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The Director's Chair: Adam Shankman's Hairspray Diary #6

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!

MICHELLMA VON TUSSLE

So now that I have secured John Travolta and Queen Latifah to play respectively Edna and Maybelle, I'm moving on to Velma, the villain of the piece. The character is a beauty queen, stuck in time, resistant to change, unwilling to allow anybody of difference on the Corny Collins show, or even come close to competing with her daughter Amber Von Tussle to play "Miss Teenage Hairspray" in the finale. My immediate thoughts were of Michelle Pfeiffer. I thought of Michelle because of her unbelievably delicious turn as Selina Kyle and Catwoman, in BATMAN RETURNS. She embraced her wickedness completely, emotionally, physically and comically and I remembered loving the performance and thinking how committed and daring it was. Also on her side was the fact that she had sung, starring in GREASE 2 (imagine, GREASE 1 and GREASE 2 together for the first time, not even in a boxed set) and had sung also in THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. I knew that she was physically daring because of her work as Catwoman and besides that, before she was an actress she was a beauty queen contestant and knew what it was to be in that world and to be judged solely on your beauty and to be ensconced in that everyday of your life. We sent her the script. Much to my surprise and glee she asked to have a meeting.

Craig Zadan and I flew up to San Francisco to go meet her before she went off to London to film a movie called STARDUST, which she was about to begin shooting. Our movie would follow immediately. Michelle hadn't shot a movie in a long time so I knew that this was a long shot because she considered herself at this point in her life a real family woman and she wanted to stay home with her husband and kids. We met her in Palo Alto where she was doing her costume fitting. When she walked into the restaurant, my jaw dropped. She was as magnificent today as she was when she was in SCARFACE, MARRIED TO THE MOB and THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. I had to have her. I couldn't mess this up. Boy, did I have to be charming.

The first thing she said when we sat down was "Oh my God, what's wrong with your arm?" I looked down and there are massive bruises all over my forearm from being on a location scout and falling down a flight of stairs in Toronto. I said, "Let's just put it this way, it was a great night." She laughed. I think I had her. She wanted me to explain why it was that I thought of her for the part. I explained it and she liked it and a smile went on her face when she thought of her turn as Catwoman. She apparently really enjoyed playing the character. I told her how great it would be to see her sing and dance again. Craig and I convinced her that this was going to be a class-A project and we would really benefit from having her in there. Not to mention that the underlying theme is for all anti-racists and even though she was the villain, she would be in an ensemble cast in a movie that is truly about something that is still a problem in our world today. She left to think about it.

Two days later I got a call that the movie was calling to her. She was in. I got my Michellma and I don't know what I must have done in a past life to get so many good people signing up for the movie but it was coming true. New Line was getting their star studded cast.

More tomorrow with entry #7...

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