In Rock of Ages Tom Cruise plays superstar Stacee Jaxx. He’s Ozzy Osbourne with Axl Rose’s attitude and Prince’s trademarked revealing chaps, a spicy stew of rebellion, decadence and Jack Daniels.
The first time we see Jaxx in the film he’s on a round bed, buried under several scantily clad women. It’s a memorable first look at the character, but it’s not exactly an original one.
Director Adam Shankman admits that the idea came from a similar scene — featuring KISS singer Paul Stanley — in the heavy metal documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.
It’s not the first time a music movie has taken its cue from real rock life.
For a year before shooting playing Jim Morrison in The Doors Val Kilmer immersed himself in the singer’s life, wearing his clothes and spending time at the Lizard King’s favorite Sunset Strip bars.
Despite the film’s many factual errors — drummer John Densmore claims “A third of it is fiction” — the recording studio scene where Jim smashes a TV is true, and even Jim’s disgruntled ex-band mates said they couldn’t distinguish Kilmer’s voice from the real Morrison’s.
The Doors weren’t the only musicians fooled by an actor.
Joan Jett was annoyed that Kristen Stewart wore leather pants when playing her in The Runaways — it would have been more authentic if she had worn jeans she said — but she was impressed with Stewart’s voice. When she first heard a recording of the actress belting out one of her songs she thought it was actually a tape of her old band.
Sex Pistols’ singer Johnny Rotten dismissed Sid and Nancy — the story of Sid Vicious’s life and death — as “mere fantasy” but Gary Oldham bought at least one authentic bit of Sid to the film by wearing the bass player’s real chain necklace in several scenes. Sid’s mom gave the actor the necklace to wear during filming.
Just as Shankman and Cruise borrowed from The Decline of Western Civilization, the Bob Dylan doc Don’t Look Back has inspired scenes in movies such as Bob Roberts and I’m Not There.
The mockumentary Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story parodies the movie in a press conference scene when a reporter compares Dewey to Dylan. “Why doesn’t anyone ask Bob Dylan why he sounds so much like Dewey Cox?” Dewey replies, echoing Dylan’s response to a reporter who likened Dylan to singer-songwriter Donovan.
Some facts about the Rock of Ages movie:
• Decisions. Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell were considered for Alec Baldwin’s role; and Taylor Swift was considered for Julianne Hough’s.
• Location. The film was shot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
• Big budget. It cost more than $70 million to make.