Tom Cruise, wild man of rock! But what does REAL eighties hellraiser Mick Jones make of the film star's turn as a tattooed sex god in Rock Of Ages – and can he sing
12:00 GMT, 8 June 2012
During his Eighties heyday Mick Jones of Foreigner was the archetypal rock star. He had a Harley-Davidson Low Rider motorbike and eye-wateringly tight jeans. He over-indulged in alcohol and drugs and fell in and out of love.
He insists, however, he wasn’t anything like Stacee Jaxx, the gyrating rock god played by Tom Cruise in the movie Rock Of Ages which opens in the UK next week. In it the snake-hipped Cruise wears a bejewelled codpiece over his leather trousers, has a constant entourage of scantily clad girls and a pet baboon named Hey Man.
In one scene Cruise sings one of Foreigner’s classic songs, I Want To Know What Love Is. And he’s not miming, either.
Any similarities Foreigner's Mick Jones, pictured left on stage in 1978, insists he is nothing like Stacee Jaxx, the character played by Tom Cruise in the new movie Rock Of Ages, pictured right
In Character: Stacee Jaxx, played by Tom Cruise, wears a bejewelled codpiece over his leather trousers and has a constant entourage of scantily clad girls
‘I didn’t have a pet baboon,’ laughs Jones, who was born in Somerton, Somerset, and now lives in New York. ‘Though I did have a leather jacket made out of monkey skin that I bought second-hand. It was very un-PC, but I was too young to know the difference.’
This was, indeed, an era when everything was over the top — like Cruise’s character, closely akin to Steven Tyler or Mick Jagger on steroids. ‘He’s playing a caricature and it’s a little bit generic rock star,’ says Jones.
‘He looks like he’s studied the tapes of rock performances. Cruise isn’t a young guy any more [he turns 50 next month], but he’s hip and he’s followed music throughout his life.’
Cruise told W magazine he didn’t base his character on anyone in particular. ‘I didn’t want to imitate all these other rock stars,’ he said. ‘Stacee Jaxx had to be unique. If the audience doesn’t immediately buy into his absolute greatness, you have nothing.’
Cruise’s involvement with the film came about because of his daughter Suri’s love for the musical Hairspray. He’s watched it 15 times with her and was so impressed with its director Adam Shankman he approached him, saying: ‘Where’s our musical’ Shankman suggested Rock Of Ages.
They saw the stage production and Cruise liked the story, but decided he needed to reinvent the character of Stacee Jaxx.
Rocking out: Tom Cruise even sings in Rock of Ages – a film adaptation of the 2006 Chris D'Arienzo comedy Broadway musical of the same name
Girl's got style: Julianne Hiugh also stars in Rock Of Ages as Sherrie Christian
A perfectionist, he set about two months of vocal training and learning to play guitar — and found he had a four-octave vocal range. His only previous singing experience of note was as Nathan Detroit in a school production of Guys And Dolls.
The result is getting good reviews. ‘I was blown away by Tom Cruise’s vocal performance on I Want To Know What Love Is,’ says Jones. ‘He’s the kind of actor who completely throws himself into a role and it paid off, not only from an acting point of view but vocally, as well.’
Jones was never that flamboyant. He is a guitarist who left the real showmanship to Foreigner’s singer Lou Gramm. But it was Jones’s ability to write classic songs that made him rich and famous, selling more than 70 million albums.
Three of Foreigner’s songs which he wrote or co-wrote feature in Rock Of Ages — I Want To Know What Love Is, Waiting For A Girl Like You, and Juke Box Hero.
The real deal: Rocker Mick Jones performing in 1985
So did the film strike a chord ‘It’s a lot of fun and there are many cliches, but there are truisms, too,’ says Jones.
‘I like the scene before he sings I Want To Know What Love Is. He is being interviewed by an attractive girl from Rolling Stone magazine [Malin Akerman], who accuses him of losing whatever it was that made him great once.
‘I think I lost my way in the late Eighties and early Nineties when our success started to fade. I thought I was handling it, but in some ways I wasn’t.’
He would, he says, go on a bender for a day or two, often fuelled by alcohol and cocaine. But he says now: ‘I haven’t had anything to do with drugs or alcohol for a decade.’
In the film, Cruise’s character is accused by his journalist inquisitor of having a sense of sexual entitlement from being a rock god. Was that the case with Jones ‘Cruise’s character is not after love, but sex. I personally have been more of a love addict than a sex addict,’ he says.
‘The best part of falling in love is at the very start when you are chasing it. For 90 per cent of the time I hope I was charming to people, and then for ten per cent maybe I was an idiot. One night I was in Portsmouth and I started flirting with a pretty girl in a bar, probably slurring my words.
‘She looked at me and said: “How can an a******* like you write a song like I Want To Know What Love Is” I looked at her and I thought: “You got it right.” She made me feel like an idiot.’
Jones wrote the song in London where he lived in the early Eighties. ‘I remember playing it to Ann, who became my second wife shortly after,’ he says.
‘She said: “What do you mean you want to know what love is Don’t you know already” And I said: “Well, it’s not that kind of love.” I think it is more like a universal feeling of love. It became an anthem of hope.’
In the film, Waiting For A Girl Like You is sung as a romantic duet between the two young lovers Sherrie and Drew. Jones describes writing the song as an almost mystical experience. He didn’t intend it to be romantic at all.
Still going strong: Mick Jones performs on opening night of the Can't Slow Down Tour at The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, in 2010
Band mates: Foreigner's Mick Jones, pictured third right, with his touring band
At the time he was married to his first wife Felicia, who was pregnant. ‘I came up with the title and I was convinced it was a premonition that we were going to have a girl — but it turned out to be a boy, my son Christopher.
‘I met Ann in London about six months after my son was born,’ he says. ‘My marriage wasn’t great. The moment I saw Ann I knew she was the girl I was waiting for.’
After meeting Ann in the early Eighties he moved to London from New York for a few years, before moving back to New York with her and her three children who included Mark Ronson, now a celebrated DJ and producer for Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. The couple had two more children, Alexander and Annabelle, although he and Ann are now divorced.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, a friend from that time, appears in Rock Of Ages as the prissy wife of the mayor who becomes a rock chick. ‘She is absolutely stunning,’ says Jones. ‘A natural.’
Another of his friends, Alec Baldwin, also appears in the film as a seedy club owner. ‘He invited me to visit him on set, but I was too ill at the time,’ says Jones, 67, who had an operation in February to clear his arteries, but says he is back in good health.
Foreigner have broken up and changed line-up and reformed over the decades. He is about to start touring for the first time since his heart operation and hopes to be in the UK next year.
According to Jones, they are experiencing something of a renaissance. ‘Thousands of people come and see us and the audiences have got bigger and bigger over the past few years,’ he says.’
‘Of course my stepson Mark is a fan. But he has to be, doesn’t he’
Rock Of Ages is in cinemas next Friday.