Julianne Hough is a girl with a lot of strings to her bow. The 23-year-old is a professional ballroom dancer, a two-time champion of

She’s also an actress, having made her debut in ‘Burlesque’, and then starring in last year’s remake of ‘Footloose’.

Now, Hough’s movie career is about to move into another key with her lead role in the movie adaptation of the 1980s-set stage musical ‘Rock of Ages’.

In it, she plays Sherrie Christian, an innocent country girl who moves to LA to pursue her dreams of stardom.

She lands a job waitressing in a hard-core rock bar, managed by Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, and soon falls for her co-worker (played by Diego Boneta).

The cast also includes Catherine Zeta Jones, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta Jones, and a sensational Tom Cruise as debauched rocker Stacee Jaxx.

Movies.ie caught up with Julianne to discuss Rock-ing out and working with The Cruiser, as well as her relationship with boyfriend Ryan Seacrest and her tabloid-favourite dancer brother Derek Hough…

Movies.ie : You’re mainly a country singer by profession and experience. How did you convince director Adam Shankman that you could be a rock chick?
JH: Adam actually directed one of my music videos before, and I remember afterwards he said, ‘I’m working on a project. Let me send you a script in a couple of months’. I was like, ‘Erm, okay’. I mean, I hadn’t even shot Footloose at that stage.
So Adam sent me the script, but at first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do another musical. Then he said, ‘Alright, well we have Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin…’, and at that point I said, ‘I’m in!’
I think he had me in mind, but I definitely had to convince the studio and the executives that I could do it. It helps when the director wants you involved.

Movies.ie : The role of the ingénue Sherrie almost calls out to be played by a fresh-faced relative unknown doesn’t it?
JH: Yes, I’m lucky in that sense. It’s nice to discover this world through her eyes. She doesn’t really know anything about it, and doesn’t have any preconceived notions about what these characters have done already.

Movies.ie : The big talking point of the movie is Tom Cruise’s performance as Stacee Jaxx. What was it like working with him, especially when he’s doing something he’s never tried before?
JH: It’s exciting. Nobody expected him to do what he did in Tropic Thunder either. I think playing a rock star, and getting the chance to sing and dance is something that Tom has wanted to do for a long time.
He was so dedicated and focused. His work ethic is out of this world. But I think the added little pressure of having to sing, and to transform into a character that was so opposite of what he’s like, required more of him. He brought everyone else’s game up.
I grew up in a world of discipline and hard work, and that’s always been my mentality. To be able to work with somebody who thinks that way too wasamazing.

Movies.ie : Did you sit learning at his feet?
JH: Absolutely – and he was so cool about it too. He was like, ‘If there’s anything you want to know, just ask me’, and, ‘If you ever want to just come on set and watch, do it’. He was very open and welcoming. Not only does he give 110pc every single time, he brings this energy to the set that helps everyone else too.

Movies.ie : It’s a great networking movie for you given that cast?
JH: I couldn’t have asked for a more ideal cast! Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago is one of my favourites performances ever, so it was crazy to share this experience with her. And Mary J Blige and I became really close friends. We chat all the time and always see each other.
I just did another movie with Russell [Brand] so we had that built-in foundation of friendship, which made that other shoot even more fun.
The experience definitely made me feel confident about going into a big Hollywood set or party or a room where you don’t know anybody!

Movies.ie : You’re already quite well known in the US through your TV work, and your relationship with Ryan Seacrest, but Rock of Ages looks set to make you globally famous. Are you ready for that?
JH: I haven’t really thought about it. How can you be ready for anything like that? I guess you hope for the best. My boyfriend and I are kind of private anyway. We’re homebodies. We like to stay at home playing with the dogs and cooking dinner. We don’t go out too much. He’s so much more high profile than I am. He has difficulty walking down the street without a hat and sunglasses, but I definitely don’t unless I’m with him! I don’t know what to expect now, but I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and deal with it then.

Movies.ie : What do your family make of this? Do they treat you like a star?
JH: My immediate family keeps me grounded. But some of cousins and family members who I wouldn’t be as super-close with, I guess I hear from them a bit more often now!

Movies.ie : You’ve just finished shooting Diablo Cody’s [as yet untitled] directorial debut. Can you tell us a little about that?
JH: It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I play a Christian girl who survives a plane crash and stops believing everything she has ever been taught. She goes to Las Vegas to drink and dance, and meets all these people along the way. She’s finding out where she is, and her faith factors into it at every point. It’s really fantastic.

Movies.ie : On the topic of faith, you were raised as a Mormon, and now a Mormon [Mitt Romney] is running for President in the US. Will you be getting involved with his campaign?
JH: For me, now, the relationship you have with God or whoever is between you and that [deity]. I don’t think I need to go out there and publicly be like, ‘This is what I believe’.

Movies.ie : What’s next for you?
JH: I’m doing another film after this, and my brother Derek and I are creating a couple of TV shows and live shows.

Movies.ie : Derek is very well known over here, mainly in the tabloid press. Do you follow all of that?
JH: I know, the poor thing! I know the press and the tabloids in Europe are a lot more in-your-face than it is here, and I don’t want to say anything that’s too out of turn when it comes to family. I know everything that’s out there, let’s put it that way.

Words : Declan Cashin
Rock of Ages is at cinemas from June 15th