The Director's Chair: Adam Shankman's Hairspray Diary #13

July 23
9:16 AM 2007 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!


After an exhaustive search, I think that we have found pretty much, our top 150+ dancers that we are going to be using in HAIRSPRAY.  We auditioned in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, trying to hit everywhere we possibly could.  It was an open call. We saw agent submissions and walk-ins off the streets during the open call.  Oddly enough, I have really been liking a lot of the walk-ins.  I'm really very, very happy with the Council Kids that we have found. They look really young, Nikki's age.  Age-appropriate and clean-scrubbed looking were obviously the most important qualities to me. I wanted them to be squeaky clean (I'm sure none of them are squeaky clean in real life, but then again, they are dancers).

Zach, Jamal, Joey, myself and Mama didn't really debate on anybody. I just really can't believe how many people turned out for the calls.  We made them really fun.   I wanted to see personalities just as much as I wanted to see technique. In the New York auditions particularly, it was hysterical.  Everybody was cheering for each other by the time it got down to the final fifty.  It was like "So You Think You Can Dance" on steroids, but all they're really doing are dances from the sixties.  Casting the dancers is of utmost importance to me because they are actually the ones that I will be spending most of my time with ultimately.  We are spending, I believe, five months together. That's a long time. I'm still marveling at the fact that we saw twenty-two hundred dancers.  That is a lot of dancers.

In New York, the first dancer that I found that I knew was going to set the tone for every other one of the Council Kids was a guy named J.P. Ferreri.  He was exactly that scrubbed look that I was looking for. Once I had found J.P., I knew what all the rest of the Council Kids had to look like.  How old they had to be, what their smiles had to look like, the twinkle in their eye, etc.  My favorite piece of dancer casting was when I decided to cast twins for female Council members; Tiffany and Brooke Engen. How funny would it be to have twins on the council? 

I am going to use 20 Council Kids instead of 10, because ten on screen wouldn't do very much, but twenty should do nicely.

More tomorrow with entry #14...

Related Articles

LIVE: SPRING AWAKENING vs. THE COLOR PURPLE for Best Revival of a Musical

About the Author

Get Author Alerts
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.