It’s been a tough year for singer-songwriter Christina Aguilera – she released a new album, "Bionic," which didn’t do well; her summer concert tour was canceled; she got a divorce after 4 1/2 years of marriage; and made her film debut in “Burlesque,” co-starring Cher, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell and Cam Gigandet.
Directed by Steven Antin, “Burlesque” is basically another story about a country girl who makes it big in the city. Aguilera plays Ali, a spunky Iowa waitress who hungers for the stage and big lights. She heads off to LA where she soon ends up at a Sunset Strip burlesque club on the verge of bankruptcy, pestering the owner (Cher) for a job, romancing the bartender (Gigandet) and dealing with the club’s resident dancer shrew (Bell).
In one scene, when Ali finally gets her chance to dance and lip synch on the stage, Bell’s character pulls the plug on the music and she is forced to improvise. “That scene I could definitely identify with,” said Aguilera, who turns 30 on Dec 18. “When I was singing once as a child, someone pulled the plug on me. They didn’t believe I was actually singing.”
Aguilera, who lived in Japan from 1983-86, got her start in showbiz in “The Mickey Mouse Club” on TV (1993-95). She quickly became a success as a recording artist, winning four Grammys among numerous awards along the way. But acting in a film was another matter altogether.
Antin, a director of several music videos, said he wrote the part of Ali with Aguilera in mind. “I knew she was a great singer and dancer, and I could also sense that she had an innate acting ability. She went toe to toe with Cher and Stanley Tucci.”
Aguilera said it was easy for her to get into character because “Cher is one of my idols. Even though I was a newcomer, she was warm and gave me a hug every day on the set. She taught me to use my natural instincts.” Bell, 30, was also full of praise for the 64-year-old Cher. “She is so iconic and speaks her mind. There is nothing fake about what she says.”
For the film, Aguilera wrote three songs – “Express,” “Bound to You” and the theme “Burlesque,” in addition to performing covers of songs by Etta James and Mae West. But it was learning the dance moves that was the toughest for both Aguilera and Bell.
“We had a lot of great teachers and they worked us day in, day out,” said Aguilera. “Although dancing has been part of my routine, I am a vocalist first and foremost, so it was a big challenge to look as if I could blend in with the terrific professional back-up dancers on stage. I learned a lot that I will continue to use.”
Bell, best known to TV audiences for her work in “Heroes,” said that she was reluctant at first to appear in “Burlesque.” “In America, there is a tendency to think of burlesque dancing as stripping,” she said. “I didn’t realize how beautiful and difficult it was until I tried it. I saw professionals doing it with sprained ankles. The other inducement for me was playing a morally bankrupt character, since I usually get offered a lot of good-girl roles.”
"Burlesque" opens in Japan on Dec 18.© Japan Today