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WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING YOU DID IN TACKLING ROCK OF AGES? Well, I never saw the stage show. I'm gonna! But I wanted to be writing from as clear a place as possible. I always tried to honor the material and honor [playwright] Chris D'Arienzo's amazing work, but I didn't want to pollute my own process. So I read his script, then I had my own opinions of where it could be stronger for the movie. Then I met with the director, and he said he wanted it to be this and this, or "I want more jokes here," or "I want this character to be this." You know, you have opportunities in film that you can't have onstage. Onstage you often have broader jokes and you have to play things bigger, and the characters can be more bombastic. But in a movie, just because of the nature of how close the lens gets to people, you have to ground characters and make them a little more real. You can also get away with more subtle jokes. Or you can do crazy things like have big sweeping shots of stadiums, or you can have a monkey.

SO YOU HAVE MALIN AKERMAN, PLAYING A JOURNALIST, AND YOU HAVE TOM CRUISE AS A JADED ROCK SINGER WHO HAS A MONKEY AS AN ASSISTANT. IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO WRITE FOR TOM CRUISE, OR FOR THE JOURNALIST, OR FOR THE MONKEY? The journalist is picking up plot, so that's that. But writing for the monkey was just pure fun. Basically, any scene between two people can be funny. But you put a monkey in the room, smashing up furniture, and breaking plates, then by nature it's more threatening and funny. I even wrote in wardrobe for the monkey, giving him little Gaddafi outfits.

THE FILM IS FILLED WITH SONGS BY FOREIGNER AND JOURNEY AND REO SPEEDWAGON, MUSIC THAT MANY PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO FORGET. IS THAT WHAT YOU WERE LISTENING TO IN THE '80S? This music was inescapable [laughs]. I owned a couple of those records, but I somehow knew the words to every single song. At the time, I was listening to this stuff and to a lot of DC hardcore, some punk, some new wave, the Rolling Stones. I remember making out with a girl behind a basketball court listening to [Night Ranger's] "Sister Christian," trying to get my hand up her shirt.

TOO MUCH INFORMATION. I was 14, for God's sake. I was raging.

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