Openly gay director Adam Shankman doesn't shy away from the wild, the crazy, the absurd. He put John Travolta in a fat suit for a career-defining role in the film adaptation of the musical version of Hairspray. And now he has Tom Cruise sniffing auras, wearing an oversized chrome codpiece in the shape of a demon, and doing some major sexual calisthentics in the film adaptation of the jukebox musical Rock of Ages (which opens nationwide June 15). The film may be one of the most outlandish, bizarre Hollywood productions you've seen in QUITE some time. With a delicious line about "sewing up Debbie Harry's vagina" (and Bryan Cranston getting spanked in a purely sexual way), the jury's still out as to how general audiences will react.
Since it's all about rock gods and hair metal, there's some major homoeroticism—as there was in the late '80s. But one of the showstopping moments that will have everyone giggling (including in the screening I attended) will be the duet between Alec Baldwin (playing an aging Sunset Strip rock promoter and bar owner) and Russell Brand, his perfectly coifed sidekick. As they finish singing REO Speedwagon's "Cant Fight This Feeling," they end up in a tight embrace and lip lock.
I wouldn't say it's "passionate," as some have reported. Rather, it feels like much of the "gay" stuff that Baldwin has done over the years for Saturday Night Live: total commitment, with a wink and a nudge, since it's funny to do gay stuff. He always gets the laugh (just remember him with Adam Sandler in "Canteen Boy and the Scoutmaster").
As Baldwin recently told a reporter for THR: "It’s not like Brokeback Mountain, it’s not two leading men who you are used to getting down with some gorgeous young girl,” he said. “It’s a little more chaste because I’m older (than Brand).”
I spoke with Shankman recently and mentioned the kiss as well. He was dismissive of it being that surprising, since it's also in the Broadway version of Rock of Ages.
"The thing with Alec and Russell, A: It's in the play. B: You can't have two men singing, 'I Can't Fight This Feeling,' without going there," Shankman explained. When asked about how gay the time period was in general—but no one seemed to say anything or mind, he laughed and said: "Nobody thought any of it was weird. It was all pageantry. It was living theater."
Baldwin doesn't want people to think that he's just poking fun. We all know he has a serious side. He went further when he told THR: "We live in an age, and I’m being imprecise here, where half the country gets it, and the other half doesn’t. I live where men and women who want to get married—who gives a shit? No one gives it a thought. It’s like seeing women in power. Or like seeing African-American CEOs. We’re in a fully realized age of equality in all things and it’s not surprising or new. But there is that other half for whom that is surprising and new.”