The Director's Chair: Adam Shankman's Hairspray Diary #4

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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!


JOHN & LATIFAH

Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have been trying to talk John Travolta into playing Edna for a year.  Their logic is airtight.  Per HAIRSPRAY tradition (A tradition I love) Edna is always played by a man and Tracy is always played by a new comer (more on that casting nightmare later).  If I want to cast the biggest male musical star we have, then that star would be John Travolta.  I actually love the idea of really getting Edna to dance and John would be great at that!  How crazy and wonderful would it be to see Danny Zuko as Edna Turnblad?!?  I'm into it.

Craig and I flew to New York to meet with John. Happily John was staying at the hotel where I practically live: The Gansevoort.  Craig and I were dispatched to bag the tiger.  It's incredibly important to New Line to have a really big movie star in the role in order to safely sell the movie to foreign territories.  As a studio, it seems they are heavily beholden to their foreign distributors. If they have their way, I will somehow put movie stars in all of the parts!  How the hell will I do that?  Musicals just aren't guarantees.  So we met at Ono.  John is so nice!  We ended up having a great time, and I had forgotten that he started as a Broadway chorus boy.  This is everything that is important to me.  I want genuine song and dance people in the movie. People that are passionate about the furthering of this genre, so special to me, I want passionate actors not afraid of rehearsal and excited about being part of an ensemble.  It turns out that John is that guy.

We talked a lot about Edna.  What is in the head and heart of a woman who hasn't left her house in "years" ("I haven't left the house since 1951"…its 1962!)  What is her physical relationship with Wilbur?  He loved it. He wanted to dance a lot. He wanted to sing a lot.  He wanted most of all to be a special wife and mother.  Have I got a part for you…

Latifah was a bit easier. Maybelle is a one-woman NAACP; so is Latifah.  Craig and Neil did CHICAGO with her, and I did BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE with her.  She trusted the team. She also knew that she had great numbers.  We met at the Four Seasons in LA, and it wasn't long before the sweet talk turned into a deal.  I love Latifah.  She is talent, fun, kindness and goodness, rolled into one very fabulous and beautiful woman.  Whenever we are together, I feel like I am the best man I can be.  I am excited to get to feel that way again for the whole movie.
 

More tomorrow with Entry #5...

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