The Director's Chair: Adam Shankman's Hairspray Diary #11

BroadwayWorld.com has an exclusive look into the making of the movie musical HAIRSPRAY with this special Director's Diary written by Adam Shankman. Check back daily for new entries!

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

So rehearsals begin in earnest. I have been working with Zach, Jamal, Joey and Mama now for a few weeks.  We've gotten most of the dance routines set.  We've started getting in the actors.  Lon Hoyt and Keith Cotton have come out to help with the music from New York. They work on the Broadway show, but have taken a little leave to help us with the movie.  Elaine Overholt, a voice coach who actually worked on "Chicago" with Craig and Neal and also myself, has flown out from Toronto to give vocal coaching and we are beginning with all of the kid's numbers.  There's going to be rigorous training for all of them for the next two months. They will be dancing for at least 4 hours a day and then rotating with each other for vocal rehearsals.  We are going to do all the recordings a week before we start shooting so, at that point, everyone will understand their parts and what they are doing choreographically, so that their vocals will match all of the different action. That means that we will just be rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing, hopefully just until right before they drop dead of exhaustion.  I have a feeling that nobody really knows what they are getting in to.  None of the lead cast are professional dancers but they can all move really well. It's going to be a really interesting challenge.  

Nikki, more than anybody I believe, might be a little shell-shocked with this kind of training. I don't believe that she has ever really been out of New York before and now we have moved her to Los Angeles to begin all this rehearsal.  It's become rather clear that she is going to need a little more work on the dancing than we had thought.  Simple weight changes are even difficult for her. We are going to assign her to Zach Woodlee. He's going to be her dance point-person spending most of the time in a small studio working with her.  

One of the other things that have become very clear is that none of the dancers understand the period movement. None of them have been exposed to it, none of them have studied it and why should they have?  They're all a bunch of teenagers.  Just teaching things like the pony, the twist and the mashed potato.  All of this movement is wholly unfamiliar to them and it is taking them a little more time than I thought to get.  But get it they will. If they don't, I'm toast.

I'm pretty much in love with all of them as people. Zac is sweet as can be.  He's very much just a sweet kid from California who happens to have a face that looks like it was drawn by Michelangelo (if Michelangelo did anime).  Elijah is no veteran of musical theater.  That's for sure.  He's brash and bold, more urban, and I'm about to kick the musical crap out of him.  Brittany Snow just lives to prove herself to me, which I think is so sweet because she did such a good job on the movie that we filmed together. I still think it's funny that she is playing Amber.  She's the least wicked person of all of us.  Amanda is just a force of joy in the room and she is so happy to be here.  She is more famous than all of us and is just happy to be throwing herself into this project one million percent.  

It really is a great group and I am blessed.  God, just please let them be good in the movie.

More tomorrow with entry #12...

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Adam Shankman Adam Shankman is a master of comedy yet is still able to capture the sensitivity of each story, making him one of the most loved and commercially successful filmmakers of his generation.

Currently in post-production on Hairspray, Shankman is bringing the feature film adaptation of the Tony award-winning Broadway production to life with a remarkable collection of talent including John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken. Hairspray is scheduled for a July 2007 release from New Line Cinema.

Shankman is also in pre-production on Bedtime Stories, which he will direct and executive produce through his Offspring Entertainment banner for Walt Disney Studios, with Adam Sandler set to star. Additionally, Shankman is producing an Untitled Project in the works also through Offspring, with Hairspray star Zac Efron set to star. He is also producing, through Offspring, All Of Me, starring Queen Latifah and based upon the 1984 film starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin.

Shankman and Gibgot?s Offspring Entertainment are set to produce Monday Monday, a film about a neurotic teenager forced to relive the first day of high school until he gets it right. Offspring Entertainment is also producing an adult treasure hunt project in association with Benderspink.

Most recently, Shankman produced the Sandra Bullock film, Premonition, as well as Step Up for Walt Disney Studios. Step Up, directed by his co-choreographer Anne Fletcher, garnered critical acclaim and grossed over $100 million at the box office. The sequel Step Up 2, directed by John Chu, is scheduled to begin production this summer. In addition, Shankman recently directed the box office success, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, the sequel to the 2003 20th Century Fox smash hit family film.

Shankman began crafting an enviable career with his directorial debut, Columbia Pictures' The Wedding Planner. The Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey film was the heart-felt hit of 2001. Shankman's following grew with his next film A Walk to Remember, distributed by Warner Bros., starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. A Walk to Remember was nominated for a 2002 Phoenix Film Critics Award for Best Live Action Family Film.

Shankman followed this up with Bringing Down the House, a Walt Disney comedy starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah which was number one at the box office for three weeks in a row, grossing over $130 million. Shankman followed that up by directing another Disney film, The Pacifier starring Vin Diesel. To date, Shankman?s films have grossed over a half-billion dollars.

Prior to directing, Shankman was one of the entertainment world's premiere dance and physical comedy choreographers, putting his creative stamp on many well-known comedies, dramas, thrillers, and animated films. His projects include The Addams Family, Casper, Inspector Gadget, Anastasia, George of the Jungle, Boogie Nights, Miami Rhapsody, and The Flintstones for which he was nominated for a Bob Fosse Award. Shankman won the Bob Fosse award for his work with Simon West.

At age 24, Shankman teamed up with influential video director Julian Temple as a music video choreographer. One of the first videos as choreographer was Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight." He has also choreographed videos for The B-52's, Barry White, Aaron Neville, Chic and Stevie Wonder.

A native of Los Angeles, Shankman developed a love for the theater at an early age. After high school, he moved to New York and attended the Juilliard School.

After five years as an actor and dancer in New York and regional theater, he moved back to Los Angeles and began dancing in music videos, including videos for Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. He also performed at the 1989 Academy Awards.