'Rock of Ages' Casts Lead: Mexican Singer-Actor Diego Boneta

6:02 PM PST 04/04/2011 by Borys Kit
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Diego Boneta

Russell Brand also is in final negotiations to join Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige and Julianne Hough and Adam Shankman's adaptation of the Broadway musical.

Mexican singer and actor Diego Boneta has nabbed the lead role in Rock of Ages, New Line and director Adam Shankman's adaptation of the Broadway musical, while Russell Brand is in final negotiations to also join the all-star ensemble.

The cast so far includes Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige and Julianne Hough. Paul Giamatti is in negotiations while Amy Adams is in talks for parts as well.

Ages tells the story, replete with hair-band music, of a small-town girl (Hough) who comes to Hollywood for the 1980s music scene and is nearly destroyed by it. Although she falls for a budding musician named Drew (Boneta), she also catches the eye of Stacee Jaxx (Cruise), an arrogant rocker at the height of his career, ends up as a stripper in a club run by Blige but also finds true love at the end.

New Line conducted a nationwide to find an unknown, ultimately landing on Boneta, whose appearances include the Mexican telenovela Rebelde, CW's 90210 and a guest star stint on ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars.

According to Shankman, the casting directors saw more than 1,000 people and first spied Boneta using actor service website Castit. He kept returning to him throughout the process, bringing him in for live auditions over the course of two months. "I really wanted to be sure," Shankman said.

Shankman wanted to hew as close to the character's age as possible, so someone such as Constantine Maroulis, who played the role on Broadway but is 35, wasn't considered.

"I think Constantine is brilliant in the play, but for the movie, it would not have felt right," Shankman said. "To be authentic, I like to cast as close to the real age as possible and wanted someone who has all the innocence and guilelessness of Drew. And that's Diego."

The movie's script, with a polish by Justin Theroux, is sticking close to the stage script, although with some tweaks. Cruise's Jaxx, for example, will not be heading into the sunset with the long arm of the law for having sex with a minor.

The movie will mostly stick with same songs as the play, although some songs will be swapped out. Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" is one of the new rockers featured.

And there will be an original tune as well, written by Adams Anders (who is also scoring the movie) and Desmond Child, and being created to sound as if it were straight out of the 1980s.

Ages begins shooting May 19 in Miami, which will double for the 1980s-era Sunset Strip and Los Angeles.

"I can't shut down the Sunset Strip for six weeks, and in Miami we're turning four blocks basically into a backlot," Shankman said. "We'll digitally add in the hills."

Hollywood Beach will double for Venice.

The actual Sunset Strip nightclubs weren't options for the shoots since the real venues are too small to accommodate shooting by a big production.

"In a musical, it's 'reality plus,' and we need more camera angles and more space. If I was in the authentic places, I'd be cramped."

And don't be surprised to see cameos from some of the rockers who originated the songs back in the day.

"I wouldn't rule out seeing some great faces," Shankman said. "Many of them have expressed interest."

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