Brother-and-sister team Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot run Offspring Entertainment, the production company behind “Rock of Ages,” “17 Again” “Hairspray” and the “Step Up” films, plus more than a dozen pics and TV series in development. The sibs spoke with Variety about their easygoing relationship (they know each other so well they seem to almost finish each others’ thoughts), the things they look for when developing a project, and the way they discovered the Justin Bieber of Mexico.
Variety: With the success of all the musicals that are on TV, like “Smash” and “Glee,” are audiences more primed for “Rock of Ages”? Do you the see the popularity of musicals growing?
Adam Shankman: People are used to having dancing and singing in their homes (on TV), so it’s not that strange for them to have it out there in the marketplace.
Jennifer Gibgot: What sets “Rock of Ages” apart, and attracted Adam to the material in the first place, was … that (it) will actually appeal to males. … When he saw the show, he said, “This is ‘Mamma Mia’ for dudes.”
AS: It actually skews male.
JG: In our first preview, we scored higher with guys than we did with females. So that felt really good, because (Adam) had succeeded in his mission.
V: Did it help having all these familiar songs in terms of telling a story?
AS: It was actually really challenging because none of the songs are written for the characters. The words are all very generic. For example, (for a scene that uses the songs) “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “We Built This City,” I went through with a highlighter pen, and highlighted all the lyrics that worked, and in “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” the only thing that worked was the chorus. I said to Adam Anders, the music producer, “You can only use this from this song, but then just put this in the other character’s mouth, and that works.” That’s literally how I went through (the whole thing).
V: In terms of how the producer rolls break down, do you each do different things on a production? What do you gravitate toward, Adam, when you’re just producing vs. directing and producing?
AS: Jen initially starts out on those projects much more working with the writer, and she basically will say to me, it’s not ready for you to look at yet. And then, once it’s gotten to a certain point where she decides she wants my point of view, then she’ll show it to me, and I’ll get in there.
V: Is it harder to cast a movie like this — to find someone who sings, dances and can act well these days?
AS: There’s more (talent out there) than you would imagine, because a lot of these actors came from high school theater programs where they had to do (it) all. (Still), it narrows the field. With “Hairspray,” all of the adults in the movie had all done musicals before. This (film) was weird because the only (actor) I had that had ever done anything like this was Catherine (Zeta-Jones). With each (of the others), it was a calculated gamble.
JG: The amazing thing about casting this movie was how many people wanted to be in a musical. That, and how many people (can) sing.
V: Did you pretty much know before you cast the film that everybody could sing?
AS: Oh God, yeah. Alec (Baldwin) I had seen sing on “Saturday Night Live,” so I knew he was OK. Paul Giamatti I had seen in “Duets.” Tom was the big, “we don’t know if that’s going to work,” but we found out it did, in a big way. Catherine I knew was fine. Catherine’s character, by the way, wasn’t even created until about four weeks before we started shooting.
AS: We didn’t know if Malin (Akerman) could sing, but then she came forward and was like, “I was in a band.” Diego (Boneta), I (discovered was) once upon a time, the Justin Bieber of Mexico City. He was a huge pop star in Mexico.
V: There seems to be a freer exchange these days between movies and Broadway. Offspring and New Line recently optioned a Country & Western pitch that will incorporate songs from stars like Taylor Swift and Johnny Cash. That sounds like something that could very much turn into a Broadway project. Is that something you’re conscious of when you’re talking with studios?
JG: The country pitch actually was born out of (the idea that) this is an untapped market. Adam, I haven’t even told you this, but I heard that they’re making a stage production of “17 Again.”
AS: How can they do that without us?
JG: There’s no question that Broadway is going through every movie out there to figure out what’s a good idea. (But) I would not say that we go out there when we’re trying to come up with a movie and say, “Will this be a good Broadway show?”
V: Did you guys shoot on a soundstage — because it looked like a hybrid of the strip?
AS: It was a hybrid of the strip that we built on a street in a ghetto of Miami. And then all of the interiors were built inside of a nightclub around the corner from the street.
V: It’s sort of like a stylized version of L.A., which plays into the film, because people can come to the city expecting one thing, and then maybe get something else.
AS: People think all of Los Angeles is Hollywood. Everything just looks like Hollywood to them, and you get here, and you realize it’s this massive, weird string of suburbs.