Emmy-award winner Mia Michaels, best known for her judging and contemporary choreography on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance, talked with Socialite Life about creating the rock moves featured in this summer’s musical film, Rock of Ages. This up-beat musical follows the love story of a young couple during the 1980’s pop metal era and features Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Julianne Hough.
Though she was hesitant on transforming these stars into musical dance sensations, Mia tells us that Rock of Ages was one of her most favorite experiences and even helped her land her first acting gig in Step Up 4, premiering later this year.
Aside from teaching, working on an upcoming book, a clothing line, and directing a short film, Mia Michaels says she loves taking on new challenges even if it means working on set with a crazy monkey!
Read what Mia Michaels shared with us about the upcoming film Rock of Ages, premiering June 15.
What was it like to work with such a wide variety of talent on this film?
It was awesome. Rock of Ages was one of my favorite experiences as a choreographer because it was just all over the map with celebrities. For me it was different because it wasn’t contemporary which is what I’m known for. It was super work and rock & roll, which is something in complete opposite of what people know me for creating. I’m doing work with stripper poles, strippers, and rock performances.
Who wowed you the most with his/her dancing abilities?
I had a bunch of amazing dancers we brought in from New York and LA for the big dance scene, but my biggest hero was definitely Tom Cruise. He’s so sexy in this character, which fits him very well. He stepped in, worked out, danced everyday, took singing lessons, guitar lessons, he was just fully activated for this role and it was really awesome to see his transformation. His work ethic is also one of the most amazing work ethics I’ve ever been blessed to work with. He is inspiring because he is so relentless about being optimal. I personally think he could be Oscar nominated for this role. He is unbelievable.
What were the biggest challenges you faced while choreographing this film?
The schedule was really rough because they had to work around the celebrities’ schedules. We literally worked 7 days a week and sometimes 18-20 hours a day so we looked like cross-eyed trolls. We were so tired, but looking back at it now, I think about how much fun it was. It was great.
Looking back on some of your work from SYTYCD, do the pieces in this film reflect any of those or is this something completely fresh?
Completely fresh! It’s more up beat because I had to go 80’s and rock & roll. It was really important for me to create the stripper work, the rock & roll and the 80’s flavor but still keeping it Mia. It seemed really easy to lose my voice inside the 80’s, so it was important for me to keep my vibe inside this world I was creating, but I think I did it. I didn’t want it to be a typical Broadway number, so I made sure this felt real, organic, and raw. I saw the final cut a few weeks ago and I fell in love with it.
How did this experience help land your role on Step Up 4?
My experiences on Rock of Ages really supported my experiences on Step Up 4 because I knew what I was getting into and I had to step in and develop that character within myself. It scared the shit out of me to actually do something I’ve never done before on a level like that but it definitely came at a perfect time so I could explore that right after leaving Rock of Ages.
What inspires the creativity behind your work?
Real life inspires me. I like to create a very real place almost to the point where it’s uncomfortable.
Tell me one interesting story that happened behind the scenes?
The monkey got crazy one night! Tom Cruise has this sidekick in the movie and it’s a baboon named Hey Man, and it went crazy one night while were outside filming with hundreds of extras. It was kind of scary because he was running through the streets screaming like crazy. Everyone just froze because we didn’t want the monkey killing anybody!
Moviegoers should add Rock of Ages to their list of must see movies this summer because…
“It ‘s the shit!” (Laughs) “It’s definitely a feel good film and everyone will be singing. Its entertaining, great music, great characters, fun story, its just an awesome, fun, film. Go enjoy yourself!”