Say what you want about Tom Cruise, whether you are a fan of his or not, you have to admire the sheer guts of the man when it comes to choosing roles to play. Not one to shy away from acting parts that involve challenges and learning new skills, in his latest movie Rock of Ages, he plays a fading rock star – Stacee Jaxx, and for the role he not only had to sing but play the guitar in some or other fashion. And judging by the opening credits of the new film in which he sings and plays ‘Paradise City’ by Guns N’ Roses, he hasn’t done a half bad job. But this is the Tom Cruise that learnt to juggle bottles in Cocktail, played a mean game of pool in The Color of Money, raced cars in Days of Thunder, and most recently, high tailed it down from the tallest building in the world in Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol. So are we getting a little used to Tom perfecting his art and do we take him for granted? I think we do actually. Cruise is always thinking of his audience, whether it is in an attendance at a premiere where he is greeting awaiting crowds for over three hours, or whether he is assessing the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, and thinking, “We’re going to get this on camera, and it’s going to be in IMAX—that will be something for an audience.” And Guns N’ Roses fans need not worry, apparently Tom has the Axl Rose trademark screech down pat according to Ron Anderson, who was the singers vocal coach.
Tom started filming this movie over a year ago and was hesitant about the role, obviously because of the singing. He remembers in an interview with W magazine, “Adam Shankman, the director, asked me if I could carry a tune. I said, ‘We’ll see, won’t we? This is either going to work or it’s going to be dreadful.” Clearly it is a huge success and Tom plays the role with a hint of melancholy which, contrasted against the other characters, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand for instance, who are playing for laughs, adds an interesting dimension to what could have been a one-sided story about an ageing and fading rock star. The part seems to echo somewhat a particular time in Cruises own life where he arrives at a point in his own career, certain films not doing that well at the box office, he will be fifty himself this year, and could it be all over for his movie career? Part of Tom’s appeal however is the fact that he can pass for a much younger man, his screen presence is of true star quality and despite some odd choices of character roles, you know what you are going to get with him; which is always a great acting performance.
For this role we have his family to thank as apparently his wife Katie Holmes love musicals. Tom told W magazine, “Kate loves musicals. She sings and dances, and we kind of went through the history of musicals together. And Suri loved Hairspray. With kids, you watch everything over and over; I watched Hairspray 15 times with Suri. I thought Adam Shankman did a great job directing the movie, so I arranged to meet him and said, “Where’s our musical?” He came back and said, Rock of Ages. We went and saw it in L.A., and for me…I didn’t know how to play the character like that. I had to find my own Stacee Jaxx.” Tom has to sing many tracks such as Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive and the infamous Guns ‘N Roses’ Paradise City but his singing quality was a little shaky to start with as musical producer, Adam Anders will testify. “Now he’s like a seven, but he started off at a one. He had never sung in his life. He was like, “I need to know that I can do this before I sign on.” So I went to his house to hear him sing and even though he was completely green as a singer, his vocal cords were amazing. He had this voice that blew me away. It was the most powerful voice I had ever heard. So loud. He could do anything and go as high as we wanted. It was like a kid discovering he had a new toy. I left there super-pumped knowing that not only could we make him pass as a singer in the movie, but we would blow people away with what he could do.”
Rock of Ages is released in cinemas in the US and UK on June 15.