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

July 13
10:36 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!


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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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.