In the new musical Burlesque, opening over the Thanksgiving holiday, Cam Gigandet portrays Jack, the confidante of small-town girl Ali Rose (Christina Aguilera), who has come to the big city in the pursuit of her dream to be a singing star. A fellow musician, Jack is shy about his own songwriting as he encourages Ali to take her rightful place on the stage.
The two have an undeniable and playful chemistry, that allowed them to have fun both on screen and off, even for their more intimate moments. During a recent interview at the film’s press day, the Twilight star talked about meeting and working with Cher and Christina Aguilera, doing on screen nudity and surviving L.A. when he first moved to town. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: What was it like to meet Cher for the first time? Were you nervous?
CAM GIGANDET: I was nervous meeting Cher because it’s Cher. When I was walking on my way to meet her, I just got so much anxiety, and then, within 30 seconds of meeting her, all my nerves were gone. She had my guard down. I was sitting there talking to her and she was so relaxed and just one of the coolest chicks I have ever met. I kept having to remind myself, “Wait, this is Cher. You’re talking to Cher.” It was a surreal moment, and then, I got to watch her work. People who have been in it for so long tend to take less risks, but take after take, she would take a risk and play around and try new things, every single time. I was blown away the entire time.
Did she give you any career advice, at all?
GIGANDET: I know that Christina and Cher had a number of talks, that Christina called their “girl talks.” It was such an exciting thing to see because you would hear or see Christina and Cher talking, and you’d seen Cher give Christina a piece of advice, even if it was just in passing, and Christina would just light up and be glowing for the rest of the day. Cher is such an idol of Christina’s, and her confidence would be boosted. The greatest thing for me was just to able to watch somebody as experienced as Cher have as much freedom as she had, and see her play around. She set such an example for the entire cast. Even with Stanley Tucci, they were such pros and they made it look absolutely effortless. I can take that with me forever.
Cher has had a film career, but Christina Aguilera hasn’t. What was it like working on dramatic scenes with her?
GIGANDET: She has such an amazing work ethic that, if she was on set and there to work, whatever scene it was, she was fully there. She was open to learn. There was no ego surrounding her, as a music artist, when she came on the set to be an actress, so it was such a pleasure to work with her because I was able to watch someone figuring things out for the first time, finding their own process and figuring their way through how they work themselves. She learned things so fast. And to be able to help in whatever way I possibly could it made it cool to say I was working with Christina Aguilera on her first role.
GIGANDET: No, I didn’t. I was working on another movie at Screen Gems at that time, called Priest. I was all dirty in a leather cowboy outfit, killing vampires, and then I’d go straight over to the Burlesque stage and listen to Christina Aguilera songs that were just blaring. At that moment, I was like, “All right, I have to be a part of this movie.” It was such a complete reversal of roles. Fortunately, they enjoyed what I had done on Priest enough to give me this job.
Both Jack and Ali (Aguilera) say that they left home because there was nobody whose life they wanted. When you were a young guy, whose life did you want?
GIGANDET: No one that I knew. I was the same way. I respect so many people where I’m from, and my parents, but it was more that I had to try something new and something that I didn’t know because this world is huge and I didn’t really know anything, living in such a small little city, up in Washington. I just chose L.A. I think the main reason I chose L.A. was because it was on the same time zone that my parents were living in. It was just on a whim, right out of high school. Doing that was quite an experience. After being here for a few months, someone had said, “Hey, you should try an acting class.” That night, I knew that this is where I was going to be.
You did martial arts before acting?
GIGANDET: You know, it’s such an insult to actual martial artists that I say that I do martial arts. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved sports, and the first time I tried martial arts was when I was 10 or 11. I survived for a year, and then I tried it again when I was 17. I did it for about a year, then I moved down to L.A. and I did it for a year and a half. Maybe if you combine it all, I could be a martial artist.
How did you survive when you first got to L.A.? Did you have tough times?
GIGANDET: You know, I’ve got to say no. I was so lucky to have parents who supported me, 100%, with whatever I was doing, both financially and emotionally. Having that they made my life so much easier. Instead of becoming a bartender and trying to survive while trying to pursue your dreams, I didn’t have to worry about that aspect. I could just pursue my dreams.
How was it to do the nudity in this film? Was that fun?
GIGANDET: You can’t get out of it. It’s your job. It’s what you have to do, so why not have fun with it? I think it’s so strange when people say that it was so difficult and so hard. It’s a perk of your job, really. I got to kiss Christina Aguilera, which is not a bad thing. We didn’t know what that scene was going to actually going to end up as. Whatever felt natural, at that exact time, was what we ended up going with. It was a collaborative decision-making process.
Were the tattoos your idea for the character?
GIGANDET: Yeah, those were my idea because they were done five years ago. They’re real. They are my tattoos. We had a discussion whether he would have more or have less. I always try to push them to cover the one on my arm because I’ve been in the process of getting it removed for the past three years and it’s just always a reminder. Whenever I see it up on screen, I’m just like, “Oh, gosh, what were you thinking, you psycho.”
Did you learn how to really play the piano for this?
GIGANDET: No. A few days prior to filming, they were like, “All right, we want to make it look real,” so I was like, “I can learn it,” but I was wrong. It’s very difficult to play the piano. I can’t hear music. I don’t understand it. It’s so above and beyond me. I tried as much as I could, but two or three notes is all I ended up getting. It’s not easy.
What did you think burlesque was before you did the movie? What did you know about it?
GIGANDET: I did not know a lot. I knew it was not a strip show, but I knew it was dancing, I knew it was sexy and I knew it was entertaining. What I didn’t know was how humorous it can be and how it’s not taking itself seriously. It’s actual entertainment. It’s an actual art form, which actually made it even sexier because there is that mystique and playfulness in there.