Cher, Christina Aguilera Celebrate Ten Years of 'Burlesque' in New Feature

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 24, 2020

Cher in 'Burlesque'
Cher in 'Burlesque'  (Source:IMDB)

Cher and Christina Aguilera celebrate their hit 2010 film "Burleque," released ten years ago today, in an extensive new feature by Entertainment Weekly.

Aside from the pop divas, other key figures such as songwriter Diane Warren and the film's writers Steven Antin (who also directed) and Clint Culpepper, among others, share their reflections from behind-the-scenes. As EW points out, the film — which was Aguilera's first feature and Cher's first big-screen musical — was "plagued by stories of on-set clashes that overshadowed the production's aesthetic merits," and a lukewarm theatrical reception before becoming the "enduring cult phenomenon" it is today.

After Aguilera's representatives met with the studio, "Burlesque" found its way quickly to the pop star, with the potential for becoming a star vehicle to which she could bring both her voice and her interest in burlesque as an art form. As the pop star and The Voice judge said, "I had always been inspired by throwback classic pin-up art and burlesque style, essentially all things celebrating the female body and sexuality, so I was already versed in the history and appeal of this world, conceptually."

This worked for Antin, who was looking to fill the role of Ali with "an actress with a very big voice. Christina was the choice."

Antin also shares that for the role of Tess, which would be fully embodied by Cher, initially considerations were "Queen Latifah or Michelle Pfeiffer. But Clint came up with and loved the idea of Cher... So did Christina... We camped outside of the stage and waited for her to exit. When she did, we introduced ourselves."

On courting Cher for the film, and the burgeoning relationship between her and soon-to-be co-star Aguilera, Culpepper said "I'd told Cher that Christina loved her so much: 'You don't understand, this chick would drink your bathwater!' Cher started laughing hysterically and said, 'Well, I hope that doesn't become necessary!'

Upon meeting Cher, the "Beautiful" singer "stuck her hand out and said 'Hi, I'm Christina, the one who would drink your bathwater.' Cher grabbed her and gave her a big hug and a kiss." Aguilera's affection for the pop legend still runs deep, characterizing Cher as "my mama bear" during filming: "She's truly an incredible woman and a force of nature. I respect her talent, her no-bulls---, genuine way of saying it as she sees it, making up her own rules, and helping to pave the way for so many other women in generations to come."

The "If I Could Turn Back Time" singer responded in kind: "One of my favorite scenes is when I was helping Christina with her makeup. It was all very spontaneous. It reminded me of when I was a young girl and my mom and all her friends would put on makeup together."

In other parts of the lengthy and fascinating feature, Warren discusses her song "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," penned specifically for the film and also as a signature song for Cher on par with Frank Sinatra's "My Way." Warren said of her longtime friend, for whom she's written many hits (including "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "Just Like Jesse James"), "When you think about Cher, she did do it her way, and she'll never go away. She makes a joke herself that, at the end of the world, it'll be cockroaches and Cher. But, I think she'll outlive the cockroaches. That's what I was aiming for."

When there was talk about cutting the song from the film, according to Warren, "Cher was like, if you even test the movie without the song in, I will do no press! She really had my back on that song. She knew what it was, and Cher doesn't always know what the right song is.... and this one she loved from day one." Backing up Warren, Cher said "I think everyone can relate to the message of that song. At some point in everyone's life, you feel that need to remind the world who you are."

On the film's enduring legacy, especially with the LGBTQ community, Antin confessed he hadn't "set out to make a camp movie that people laugh at. But, I'm happy the gay community embraced it and I'm happy that people still enjoy watching it," which includes "live drag version" by "RuPaul's Drag Race" stars Farrah Moan and Chad Michaels. Of course, as she has very likely come to expect of the impact of her work, Cher said "It's not a surprise to me that it has been deeply embraced by the gay community. Of course, that makes me happy that 10 years later people are still embracing it and new people are still discovering it."

Read the feature here.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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