to this day, and she conducts herself admirably throughout.
Some of the changes from the stage to screen relate to Stacie and Jaxx’s relationship, and that might have something to do with the disparity of the actors’ ages. At 23, Hough is less than half Cruise’s age, which might explain why the characters never become intimate in the film, though they do in the stage musical.
Overall, it would be hard to find two actors more suited to their roles in the film version of “Rock of Ages.” Cruise and Hough combine to bring energy, charisma and sex appeal to this story of heartbreak and determination against a rocking 1980s soundtrack.