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Julianne Hough, ‘Rock of Ages’: Multi-Talented Star Talks Tom Cruise, Baboons and Strip Clubs

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Julianne Hough has come a far way from the 18-year old dancer who twirled her way into our hearts on “Dancing With The Stars” in 2007. The blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty quickly showed that she was far more than just a hoofer: in 2008 she released her debut album on Mercury Nashville Records and in 2011 starred in the remake of “Footloose.”

On Friday, “Rock of Ages” opens in theaters across the country. In her biggest role yet, Hough stars as Sherrie Christian, a small-town girl with big-time dreams of making it in Hollywood as a singer. Her character takes a detour as a stripper before getting back on track in the musical, which is built around beloved rock songs from the ’80s.

Sitting in a suite in the London Hotel in Los Angeles recently with her sister and nephew, whom she proudly declared would be her date for the MTV Movie Awards later that night, Hough told The Boot about her continuing Nashville dreams, how Tom Cruise took her breath away, and the key to acting opposite a baboon.

You were born in 1988, the year after “Rock of Ages” takes place. Was there anything in the movie that you thought must be overly exaggerated in terms of the outrageous hairstyles and fashion?

Not at all because I saw all the pictures of my family growing up in the ’80s and my dad’s hair that was past his shoulders and his mustache … it was pretty epic. In the early ’90s, I saw my sister’s hair which was basically my stripper hair that I had, which was to the side and big and curly so I can only imagine. It was probably even bigger in the ’80s.

The movie is full of rock songs from the ’80s. How familiar were you with the material?

My dad loved classic rock, like Bruce Springsteen, U2 and all the hair metal bands. On the way to our family vacation house, we’d be driving, all seven of us, in our big red van and everybody else would be asleep and my dad and I would be jamming out. I didn’t realize that I actually knew most of these songs. I was thinking I’ll probably have to learn them and then I was like, “I know this song! Oh wait! I know this one too!”

Who was more intimidating? Tom Cruise or the baboon who plays his buddy, Hey Man?

I actually was excited for the baboon because I’ve wanted a monkey since I was 5 years old. The baboon was probably bigger or scarier than I expected it to be, especially when it got loose and the trainers were like “Don’t anybody move!” Everybody froze. We were too afraid to move and then they lured it in with paella and everything was fine.

There’s a great scene when Tom Cruise comes out as rock icon Stacee Jaxx. You look starstruck when he starts talking to you and puts his hand on your chest. Did that take much acting on your part?

No, that was full-on real life! [laughs] I’m literally meeting Stacee Jaxx for the first time and this was the first scene I ever did with Tom in the movie. I’m literally looking up [at Cruise], and when he says, “You’ve got a perky heart,” there wasn’t a lot of acting going on because I was very nervous and I kept saying that I was messing up in the scene so we’d have to do it over and over and over [laughs] …”One more, one more.”

Dave M. Benett, Getty Images

I interviewed Mary J. Blige and asked if your relationship in real life mirrored the sweet, mentoring relationship between Justice, the strip club owner she plays, and Sherrie.

What did she say?

She said he loved you, but you needed no help from her. You were very smart.

She is probably the most amazing woman that I’ve ever met and become friends with. [She] and I really bonded while we were doing those scene because those were long hours and I walked in and I was ranting and raving about something and I was just going to town and I turned around and Mary J. was right there and she was like, “Yeah, I like you.” She was like, “You’re a sassy pistol aren’t you?” and I’m like, “Yeah, I guess I am.” And from then on, we hit it off.

What was your least favorite scene to shoot in the movie?

[SPOILER ALERT]: It was when [Sherrie's boyfriend] Drew and Sherrie are both up on the Hollywood sign [after breaking up] … We were standing on top of a landfill because it was the only hill in Miami. It had just rained and the smell and the humidity, the flies going up your nose and your mouth, it was not great.

So the anguish that you felt was real?

It was full-on real. Those tears in my eyes were actually sweat.

I heard that you and your boyfriend Ryan Seacrest went to strip clubs to help you prepare.

I implied that, I didn’t actually say that. [laughs] Yeah, we were in Miami, you walk down the street and you’re in a strip club. It was fun! Might as well, right?

Those strippers in the movie were more like acrobats. Could you do all that stuff?

No, not at all. I could do all that stuff like staying planted on the ground and moving around the pole, but doing the stuff where they’re climbing and holding themselves out from the pole and walking on air, when it looks like they’re walking down steps, it’s incredible. They’ve got some ripped bodies, that’s for sure.

What’s happening with your music career? You finished your second album for Mercury Nashville awhile ago, right?

It’s completely done. I was really, really looking forward to the record and we released one single from it and it didn’t do too well. Then “Footloose” came about, and everything has been having a lot of momentum with my films. Once you’re on the train, you better ride it so I’m here doing this and I’m loving it. I feel like when I have the time to focus on it, and when I feel like it is the right time, [I'll return to] my music. I love performing. If I’m not performing, there’s something missing in my life. I hope it will happen sooner rather than later, but I’m not gone.

Your two dogs, Lexi and Harley, have blogs and fans correspond with your dogs as if they have opposable thumbs and can type.

[People] comment more on their blogs than on mine! They are more famous and cuter, and they give a lot more kisses freely, that’s for sure.

Watch Julianne Hough Sing Live in Our Studio
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Watch the ‘Rock of Ages’ Trailer

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