'Burlesque' hits DVD shelves today, and Moviefone was lucky enough to chat with the film's director, Steve Antin, about his eye-popping movie musical, which stars newbie actress Christina Aguilera as an aspiring singer who climbs the ranks at a local L.A. burlesque club run by none other than Cher.
We also talked about everything that's happened since the movie hit theaters in November, from the Oscar snub of the Golden Globe–winning song 'You Haven't Seen the Last of Me' (boo!) to Cher's (undeserved!) Razzie nomination.
After the jump, read his thoughts on what inspired him to write 'Burlesque,' the future of movie-musicals in Hollywood and why America is being a little too hard on Aguilera right now.
Moviefone: I'm still mad that 'You Haven't Seen the Last of Me' was snubbed by the Oscars. What was your take on that?
Steve Antin: I don't care. Not even a little bit. I mean, I just don't. If I were gonna be mad that it got snubbed, I'd have to be upset that 'Bound to You' [was snubbed, too], which is the most spectacular song. I mean, really listen to Christina [Aguilera's] 'Bound to You.' It's jaw-dropping. It's so good. The song got recognized by the Golden Globes, and it really doesn't add up to much for me at all, any of it. It's all nice, but I don't care. I just don't. Isn't that weird? [Laughs]
Were you at least upset that Cher was targeted by the Razzies? I thought she was awesome in the movie.
To tell you the truth, I don't even know what the Razzies are ... People know not to talk to me about anything negative in connection with the movie, or reference to the movie, or any press or anything, because I won't hear it. I just don't care. Look: The movie's ripe for people to take shots at. It's a big, fun, silly romantic comedy-musical. It's so not meant to be taken seriously. It's just a throwback. If you look at some of the musicals that inspired this movie, like 'Gold Diggers of 1933,' and all those MGM musicals, they were thin, you know? [Laughs] They were really thin! And they were just fun, they were just feel-good movies. People just wanted to go to the movies to have a good time. And that's really the kind of movie that I set out to make, just a fun, feel-good movie.
Not every movie has to be 'Citizen Kane.'
No, it doesn't. Listen: If you're going to see 'American Beauty,' you're in the wrong theater. [Laughs]
I know you've said in previous interviews that it took a long time to get Cher to sign on. How long did it actually take?
Gosh, I really don't know the timeline, exactly. But it took a long time, because she said yes, and then she said no, and then she said yes, and then she said no, and yes and no, and yes and no, and yes and no, and then no. She just kept changing her mind and texting me at four in the morning, saying, "Oh God, I think I made a mistake. I can't do this movie!" And that's just her. That's her way of getting there. But it was a process.
Did you have any kind of back-up plan just in case?
No! [Laughs] How stupid was I, right? I had total blind faith. I'd get her back in a room, or get on the phone with her, and then she would say, "Yes, yes, yes. You're right, you're right, you're right, you're right." And I just knew that was going to be the process. I knew that from early on.
And it worked!
Yeah, it did! I just hoped that she would show up the first day. [Laughs] That was my biggest fear. And she did! The thing about Cher is, once she's in, she's in. There's no question about it. It was just making sure that she was there the first day.
Cher had a lot of chemistry with Christina Aguilera in the movie. How much of that was natural?
It really was a lot of natural chemistry when they first met. They really liked each other, thank God! It could have been tough. You never know how actors are going to respond to each other. They had this sort of mutual admiration society thing going. They really appreciated each other, and respected each other and really enjoyed each other's company. They really had a good time being in scenes together.
This was Christina's big-screen debut. Was there a lot of hand-holding involved?
Yeah, a lot. I promised her that I would take care of her, and that I would work closely with her, and that I would push her when I felt like she needed to be pushed and would watch [her] with a very critical eye. And I did. She never said no to anything. Every time I said, "We gotta do it again, we gotta do it again. We gotta do it like this, we gotta do it like that," she was always, always, always up for the challenge. And I was surprised. I really was, because I really didn't know what to expect -- from Cher or Christina -- once I got on the set, because you never know.
Christina was such a trooper. It really was a collaboration. We talked about [her character] Ali, the scenes, the character, her arc, her performance and how to get there endlessly. We were in a lot of rehearsals together, too. She has an extraordinary learning curve, Christina, so by halfway through the movie, she was a completely different actor than she was from the first day. She just learned so much -- and so fast. She's a little bit like a freaky sponge. That's why she's Christina Aguilera. She's just so good. She really pays attention, and watches and takes it all in. She's an incredibly intelligent, thoughtful person. She really exceeded everybody's expectations.
Do you think people are being a little too hard on her after the Super Bowl incident?
Oh, God. I'm so unaware of it. I don't even know. I heard a little bit about it. I watched her sing on the Super Bowl. No one sings the National Anthem likes Christina Aguilera, so they should f*ck themselves, you know? [Laughs] I mean, if anybody's saying anything negative about her ... She is the voice of a generation, there are no two ways about it. She's an extraordinary, talented young woman. She's very hard-working, really focused; she's a great mom. Maybe they are being too hard on her. I really don't know. I just completely turn in the opposite direction from any of that weird criticism and negativity. I just won't hear it.
You were talking before about how 'Burlesque' was a throwback to old-school musicals. Did you have a specific movie in mind while writing it?
I had a bunch. I mean, there were so many movies that inspired me -- all the musicals from Hollywood's Golden Age to, obviously, 'Cabaret.' There were so many movies that became like a dictionary of reference and information for me; that inspired me. It's an endless list of musicals that I watched as a kid, and I loved and enjoyed. I still have some musicals in me ... There's a different kind of a musical that I'm gonna make next. It's completely different than 'Burlesque.' Totally, totally, totally different.
Is that your next project?
I don't know. It might be. I'm not sure ... I've got some other things happening, some other musicals. I've got several musicals in development, so [we'll] see. I've got a thriller in development, too. And I have a TV show in development that I'm executive producing that I co-worte with Dave Goldberg. But I don't know. I just needed to take, like, five seconds and take a deep breath and say, "What the hell am I gonna do next?"
Back when 'Moulin Rouge!' and 'Chicago' came out, it seemed like the movie-musical had made an official comeback in Hollywood. Now that's sort of stalled. Do you think there's still a place in Hollywood for the genre?
Unquestionably. I don't see that it's stalled at all. Like, where? I mean, 'Burlesque' is creeping up towards $100 million worldwide. That's a lot of money ... I wouldn't say it's a genre that's dying. There are a lot of musicals [that] people are talking about every day. There are fewer movies being made on the whole, obviously, so it might feel like that. But no, it doesn't seem like there are any less being made than there were 10 years ago. I don't think so. Unless I'm totally wrong. What the hell do I know? Here's the truth: I know a little about a lot. [Laughs]
Well, they're remaking 'A Star Is Born' and 'The Bodyguard,' apparently, so maybe I'm wrong.
Exactly. Clint Eastwood is making 'A Star Is Born,' right? Go figure!
Did you learn anything new about 'Burlesque' while doing the DVD commentary?
I don't even remember the commentary. I was in a fog. I was in post-production, and I had just fallen down a staircase, like, two days before. [Laughs] I literally fell down a staircase coming out of the post-production facility one night; I tore my rotator cuff. The intensity of making the movie and going right into the post-production process in a musical of this scale, I wish I could remember what I said on the director's commentary. But I'm sure it was all nonsensical. [Laughs] I'm sure I made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I barely remember doing it, except that the guy who was running the session was actually really, really, really lovely. That's what I do remember. [He had] actually worked on another movie that I had done years ago as an actor, Sandra Bernhard's movie 'Without You I'm Nothing.'
You began your Hollywood career as an actor. Do you still get recognized for your roles in movies like 'The Goonies' and 'The Accused'?
I do! The problem is, I don't remember any of those movies or what I did in them, because I never saw them. Actually, that's not true. I saw 'The Accused' once with Jodie [Foster]. Jodie said to me, I remember, "You gotta be able to go to the movies and watch yourself with an audience." And we did one night. We went somewhere and watched the movie, and I think I sort of, like, had my hand covering my eyes. I don't like to watch myself in movies, so most of the things that I've done -- there are a few that I've seen -- I've never really watched. I would see, like, a rough cut maybe once, and then I wouldn't watch it again, because I just wasn't a big fan of my acting work. [Laughs] I was doing it since I was nine years old. It was a job. But I learned a lot being an actor. But people do recognize me. [They'll say], "Can you tell me about that scene where so and so ...?" And I'm like, "I don't even remember the scene." [Laughs]