Writer/director Antin always wanted Aguilera to play Ali, but her turn on Saturday Night Live convinced him she'd be perfect. "I had this instinct about her," said Antin. "I had seen her on Saturday Night Live doing something very difficult. I don’t think people realize how tough it is to be funny in a live element like that. I knew she could do this based on her instincts in those seemingly simple, but really incredibly difficult comedy skits. I knew she could do any of the comedy in the movie and all of the drama."
At the LA press day for the Screen Gems film, Aguilera said she was thankful she was able to act, sing and dance in her first big starring role. "I worked my tail off though," confessed Aguilera. "I mean, literally lost my rear end doing this movie because it was so [much work]. The schedule, I was working 17-18 hour days and wearing so many different hats. You know, I was writing for the movie but from Ali's perspective, writing the music, and then I was recording the music, and then I was going into intense dance rehearsals. Then we got into shooting the film, preparing for the acting, diving head-first really vulnerably and open-heartedly for the acting. It was a lot on my plate."
On choosing to star in Burlesque:
Christina Aguilera: "You know, I was taking my time with it. I really wanted to make the right decision and I wanted to do something that I truly felt passionate about, and Burlesque just happened to be the right fit for me. I was immediately intrigued by the world. You know, I collected burlesque books for years and years. I've just always been intrigued with the beauty and the empowerment of the dance and how it showcases women in a beautiful light. So I just really, really thought it was a perfect fit for me. Covering Etta James, my favorite. Covering “I'm a Good Girl,” which I've loved since I saw it performed in Crazy Horse in Paris. I was just excited about…all of it just seemed right."
On preparing for a starring role and the challenges of acting:
Christina Aguilera: "You know, in preparing for the acting I really just started familiarizing myself with her, what makes her tick. I knew that her mom dies young and she grows up in a lot of foster care homes, so she's had a tough [life]. She's had a rough life so far, which I think compels and drives her into shooting for a goal and a dream for herself. She grows up really young and early having to take care of her grandmother. So, there were things that I could relate to that I took from my own past that I put into it - even though we don't have the same stories, I could definitely draw upon personal moments in my life to then put forth into Ali. But I approached her in the way that I approached the movie, really wide-eyed, open, vulnerable, honest, and meaning business."
On connecting to her character and connecting to the story on a personal level:
Christina Aguilera: "I was actually drawn to the script because of Etta James and the idea of Burlesque itself. You know, I think in any story of inspiration there's got to be the people that are the naysayers and the jealousy involved in the entertainment business alone...you know, I mean in life alone. So, I think it's a story of life and it's a story of inspiration. But I think it's inspiring because Ali…you know, a lot of people, they talk about doing things with their lives. They talk about goals and having dreams and aspirations for things but they never do it. I think what's great about Ali as a character, what's great about Cher, what's great about even Jack as a character, we all have these things that we want to do, but we end up being fearless enough to overcome our fears and do them."
Ali just goes for it and auditions. Would she do the same?
Christina Aguilera: "Well I have. I have auditioned before. You know, for the Mickey Mouse Club when I did it. You've just got to get up and be fearless and do it. But I actually had a moment where someone did pull the plug on me while I was singing because they didn't believe that that was my voice. They thought I was lip-syncing. When I was like seven or eight years old, I had a guy, I was performing at a block party. He pulled the microphone out of the amp and was like, 'Is she really singing?' But my voice carried over the mic."
On experiencing moments of doubt while filming Burlesque:
Christina Aguilera: "When you're exhausted and you're tired and you're overworked, which I was, of course there are moments that you just want to throw in the towel or give in. But of course you don't. You know, there's that inner drive, that inner passion, and that inner performer that won't let you give up."
Observing veteran performer Cher on the set:
Christina Aguilera: "Some days it was so hot on that set and so stuffy. You know, it was a big set so there was a lot of yelling back and forth to get people to quiet down or listen up or pay attention. And you're sitting there in the middle trying to concentrate on what you have to do. I would look over to Cher and see how she would handle things. She never lost her cool, ever. She was very serene and very together. She would get her point across but in like the best way possible. So I really took from her energy and the way that she did things. On those days where it was so hot and I just was like, 'I want to just go home and go to sleep and get in bed and get a foot rub and be with my son.' But then I'd think, 'If Cher can do it, I can do it.'"
On getting advice from Cher:
Christina Aguilera: "So much - both personally and professionally. I mean just her being there gave me advice. She didn't even have to open her mouth. She's just such an unbelievable presence and person and been there, done everything before any of us came along. You know, I admire that. I truly respect that."
On what drives her to do better:
Christina Aguilera: "I'm a perfectionist so I really don't let myself do less than my very, very best. Even if do a good take in the studio I will then say, 'Okay, let's try to beat it.' Because I'm always looking for bettering myself and, 'How can I grow? How can I learn? How can I change and evolve?' That's what I'm all about. But I think a lot of the pain my past does drive me to do better. But now I'm starting to feel that a lot of positive is inspiring me to do better."
On the possibility of acting in other films that don't include singing and dancing:
Christina Aguilera: "[Cher's] definitely the prime example of someone that did the transition so well. I take an example from that. And then to do a movie with her of all of them is amazing and dream come true. But yeah, I do want to do film more one day. I mean I could do a small independent role next. I haven't decided yet. Over the holidays I actually do want to sit down and get into reading some scripts that have come in and taking meetings."
On striving to do what she feels is best for her child:
Christina Aguilera: "I'm a smart girl and there's reasons why I make the choices that I do. Ultimately, I'm just looking out for my son's happiness. That's my most important goal in life. It's why I work, it's why I work hard, it's the example I want to set for him. And then balancing that with making sure when I can't be there that he's in good hands. He's such a character and he never stops smiling or laughing, so I know I'm doing something right. That's my main goal. I think not losing sight of who I am during the process too. If someone I feel is trying to change me in a way that just isn't me or I feel too held back, then I know that the situation's not right for me."
Would she want her son to have a career in music?:
Christina Aguilera: "I want him to have something that he strongly feels passionate about. That's probably what I do too to set an example of my drive and my goals. And for him to then want to set them for himself, no matter what that may be. I don't care if he's in the entertainment industry or not. But he's such a character and he is very musically-inclined. So, I think he might do something in entertainment."
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Burlesque hits theaters on November 24, 2010 and is rated PG-13 for sexual content including several suggestive dance routines, partial nudity, language and some thematic material.