By Erin Strecker
Updated May 16, 2012 at 04:35 PM EDT
Rock Of Ages
Credit: David James
  • Movie

Tom Cruise has done it all: Danced in his underwear, flew a jet plane, suffered a PR meltdown, and scaled the tallest building in the world. But there’s one mission he’s yet to complete: Singing seriously on film. (Bar-room bet serenades don’t count.)

That all changes with June’s Rock of Ages where he’ll play Stacee Jaxx, a rock star that belts out classic ’80s hair metal such as “Pour Some Sugar On Me” (Listen here). The actor talked with Playboyabout the role, a new start, and singing for Def Leppard’sJoe Elliott. Some of the juiciest excerpts are below:

Def Leppard was on set when he sang “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” “The lead singer, Joe Elliott, points at me and goes, “F*** you! F*** you!” Then I saw big smiles on their faces, and I realized I’d gotten their stamp. It was a very cool moment. It was important they knew I was honoring their music and not making fun of them.”

Prior to filming, Cruise had never had a singing lesson. But Axl Rose’s vocal coach helped him out and taught him how to control his voice. “It’s like learning a new sport or a skill for a character.” For the actor famous for his work ethic, that meant five hours of singing a day, plus an additional three of dance to channel Jaxx’s rock star stamina.

— Cruise knows about the groupies. He told the magazine, “[The character is] a slave to rock and roll. When he’s onstage, he gives it everything. Off it, he’s looking for soulful moments in odd ways, and that’s where the comedy comes in. We had this sweet love song, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and I’m falling in love with this girl. But it’s a sex scene, and that’s where it has to be funny, because it’s rock and roll. I read all this stuff about Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Axl Rose, Motley Crue and the groupies.”

In addition to the rock-star talk, Cruise also reflected on the Dark Times of 2005, and the ensuing public fallout from his outbursts. In the interview, he sounded like a man who’d made peace with what happened, accepted some responsibility, and was ready to move on. He told Playboy, “That time was interesting. It was that moment when the internet had really spun out. It was a learning experience for all of us, how these things go. All you can do is learn and say, “This is the way it’s going to go from now on. Here is the line. … Do I make mistakes? Yeah. I don’t care who you are, life has challenges. … [If] someone judges me harshly, it’s okay. I don’t even judge them harshly for doing it.”

Shedding some baggage, it sounds like Cruise is ready to make a fresh start. Anyone who’s seen his hilarious NSFW turn in Tropic Thunder knows he’s much funnier than he normally lets on, and a send-up of the go-big-or-go-home ’80s could be just the right role for the 49-year-old movie star in the midst of a comeback.

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Rock of Ages

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 113 minutes
  • Adam Shankman