When Tom Cruise signed on to play fictional hard-rock bad-boy Stacee Jaxx in the musical "Rock of Ages," one thing was clear: His role would have to get a lot bigger. "Why would I have him there if I'm not going to use him?" director Adam Shankman offers. "Using him less would've felt like a stunt."
Enter Justin Theroux, one of the film's three credited screenwriters, who previously wrote "Tropic Thunder," featuring Cruise's attention-grabbing performance as Hollywood mogul Les Grossman. "The Stacee Jaxx character is very different from the Stacee Jaxx that was onstage," Theroux says, explaining that a lot of the change came from casting Cruise for the role. "It was more sort of a strung-out, druggie, drink-y character. We basically made him weirder and more fun. We added a monkey who was his best friend. We did all that."
Theroux admits that comedy in general is still a surprise coming from Cruise. "He's got such an amazing career as an action star and as a dramatic actor," he says. "Comedy's not something he really needs to do. But he does, and he's really effective at it because he approaches it like, 'I'm just going to play it straight.'"
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With two movies under his belt now writing for the detail-oriented Cruise, Theroux admits he's developed quite a rapport with the actor. "He's got great ideas. When we were developing the monkey part, it came out of a conversation of like, 'Who would this guy have as a friend?' And then he was like, 'What do we call him?' And then he was like, 'Hey man, what if we just call him Hey Man?' And I was like, 'That's hysterical. I don't even know why it's funny, but it is.'"