Rock of Ages: Hollywood Sign and Other Locations

The film required designer Hutman to recreate the world famous Hollywood Sign—where the couple, Drew and Sherrie, have their first date—on top of a 250-foot landfill, the highest point in South Florida.

Other key locations for the film included the Hard Rock Live arena in Broward County, used as a venue for a live concert; the ancient Spanish monastery off the Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach, which served as a church where Patricia Whitmore’s supporters gather; a residence in Coral Gables; the Biltmore Hotel; Crescent Moon Studios, which housed Pau Gill’s office; the Imperial Penthouse, which doubled as Stacee Jaxx’s room at the Chateau Marmont; Boomers Family Fun Center in Dania Beach; and Miami’s Ice Palace in Overtown, which became Stacee’s dressing room, green room, and a locale for additional stage work.

Though Hutman’s team set the scene, it was up to costume designer Rita Ryack to fill it with fashions from the time. “We were going for heightened realism,” she says. “Leather pants, shoulder pads, wide belts and fringe were all hard to resist, but we wanted to stay away from the wardrobe becoming a joke, so we toned it down a bit. Adam wanted the humor to come through the characters and the story, not the clothes.”

Shankman’s directive was that “things should look and feel as they were,” and he knew that wardrobe was a key factor in pulling that off.

“I love working with Adam because he is so clear, decisive and honest, and gives me a lot of freedom; we inspire each other,” Ryack shares.

Ryack’s inspiration came from many different sources, including her own closet, where she dusted off her own Betsey Johnson and Fiorucci couture. She also had unexpected help from ’80s rocker Lita Ford, who parted with some of her personal, on-stage wardrobe pieces for use in the film.

For young couple Sherrie and Drew, Ryack reflected their individual story arcs through their clothing. Diego Boneta starts in t-shirts and jeans, and later wears headbands, shiny scarves and space boots. Reflecting her metamorphosis from Midwestern girl to rocker chick, Julianne Hough went from floral dresses to denim miniskirts and cut-up Bourbon Room tees.

Her references for other characters included Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher” video’s look for Malin Akerman’s Constance Sack; Nikki Sixx for Russell Brand’s Lonny; and her own former hippie boyfriends who wore vests and kerchiefs for Alec Baldwin’s character, Dennis Dupree.

Paul Giamatti’s Paul Gill is a sleazy manager, and Ryack remembers the type well. “Every single one of them had a ponytail and an Armani jacket, no socks and an earring. It was a uniform.”

The costume designer looked to conservative political women in order to dress Catherine Zeta-Jones as Patricia Whitmore. “Neat, clean, strong colors. And, if you look closely, you can see she’s always wearing a little American flag.”

Scenes at the Venus Gentlemen’s Club called for a wide variety of styles: strippers, barbacks, waitresses, yuppies, businessmen, dirty old men, rockers and bouncers and, of course, Mary J. Blige as Justice. “I saw her as a cheap version of Krystle Carrington from ‘Dynasty,'” Ryack relates. “Mary J. has such presence; I knew she could carry it off.”

One of the most reverential and referential looks Ryack created for the film was that of rock god Stacee Jaxx. “What we did for Stacee was very specific to Tom Cruise—his face, his physicality, and his acting style,” she says. “We experimented a lot with silhouettes, too, because so often that is what you see in concert lighting. It was a fabulous process with Tom because he was so involved, and the character was so different for him. He really evokes so many rockers of that time.”

Ryack brought in authentic rock ‘n’ roll wardrobe specialists to help keep the character’s wardrobe real: Tony Sartino, a rock stylist who has worked with many important bands, provided the inspiration for Stacee Jaxx’s leather pants; a jewelry maker in Colorado made his one-of-a-kind belts; Gunner Foxx, who makes hats for many known actors, made the character’s Western hats, and even made a hat for Stacee’s pet baboon, Hey Man.

Hair and makeup played a critical role in the film as well, and one of the hair department’s biggest challenges was to bring long hair back, especially on men. On days that involved 500 extras, there were hundreds of wigs, extensions and hair pieces used to form bangs or mullets, transforming the actors and the crowd into their period looks. Hairspray and gel were staples on set.

“We weren’t very nice to our hair in the ’80s,” Camille Friend, hair department head, laughs. “We permed it, bleached it, teased it and crimped it. This was a big hair movie, there’s no denying it.”

The makeup department, led by Whitney James, was kept busy as well, with heavy eyeliner, frosty pink lipsticks, and a lot of airbrushed tattoos. Artist Michele Burke designed and applied the rock star tattoos created for Stacee Jaxx.

Adam Shankman reflects, “From creating the biggest rock star on the planet, to recreating the smallest detail of life on the Sunset Strip in the ’80s, I had a very specific vision of how ‘Rock of Ages’ was all going to come together to draw audiences in.

“I think we’ve got a funny and heartfelt story with absolutely rockin’ performances of songs we all loved so much and remembered so well, with an unbelievable cast, and I really believe audiences are gonna have the most fun they’ve had in…decades,” he smiles.